“So, what do you like to do for fun?”
Ring a bell? Of course it does- because we all have USED that wildly lame one-liner ice-breaker in hopes of finding common ground, or in the very least, finding out that the target had a wild side that is merely overshadowed by their way-too-conservative first impression. What used to be a first date investigation tool is now even used by off-center hiring leaders to see if the interviewing talent is more than 2-dimensional. Pick up a paper, read a blog, get sucked in watching shiny-happy-people of Good Morning America and you’ll learn of studies, companies and clubs making the element of FUN a top priority for improved productivity, better work environments, better sex, happier kids, fewer heart attacks, yadda yadda yadda. And yet again, unfortunately, the message is: Hey, you! Go find fun. Have some fun. Or you’re gonna die early.
Well, maybe not that simplistically laid out- but you get the picture. It’s the same blanket prescription doled out to all readers and listeners: Go find happiness. Be happy. Or you’re gonna die early. And that’s a bummer. Because we all know it just doesn’t WORK like THAT. (SIDEBAR: these posts WILL become shorter and put into podcasts on puresoapbox.com soon. Promise.)
Where the hell has FUN gone anyway?
When I observe little boys in public, not much has changed, I gather, since I was a kid (and mind you, my best friend was a boy from grade 3 through college): mud is fabulous, as is throwing rocks, breaking things, talking tough, shouting, jumping off of things way too high, trying to fit though spaces, dismissing trespassing signs, doing random acts for attention from girls, showing off for Mom or Dad, beating anyone at anything, eating anything… and of course GI Joe, cars, baseball (insert any sport), wrestling with the family dog. These things equated to fun.
When I observe grown men, many of these things still ring true… but the value of them has grown empirically because of the fractured, limited and often tamed nature of opportunities to experience. The need for a rush of excitement or an unusual accomplishment never dies. As a man moves up the proverbial corporate ladder or grows his own enterprise ground-up, the anticipation of triumphing over greater challenges to ring a louder brass bell grows deeper and broader. Unfortunately accompanying the glorious (though not-so-glamorous) upward journey to the presumed top are more rules, regulations and expectations; less freedoms for authentic expressions, acting on gut instincts, and “come hell or high water” battle plans. Let alone outlets for release or for trying something crazy, for fun.
So, in doing the simple math, when a man is thus shackled in a prescribed suit (except in Austin, TX, of course), between 4 prescribed walls for 50-80 hours/week, to hustle through countless prescribed back-to-back-to-back meetings and calls and presentations, all to net the delayed gratification of a quarterly report… it’s like a never-ending buildup to an orgasm that never happens. And instead, becomes a self-fulfilling story of all work and no play.
Sidelining fun shunts the possible improvements of any and all aspects of your life. Know this. Without release from stress, time for true pleasure, and experiences that take you out of your comfortably uncomfortable zone of a full plate of responsibilities… all important pillars of your life will suffer. But there is light at the end of the tunnel.
First: Believe it’s possible.
Thankfully you’re not dead yet, gentlemen, and there is a way to the end goal of experiencing more FUN- and I mean, thoroughly drenching yourself in the gratification and rejuvenation of whatever you think equals PLAY. And to do so you first have to believe it’s possible. Here’s a SOAPBOX® vignette I wrote way back in 2008 to prompt my clients to get into this frame of mind, get out of the head, and get into the moment of living:
“Fun has a sacred dimension.” – Adriana Diaz, life coach
As kids we set up camp in that realm, only coming out when paged or prompted by someone in charge. We experienced “fun” in just about everything -down to a Cracker Jack prize!- and saturated our present tense with laughter and a contagious carefree attitude. So, how now do you define “fun”? Where do you go to find it?
Stumped? Well, perhaps you’re light on amusement TODAY because you’re caught up in creating TOMORROW. The “land of fun” is found in an entirely different sphere of your perception …but it’s always there, twinkling in the background. So choose to dip into its unending supply of amusement, uninhibited laughter, and memories of wonderfully pointless activities -and that special sparkle you bring back to the “real world” will confetti your perspective with the delightful new energy of a kid. ©Kimberlie Dykeman
This simple premise is a cornerstone to my coaching today, for it roots a key unique differentiator I offer my clients: FUN. Recess. Playtime. Retreat. Reward. Nonsensical FUN. Whatever you want to label it, it’s the time of simply being all of you at once- body, mind, heart, spirit- without too damn many cares. It’s making a virtual sandbox, carnival or Disney movie wherever you want and dropping your very self into it. According to Dr. Stuart Brown, head the National Institute for Play, “Play is something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.”
Of course, playtime for kids was an integral part of brain development- not to mention communication skills, behavior, adjustment of discourse, and just learning how to get dirty- get hurt- shake it off and get back to the fun at hand. But because our brains are malleable and constantly changing, adapting and allowing for deeper file-building, we need to re-define ourselves as ADULTS that still have a growing KID inside. If you come to understand that reality, you’ll believe that true unadulterated fun is still alive!
Second, you need to reverse-engineer the discovery process.
Some men have no idea what a real retreat from responsibility, a retreat, a reward even looks like, let alone when to plug it in. Like with any puzzle, sometimes you have to disassemble and examine to discover what goes into creating the experience you want to, need to, are dying to have. If you peel back the layers first, you unearth what fun looks like specifically to you, to ultimately fulfill your purpose.
- What STRESS symptoms are affecting your body, mind, relationships, work, sense of self?
- What tangible obstacles are impeding a direct route toward diffusing, eliminating or reversing this stress?
- What does your “Day-in-the-Life” look like and where do the greatest windows or pressure build up?
- How do you nurture and appeal to your 5 powerful, emotion-changing senses, and which are completely neglected?
- What are some of your favorite childhood memories? What about college? What about when your kids were growing up?
- When was the last time you pushed yourself physically or put your body at risk?
- When was the last time you learned something new and didn’t care if you were good at it?
- When was the last time you made a complete ass out pf yourself?
- What’s on your Bucket List?
- What makes you feel… GOOD and gives you immediate gratification of feeling whole?
Finally: Pick your poison, gentlemen, and get out there!
Now that you have a WHY to what you need to experience, how do you go from missing out to stepping out into the land of play again? I help clients by creating actual categories of fun, going to town with brainstorming activities and adventures, and then plugging them into our monthly Gentleman Mini-Retreats, as well as confettiing them into their schedules:
- Sport/Competition: soccer league, pickup game, boxing, ropes course, triathlon
- Sport/Outdoors: hiking, kayaking, SUP, swimming, batting cages, rent-a-bike
- Food/Drink: beer/scotch tastings, vineyard, chef tastings, farmers market, candy store, brunch
- Performances: poetry slam, plays, concert, comedy, TV show taping
- Music: jazz, rock concert, symphony, blues
- Risk-taking: rock climbing, ATV, COTA track racing, repelling, base jumping,
- Animals: aquarium, zoo, pet store, walk-a-dog charity, horseback riding
- Learning/classes: painting, improv, voice, cooking, museum tour, sailing, metal class
- Adventure: camping, hot air balloon, road trip, day of photography, build something!
- Volunteer: homeless, women’s shelters, Big Brothers, church, children’s ward, building homes
- Amusement: bowling, dancing, karaoke, laser tag, matinee, Pro Sport game, toy store, car show
- Relaxation: massage, men’s spa, wet shave, yoga, meditation retreat, fishing
- Travel: hello, there’s a whole globe to discover!
Play time SHOULDN’T end when we become adults. And for those mud-slinging, smart-talking, risk-taking, dirty-joke-telling boys who grew into men, once you define what FUN can look like again you can purposefully create the time to experience it weekly, if not daily. Risking your health, marriage, fatherhood, career, mental wellbeing, family, contribution to society, friendships… anything of value to you… is not worth it. You’d be amazed at what a smile, a laugh and a leap can do. ~ KD
Never Stop EVOLVING