This is a paradigm change that occurred to me very recently. I’m still exploring what this means but let me share with you my thoughts thus far.
A few weeks back I came across a video on Facebook, where a former TV newscaster who went through a personal tragedy (I believe it was losing a child) was sharing insights about the difference between happiness and fun. He described that fun is a distraction that covers up whatever issues you should be dealing with. I didn’t watch it the whole way and I couldn’t find the video later (if you know what I’m talking about, let me know) but the bit I remember intrigued me. It almost sounded like he was down-talking fun.
The last few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of processing of struck emotions. While I feel good about my progress it’s not exactly fun. The temptation is always there to distract myself with something funner. It’s tiring to keep shifting focus to the uncomfortable feeling in my body.
I’ve been experimenting with daily journaling prompts I read on Tim Ferris’ Tools of Titans. Two of the prompts are:
- What would make today great?
- Amazing things that happened today.
But I also am reading Tom Volkar’s Limitless Language and it is reminding me how our language can affect our worldview. The above two questions struck me as weakening, in that they make it sound like my day is something that happen to me instead of something I create intentionally. So I rephrase them to say:
- How do I intend to make today great?
- Amazing experiences I created today.
At first this seemed stressful because the onus was on me. But upon reflecting what would make my day great, I came upon a simple approach, a single focus that answers that question. What makes me feel proud of myself?
Being “proud” in this case has nothing to do with boosting my pride or stroking my ego. It’s more like if I envision myself as my child I’d tell him “I’m proud of you” when he does something good and worthy and perhaps challenging. Another way to phrase that is “feeling good” about my actions, though in this case the word “proud” strikes me as stronger. You feel proud of yourself when you conduct yourself well according to your values, particularly when things are challenging.
So what makes me proud of myself? Once I ask that question, the answers seem obvious and simple. I feel proud when I:
- hold up my routines of meditation, journaling/praying, blogging
- exercise my body
- practice my guitar
- stop myself from overindulging in junk food
- clean something
- stand up for myself and others (be respectful but firm)
These are activities that make me look back at my day and feel good about how I spent it. I have cravings for snacks and video games and net surfing, and while they are fun they don’t make me feel proud. A little bit is OK but they need to be carefully moderated and I need to cut it the moment they cross the threshold and start feeling out of control, indulgent, and “not proud.” If you ever feel out of control or addicted to something, you know what I’m talking about. What starts out as fun quickly turns itself to something bitter and sour the moment you notice you’re unable to ply away from it. At that point it’s no longer fun anyway.
Fun is not evil. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t enjoy life. But there’s better, higher quality of enjoyment that awaits when you keep the escapes from real life in moderation and instead engage in something worthy in your real life. What makes my day great is if I fill it with activities that makes me feel proud of myself. The great thing about this outlook is that it’s always the same — it doesn’t matter what happened the previous day or moment. Win or lose, the focus stays consistent and clear.
Have enough of those days and I can see myself really enjoying life. I may even say that I’m having fun. But a true “fun” may not be about fun activities, or at least not as much about it as it is about conducting yourself in ways that you later feel good about. What happens at the moment is temporary, but you have the rest of your life thereafter to live what you did that moment.
And we are in control, we have the power. Whatever life throws at you, the possibility is always there to conduct yourself in a manner you feel proud of.
I’m going to keep exploring this approach and see where it takes me. I’ll let you know how it goes.