In anticipation of our next season of The Engaging Life podcast, our team has been doing a lot of research on the topic of fun. It’s a misconception that fun is a luxury or that it can only happen when you’re not stressed, don’t have anything else on the agenda, or…you’re ten years old or younger. On the contrary, not only can fun be had at any time and under any circumstances, but it’s also crucial to our well-being and all around satisfaction with life. Fun also helps build strong relationships, lowers stress levels, and helps employees be more engaged in their work.
Where are we getting all this from? Two main sources are the book The Power of Fun by Catherine Price and The Happiness Lab podcast hosted by Dr. Laurie Santos. These sources inspired Angela—our fun ambassador at Pixel Fire and co-host of The Engaging Life—to develop the next podcast season around this important topic.
So what is fun anyway?
One of the problems with fun is that a lot of us have really forgotten what it is. Though there are plenty of things we say are fun (that cocktail party you attended last weekend) or we think will be fun (our sister coming into town to visit), there are actually three conditions that need to be met for actual fun: connection, playfulness, and flow.
When we have real, meaningful fun, we’re connecting with something. Most of the time, we are connecting with another person. That’s why going out to sing karaoke with your best friend is (usually) so much fun. However, it can also mean connection with your creativity, connection with yourself, or connection with something bigger than us (an ideal, a mission, or the universe.)
That’s why, as much as we want to think it will be, going home and playing hours of video games by ourselves and ignoring everyone else in the house is usually not all that fun. However, if you’re playing with your son or online with friends from out of town, it can elevate the experience to one of true fun.
Another prerequisite of fun is playfulness. Playfulness, at its core, means you’re doing something for no other reason than it is fun. There is no agenda, there are no goals, you’re not trying to accomplish anything. You’re just goofing off for no other reason that it makes you feel good and amuses whoever you’re with.
The concept of flow was introduced by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (try to say that three times fast! Or even once!) in his book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Flow is when you’re doing something you enjoy so much that time just fades away. This is when you get involved in rewiring your stereo system (if you’re into that kind of thing) and you suddenly realize you’ve missed lunch or when you’re putting the finishing touches on a painting and find that two hours have slipped by.
There is such a thing as junk flow, though. While true flow makes you feel energized an alive, junk flow is when you get involved in something mindless and can’t get back out of it even though hours are passing. Junk flow is endlessly scrolling on your phone, binge-watching shows, or playing hours of the afore-mentioned video games.
So why is it so hard to have fun these days? Other than not realizing how important it is and making it a priority, the other big reason is that we experience two major things that are fun killers: distraction and judgment.
You simply can’t have fun if you’re distracted by a dinging phone, a crying baby, or obsessive thoughts about how you should be doing something productive. You also can’t have fun if you or someone else is judging what you will look like, how you will sound, or what others will think of you if you really let go.
Now that we know what fun is, why it’s vital, and what ruins it, we can get more into the nuts and bolts of how to bring more of it into your office, your marketing, and your life in general. Stay tuned for the next blog in our FUN series and put listening to The Engaging Life podcast on your to-do list so you’ll be all caught up and ready to catch our next season on FUN!