How important is FUN in your life?

An awful lot of words have been used to describe the last 18 months, but “fun” has not been one of them. Instead, the emphasis has been on fear, chaos, death, confusion, mistrust, and economic disaster.

And that in itself can be a disaster. Without fun, you can’t maintain your mental health or any semblance of work-life balance. You can’t even succeed all that much at work. As human relations expert Dale Carnegie pointed out, “People rarely succeed unless they have fun in what they are doing.”

So how do you get more fun in your life? Not by waiting around, waiting for certain good things to happen. That makes you a victim of circumstances.

You get more fun in your life, work, and relationships by adopting certain practices. Start with these.

► 1. Believe in FUN.

In other words, you’ve got to believe that FUN is just plain good for you … good for you physically. There’s plenty of research evidence that shows fun and laughter build your immune system, prevent diseases from taking hold of you, and release pain-killing, good-feeling endorphins into your body. That’s why I tell my executive coaching clients,

“If you take yourself too seriously, there’s a good chance you’ll end up seriously ill.”

FUN and laughter are also good for you emotionally. They reduce the negative impact of the stressors in your life. As the slogan goes, “He who laughs … lasts.”

What about you? Have you learned the value of FUN and healthy work-life balance? After all, very few people on their deathbed will say they should have attended more meetings, made more money, or spent more time at the office. But I’ll bet a lot of people will say they should have laughed more, smiled more, and had more fun.

► 2. Look For FUN.

It’s out there, all around you, if you just look. And the more you look, the more FUN you’ll find.

For example, right before I started my two-day Journey-to-the-Extraordinary experience in London, one of my UK associates, Anne Stanton, volunteered to “tick off” the attendees for me. I thought that was the last thing I wanted to happen. I saw no need to needlessly upset the people. Then I learned that “ticking off” the people meant she was going to “check them off” the registration list as they entered. It gave us both a good laugh.

Fun is everywhere. You can find it or make it. And it doesn’t have to be expensive. Matt Weinstein, the author of Play Fair, gives one example. He says you could have a slice of cheese cake delivered to a friend’s house or hotel room … in the middle of the night. Attach a note that says, “Thinking of you. Are you thinking of me?” You don’t even have to sign your note. Let them use their imagination.

You need to be on the lookout for fun. I am. While visiting my mom in California, I read Chuck Thomas’ column in the Ventura County Star. He said:

A pessimist’s blood type is always B-negative.

Practice safe eating — always use condiments.

A Freudian slip is when you say one thing but mean your mother.

Shotgun wedding: A case of wife or death.

A hangover is the wrath of grapes.

Is a book on voyeurism a peeping tome?

Does the name Pavlov ring a bell?

A successful diet is the triumph of mind over platter.

So look for FUN. It’s out there, all around you every day.

  ► 3.  Record The FUN.

When you see something funny, or hear something funny, write it down.  Don’t fool yourself into thinking you will remember it.  You won’t.

Personally, I’ve written down thousands — yes thousands — of funny stories, jokes, one-liners, and situations I’ve come across.  And I keep on writing down funny things.

When I was speaking at the GCHQ in England — which is similar to the CIA in the US — I was speaking on work-life balance.  One woman in the audience said, “There is always a lot to be thankful for if you take the time to look for it.  For example, I am thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.”  I wrote it down so I could remember to share it with some other audiences I would be speaking to.

4.  Review The FUN.

If you’re trying to build a team, one of the better things you can do is take some time to review the fun you’ve had over the years or throughout the course of a project.  Sure, there might have been hard times, but even those things might bring smiles and laughter in retrospect.  Talk about the “good old times.”

The same thing goes for a family.  Nothing is more bonding than sharing your funny stories from the past.  Some of your stories have even become classics that can be told over and over again.

Such was the case with my wife Chris.  Working in intensive care and the emergency room she often had a stethoscope on the car seat.  One day, when daughter Sara was on the way to preschool, she picked it up and began playing with it.  Chris thought, “Great. My daughter wants to follow in my footsteps.”  Just then Sara spoke into the stethoscope, “Welcome to McDonalds.  May I take your order?”  That’s a story that gets reviewed every once in a while.

You’ve got to review the fun.  And I don’t care how difficult your life has been.  You’ve had some fun along the way.  You simply may not remember it.  As W. N. Rieger says, “Much unhappiness results from our inability to remember the nice things that happen to us.”

I would wager that you already have a lot of fun events recorded.  Take a look at your old photo albums or review your videos of some trips you’ve taken.  After all, you never took pictures of the great big fight you were having with your spouse and you never videotaped one of your kid’s temper tantrums.  You recorded the FUN stuff.  Now review it once in a while.

5.  Share The FUN

There’s an old Swedish proverb that says “Shared joy is a double joy.”  It’s true.  When you talk about the FUN you’ve had or the FUN you’re having, others get to join in.  And they often add their own stories that will make you smile and make you laugh.

Lillian Carter, the mother of President Jimmy Carter, was known for sharing the FUN.  When her son Jimmy was making some stupid political decisions, and when her other son Billy kept showing up drunk, she said, “Sometimes I look at my children and say, ‘Lillian, I think you should have remained a virgin.'”  Her comment gave her a bit of relief as it amused others.  That’s what sharing is all about.

You’ve seen the bumper strip that asks, “Are we having any fun yet?”  Well that all depends on you and the choices you make.  I’ve just given you five choices you should make.