A friend of ours, Dr. Mary, is a General Practitioner who has patients of all ages and life stages in her medical practice. Mary recently shared stories about some elderly patients who inspire her, like the 99-year old who still drives to appointments or the 80-something great-grandma who just completed a marathon. These are people who, despite age and sometimes disability, carry a positive attitude about life and learned long ago to take everything in stride.
Mary grew more reflective as she shared a story about a long-time patient, 96 years old, whom she recently met for lunch. In the course of conversation she asked him, “so, what do you know about life, Charlie?” Charlie Watson, by the way, had a long and successful career as an accountant and business owner. He still played golf regularly, belonged to the local country club, stayed connected to his family, and was on sound financial footing.
How did he respond to her question? He looked at Mary and said,“I should have had more fun.”
I should have had more fun
That’s an interesting perspective from a man who spent the last 25 years in “retirement,” eh? For the rest of the evening, we talked a lot about what Mary now refers to as “Charlie Watson’s Rule.”Our little group is comprised of four couples, all in our mid-50s and just about ready to have a “fun” life beyond our kids and paying college tuition…except that one of our members just learned that she had a growth in her brain, and two weeks ago underwent surgery to remove a tumor.**
So, when is the right time to start having more fun in life? Now. Right now.
How often do we delay fun because we are too busy, too serious, too involved in ‘important stuff’ to take the time? Ugh! We’ve bought into the notion that ‘after this is over…I’ll be happy.’ So we make our happiness and our fun dependent on some event occurring, e.g. I know I’ll be happy when…I get promoted, I get married, I get divorced, I have kids, the kids move out, we get the house remodeled, I finish school, we get a bigger house, I lose weight, and on and on.
Focus on Today
Happiness Principle #12 says, Focus on Today: Waiting for something to happen “tomorrow” in order for you to be happy is like watching yourself in the mirror and saying, “You go first.”
So don’t wait until you’re too old, too sick, facing your mortality, or trapped by crisis to have some fun.
Here are 25 simple (and inexpensive) ideas for having more fun, right now.
- Paint your front door. We painted ours brilliant green, just for fun.
- Go shopping in the house. When you rearrange items (furniture, photos, decorations) from one room to another, you create a feeling of freshness in your home.
- Cluster things. Build groups of like items (e.g. candles, vases, photos) to create appealing visual spaces in your home. Cluster in odd numbers for maximum interest.
- Put fresh flowers on the table. When we shop at the West Side Market in Cleveland, I take my final $$ (usually 5-15 bucks) and splurge on the biggest bouquet I can afford.
- Plant spring bulbs. Pick up a bag of daffodils or hyacinths and plant them where you’ll be able to see them from a window next March as the snows melt.
- Eat your dinner outside. Whatever you cook for dinner, it will taste just a tiny bit better when you take your plate(s) outside onto your deck, balcony, or front porch.
- Watch the sun set. Or the leaves fall, or the rain drop, or the birds gather at your neighbor’s feeder. It’s a lot more calming than anything on TV. And more real!
- Once a month, have a ‘no electronics’ night. Or even once a week. If it has a plug or battery, turn it off for a few hours and enjoy the quiet. You can even use the space to read or have conversation.
- Let the kids cook. Or at least help. Cooking can be a family affair that builds community, teaches kids about responsibility, and maybe nurtures a future chef!
- Eat dinner together. Regardless of who cooks, sit down with your spouse, kids, kitten, dog, or visiting friend. Have your dinner in the company of others and you’ll find you eat more slowly.
- De-stress your holidays. Draw names from a hat and set a budget. Everyone will get a gift, but the focus will shift from “stuff” to family, which is a gift that gives all year.
- Start a dinner club. Get a group of four or more friends together and start a quarterly (or even monthly) rotation. You can try new restaurants, or cook for each other at home.
- Watch an old movie. Pop some corn and pop in a classic film on DVD. Sing out loud to The Wizard of Oz, or laugh out loud to Some Like It Hot.
- Play with a child. Sit down on the floor and live in their world. Wear a funny hat, Have tea with an imaginary friend. Give voice to a stuffed rabbit. Hide under a table and pretend no one knows you’re there. Imagine…
- Step out of your fitness routine. Once a month, do something Different. Try a new class (Zumba, Hula Hoop, Tabata, Spinning) or a new time of day, a new speed, or a new piece of equipment.
- Rent a scooter. On our recent trip to the Mexican Riviera, we abandoned all reason and set out over cobbled, narrow streets, dodging taxis and otherwise risking life and limb. What fun!
- Complete a goal. Finish something you’ve delayed for awhile. Notice how good it feels.
- Get certified. Take a class; learn something new. My 80+ year old father-in-law attends seminars on Film History at the local community college. I completed my SCUBA certification at age 53. Our brains love to be stimulated!
- Make a gift. You know how ‘cool’ it is to receive a homemade card or gift? It feels even better when you’re the giver. Design and print your holiday cards next year. Use your sewing, painting, woodcraft, or writing skills to create what goes in that gift box.
- Volunteer. Give of your time – it makes you feel good to do good, and you can’t put a price on that kind of joy.
- Look for beauty in common places. Look up at the clouds. Watch a sunset from your own backyard. Admire wildflowers growing along the path or freeway. Beauty is all around you if you care to look.
- Read the comics page. Or open that joke email from a friend. Practice laughter today.
- Wear purple. Or Red. Or leather, or some other color, accessory, or item of clothing that’s out of character for you. Be Bold for a day.
- For one day, Smile at Everyone. Make eye contact and smile at everyone you meet for a day or a week. Pay attention to what happens – it’s really quite amazing!
- Remember Charlie Watson’s Rule. I remember one day last fall, when Cheryl and I were offered tickets to the Notre Dame-Boston College football in South Bend (we’re big Irish fans!). We assessed that we ‘shouldn’t’ go because we just came back from a vacation, and we don’t really ‘need’ to go to a game. So we were about to turn down the offer, when Cheryl came into the room, looked at me and said, “Remember Charlie Watson’s Rule.”
Thank you, Charlie, for reminding us to live our life fully, right now.
** She has since fully recovered, thank you!
Jim Smith, PCC, is The Executive Happiness Coach®. He is an international speaker, executive and life coach, and author. He provides his clients with inspiration and practical tools to live a happier life and build more positive work cultures. He is the author of Happiness At The Speed of Life: 13 Powerful Strategies for Finding Happiness at Home and On The Job, and has touched the lives of over 10,000 people worldwide through his work on Positive Emotion and Leadership. You can connect with Jim at theexecutivehappinesscoach.com.