So you’ve taken the leap and broke free from the group and started your own business. You wanted to have more fun. More freedom. More control.
And yet, here you are, king of your own little (or big) castle (or two or three or ten) and still there’s something missing. The excitement of the startup has faded into boring daily routine. Each day seems to be predictably similar to the previous one.
Loneliness sets in, even though you’re surrounded by people. Boredom constantly knocks on your door, even though each day you work hard to avoid it by being as busy as possible. You start a new project. Take on a new client. Make a new friend. Hoping Boredom will leave. But it doesn’t. Even ‘new’-ness has become boringly predictable. Then Anger comes to visit and refuses to leave. It chases away some old acquaintances but you invite them back, apologetically. Then Blame pops in for a cup of tea and Shame and Despair shows their face briefly before hiding away again. Each time there’s a knock on your door you expectantly hope that it’s Joy or Happiness coming to visit, but it’s Depression and Disappointment.
What now? How do you introduce some fun into your boring daily routine? How do you invite Joy and Happiness to become your friends?
There’s a saying that you can either give a hungry person a fish and feed them for a day. Or you can teach them how to fish. This post attempts to give both. First, teaching you how to fish, secondly, some concrete examples you can try out immediately.
Knowledge is power
To transform boring into fun there are 3 things to understand:
1. Fun is an inside job.
No-one or no-thing can make you happy. External sources of happiness, whether it’s a new toy, a new relationship or a new career or project is temporary.
If you’re chasing happiness on the outside, it’s time to change direction and go inward. Because happiness is an inside job.
2. Emotions are messengers of your soul.
It’s your inner GPS constantly guiding you to happiness. Learn to understand the meaning of your emotions and find a way to meet your needs.
Emotions are meant to change and the sooner you listen to the message it has for you, the sooner the nagging will stop. Don’t ignore it, try and understand the meaning.
Loneliness is a need to open yourself up and connect. A desire to be vulnerable and share the hidden parts of yourself. It’s not the same as being alone. It’s neither about sharing space and time with someone or something. It’s not being surrounded with people.
It’s trying to ask you to be present with yourself. The more you try to push away or ignore the loneliness, the louder it will scream for attention. The longer and more thoughtful you sit with the loneliness, feeling it intensely, the sooner it will fade. Loneliness is trying to tell you to spend more time with you, less time with other people and things. It’s asking you to feel what’s inside — the good and the bad.
Boredom, on the other hand, is an indication that it’s time to move on. It’s time to change. It’s time to commit. You can’t be bored when you are fully engaged (or committed) in something.
When you learn or experience something new it’s exciting — the opposite of bored. It gets boring when you’ve mastered the skill or if it’s not relevant to you (anymore).
Anger, which often pops up as Boredom’s companion, is trying to push you forward. To get you to take action. To get you moving. Even if it means burning bridges or creating disharmony temporarily. Change can only happen by disrupting the old patterns and creating new ones. It requires temporary chaos and discomfort.
3. Fun is a feeling. And a feeling is as a result of your thoughts.
When you think a thought that is in alignment with your true self, you feel good. When you think a thought that is not true, it feels bad. No exception. It’s really that simple.
Don’t believe me? Go ahead. Try it yourself. Think a positive thought about yourself that you know is true. Repeat it a few times. How do you feel? Now think a negative thought about yourself and repeat it. Can you feel the downward spiral?
The thought is always first and the thought always creates the feeling. The catch is that the majority of your thoughts are subconscious - hidden beyond the surface of your conscious awareness. What you don’t know, you don’t know. That’s where your emotions become valuable allies.
The good news is that no-one - but you - can control your thoughts. Practice thoughts that bring you joy and happiness and feel the results.
So. Enough said. Let’s get practical. What can you do now to make your day more fun?
A theory of fun
In my post titled Top 10 Ingredients of Fun I discuss what makes something fun, after critically analyzing Fun from different angles and in different contexts. When you understand what makes something fun, it’s just a matter of applying it in your life. To get you started, here are 10 things I do to make my day more fun:
1. Move more.
Leave your car at home and put on some comfy shoes. Walk to work if it’s possible, or at least go for a walk during lunch time. If possible, walk somewhere in nature or where there’s no cars.
Too lazy? Too cold? Too windy? Too busy? Use the Pomodoro technique and after 20 minutes get up and walk around a bit. Each time boredom sets in, get moving. But….
2. Surprise, Surprise!
Moving can also get boring. The key is to include something random in your walk to make it fun.
Explore. Take a different route. Walk different times, distances, directions. Curiously looking for something new that you’ve never seen before.
The concept of random inputs however is not just restricted to movement. It can be applied to anything to make it more fun. When you’re Googling for information, try the I’m feeling lucky option. Join a group or discussion that you’ve never joined before. Throw dice to decide on priorities. Change your schedule by swapping around your routine meetings or days. Make your weekend Friday and Saturday rather then Saturday and Sunday.
3. Connect socially.
Each day, dedicate a few minutes to really connect with people around you. For me, I always stop at the same coffee vendor on my walk to the office and spend a few seconds or minutes just chatting with a familiar, friendly face.
I make time to be interrupted when I’m working to engage in conversation. Mostly with familiar faces. Sometimes with strangers.
If all else fails, phone a friend. Or email them.
4. Stop. Breathe.
How you connect is less important than the time you take to do it. Sit down and grab a coffee. Be present. Stop.
Stop doing what you are doing. Stop thinking about work. Press the reset button in your mind, take a few deep breaths, get up and move and start again.
5. Introduce a physical to-do board.
Virtual is great. You can access anything anywhere, any time. But it’s not much fun.
It’s fun to see results. It’s fun to get feedback. It’s fun to feel progress. It’s fun to touch something tangible.
Spend a few minutes each morning creating a physical to-do list, making sure the tasks are small enough and realistic enough that you are able to check-off at least some each day. Each time you finish something, tick it off the to-do list and celebrate by rewarding yourself with a movement break or a coffee or stretching your arms in victory pose for a few minutes.
6. Become curious.
Be curious about everything. Ask more questions. Why is this boring? How can you make your day more interesting? How does that work? Who is that person?
Even if you’ve done something for 50 years, there’s always something new to learn about it. Re-think what you thought you knew. Get curious about things you think is obvious. Wonder what will happen when….
7. Present meaningful choices.
Whether you’re working on a single project or with one customer, it’s always possible to introduce options. Which part of the project would you like to work on? Where would you like to work? Will you meet your customer in the morning or in the afternoon?
Present meaningful choices. It will make you feel in control and that feels good. Look for options and each time you start a new task, consciously choose between two alternatives.
8. Practice Kaizen.
It’s fun to get better. Pick the area in your daily life that is most boring or most annoying and spend 15 minutes seeing how you can do it differently. How can you do it easier. How can you do it better?
Take performance measures before (for example if it takes too long processing your emails each morning). Spend a few minutes brainstorming some ideas. Implement. Measure to see the improvement. Repeat.
9. Learn something new.
Insight is happiness. Learning something new guarantees a sense of achievement, provided it’s not too difficult. Enroll in a course to learn a new skill, preferably something that doesn’t have anything to do with your day-job.
10. Have a fun list.
Spend time figuring out what you enjoy doing and write it on a list. Each person has fun in different ways and even though the underlying mechanics are the same, there are an unlimited number of possible things that you can do to have fun.
Having a reference list of things you enjoy doing is a helpful resource when you get stuck. Next time when you’re bored, simply pull out the list and pick (randomly) one or more items on the list to include in your day.
So there. Ten things you can do to make your day less boring. Still bored? Sit with the feeling and figure out what it needs.