You hear a lot of people these days spout the popular notion,
“If it’s not fun, you shouldn’t be doing it!”
“Life is supposed to be fun!”
Well, I would actually agree with these statements, with one caveat – that we get clear about the definition of “fun.”
The dictionary gives us:
Enjoyment, amusement, or light hearted pleasure. Behavior or activity that is intended purely for amusement and should not be interpreted as having serious or malicious purposes.
I do not agree that this is the full picture of what we are talking about as a basis for a life well lived. Pleasure has so much more potential depth and richness than “lighthearted.”
A few years ago my fellow guides turned me onto a “fun matrix” which helps a lot in understanding and telling the story of fun.
In this matrix, there are four types of fun.
Fun type ONE: Fun now, fun later
Fun type TWO: Not so fun now, fun later
Fun type THREE: Great fun now, not fun later
Fun type FOUR: Not fun now, never going to be fun.
Let’s look at the energy behind these.
Fun type one is, I think, the animal described by Webster. Light hearted and pleasurable, now and always. It’s fun now, and it will be fun to remember. A nice day at the beach. This type of fun is a great respite and an important moment…but in itself, doesn’t give a lot of depth or richness to life.
Fun type two is a more challenging experience. It is NOT fun now, in this moment, but it is going to be fun to remember. Perhaps tomorrow, perhaps in two years – but someday, it’s going to make a great story that will be fun to remember. Fun type two has a component of “I did it” that deepens the experience, the learning and the growth associated with it.
Sometimes fun type two is the heavy lifting that gets important things done. The payoff in the end is often delayed – but remarkable as it develops. Fun type two is your investment in the future. It’s still fun, simply because it is connected to a big dream or vision.
A critical part of this type of fun is to make sure when you complete this step, you claim it. You take it in, and get the dopamine rush of “I did it.” The good feeling you have in your heart and soul is the payoff in advance of the actual harvest down the road.
Fun type three is very fun NOW, but tomorrow morning, maybe not so much. This is not just a description of a hangover – it’s also useful in my introductory briefings as a guide, because it gives me a way to talk about avoiding dumb moves that backfire. Jumping off rocks into unknown strata. Running headlong down a trail. Being out on a ridge in a lightning storm, or up a narrow canyon when there’s a storm brewing.
It’s not at all that fun type three is to be absolutely avoided…just go into it with awareness. When tomorrow comes, don’t blame the rock or the storm. You were playing with fire – literally a fun type three activity – and got burned. No need for blame of anyone – it was just fun type three that caught you. Sometimes it won’t, you’ll skate by. Sometimes it will. If you want a happy life, stop looking for what to blame when it does.
It’s often where our deepest learning comes from – as they say, good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.
Fun type four is not fun now, and it will never ever be fun. For me, this is an interesting philosophical question. Is there something that is universally fun type four? Something that is never fun, ever, for every single person? I myself don’t think so.
I think we all have the capacity to turn fun type four into one of the other types. I think fun type four is synonymous with a refusal to forgive, and as you loosen your judgments and let go of certainty that you know how things should be, fun type four naturally disappears from your experience.
I actually think that the delightful disappearance of fun type four is the single biggest value in doing the personal development work of exploring your inner world, releasing your judgments and limitations, and opening to embrace life.
And what about JOY?
After all the types of fun, I think there’s a fifth, related experience on offer, if we’re lucky and reach into the depth of experience on offer. I think the experience of JOY is the culmination of dancing with and exploring all the types of fun, shifting them where we can and embracing the widening and broadening of our experience in the process. I see joy not as something we create ourselves, but as a gift we receive as we open our hearts, minds and bodies in the exploration of fun.
So, what sort of fun do you want to have, and when?
What sorts of fun have your experiences been, what sorts of stories do you tell?
Can you use this matrix to change the way you hold them, and the stories you tell about them, so you bring them into right relation with the type of fun they actually were and are?