What’s Your Sensational Summer Look Like?

Last weekend my husband and son took a trip for a long weekend. I had secretly been looking forward to the opportunity to do some of my favorite activities like getting immersed in a juicy novel, going to the movies alone, reading a magazine cover to cover, sitting in my backyard until the stars came out, and going for ice cream with the Jeep top down. My list went on.

As I dropped the boys off at the airport, I had to contain my giddiness. It had been awhile since I’d been involved in purposeless activity alone for my pure enjoyment.

By the second day, however, I noticed something strange. As much as I was eager for the weekend of fun that I’d planned, I noticed I kept putting it off for more “productive” activities, like cleaning out my kids’ lockers, returning emails along with items to stores, and scrubbing grout on a shower floor.

For too many of us in our Puritan-inspired society, we believe that fun is for after you go to work, organize the house, take care of the cars, and raise the kids. Oh we enjoy fun when we experience it, but only if we feel we’ve earned it or once EVERYTHING on our list that produces a tangible result and pleases others is complete.

I wonder what would happen if we changed our dysfunctional relationship with fun. What if we no longer saw fun as a nicety but knew it was essential to a meaningful life?

I was thinking this very thing when I was talking to a client of mine yesterday who five months ago came to me literally ready to walk out on his career. His hands were deep in a business that was rapidly growing. While he had ownership in the business, he knew he was sacrificing himself and his personal life too much to stay.

Before quitting all together, I suggested he ask for what he really wanted – which was working 15 hours a week instead of 55 – along with doing more of the kind of work he enjoyed. The great news was that he got all that he requested. He now has the time to write creatively and enjoy quality playful time with his growing family. Both of these activities he identified as making him feel truly alive. He’s been living his dream for a couple of months now.

But when I talked to him yesterday, I heard something concerning. He told me that while he is doing those things he enjoys, the joy is dimmed because he feels guilty, unproductive, and even selfish.

There it was again: as much as we crave activity that is for our pure enjoyment, we have a hard time giving ourselves permission to embrace it.

Too often we feel guilty, indulgent, or like we’re underperforming if we are not productive. We see fun as a luxury.

The truth is the research confirms the power and value of fun in our relationships and longevity. Far from being frivolous, self-indulgent, irresponsible, or even selfish, having fun is actually ESSENTIAL to a life well played.

What I am saying is, isn’t it time we make peace with fun again?

What if you did something just because it delights you? Not because it serves some great purpose. Not because it’s needed or useful or required by someone else.

Destroy the idea that you must always be working or your activity must be purposeful. Give yourself the fun you are craving.

The way I see it is that each year we have 90 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day which beckon us to loosen our vice grip on our rigid goal-focused lives and instead explore fun.

To guarantee you don’t get to Labor Day and realize summer has passed you by, I want to share an activity that I’ve done for more than a decade at this time each year. I call it “My Sensational Summer Blueprint.”

I begin by writing my Summer Bucket List. My list ranges from jumping off a diving board, watching a movie at a drive-in theater, seeing fireworks, hosting a backyard barbeque, sitting on a dock, listening to the roar of the ocean, and reading a magazine cover-to-cover. It always includes specific ideas for meaningful moments with each of my children – the more absurd the better. This summer I am planning a trip with my son to Slovenia which is definitely qualifying as both absurd and fun.

Next is my favorite and the most important part of the ritual – I keep what I call my One-Minute Journal. For the 90 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day, I record at least one activity I did alone or with others that day that was pure fun. Then when Labor Day arrives, I read the journal entries to my family. We recount all of the memorable moments we made.

I’ve learned there’s nothing like the liberating feeling that comes from active involvement and immersion in an activity that is intended for pure enjoyment.

I hope you consider giving yourself permission to let the summer unfold and be fueled by what brings you joy and playfulness.

Remember, the true beauty of summer is that we always get a chance to have fun again.

Happy Memorial Day!


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