Lighten Up for Success

Can you name fifty things that are fun for you? Chances are 'fun' is not the same as when you were twenty years old.

Journal, pen, bike = fun

As adults, it seems like our window of fun went from being a giant picture window to one of those slits you see in medieval towers. We lose sight of what fun even is for us. As children, fun was our nature. Now, fun, play and relaxing has become another to-do to schedule in. But better to plan it than to lose fun entirely.

When working with my clients – no matter what they come to coaching for – this topic always comes up early on. They often draw a blank when asked “What’s fun for you?”

While coaching my client Mary Ellen Merrigan, we discovered that she craved more fun (read: more creative play) in her life. She needed regular respite from her PR consulting business.

I sent her off with this homework: Brainstorm a list of 50 fun things. Mary Ellen drafted her list, which led her to start writing in the mornings. She participated in a blog challenge, which had her post daily on her blog.

This practice led to other practices, sparking her creativity and luring her into her studio and back to beading. Not only was she having more fun, it impacted her business. Here’s what Mary Ellen reported:

“It didn’t occur to me that I was lacking permission to be playful until you challenged and encouraged me to approach it from another perspective.

Now, I’ll go into the studio and play with beads, then go work on my blog or a proposal. The studio time injects more creativity into my work and helps me think.

It’s the most amazing shift – both mentally and emotionally. It smoothes out my brain and helps me generate more ideas at work.

I totally enjoy jewelry making and it’s become a source of income. More importantly, in the joy of creative play, I am attracting more clients and am happier overall.”

Mary Ellen’s experience mirrors my other clients who have done this exercise. Making time to play and relax can lead to more productivity and happiness.

Try it: take ten minutes right now to generate a list of fifty fun things to start your summer off right. They don’t have to be expensive or time consuming.

Pernod with Jacqui in Paris

Here are a few from my ever-changing list:

  • visits with friends
  • inventing stories about Skippy the cat's alternate reality
  • riding my bike
  • speaking to groups
  • walking
  • playing with color
  • taking photos
  • singing aloud
  • planning trips
  • lying in bed reading.

Share your idea of fun in a comment below and spread the fun.


  1. Renee says

    Oh, how I hate the question, “What do you do for fun?” Sometimes I cannot think of a blessed thing (usually when I’m in the pits of depression), and other times I worry that what I consider fun as an introvert, others will think is boring. I always feel like I have to have an exciting tale to tell at any given time, when, really, I like a quiet life. I do occasionally get out and mix it up with other folks, but mostly, I keep my own company quite happily.

  2. says


    I’d love to help you claim your version of fun! It’s not kazoos and confetti and shouting.

    On my list, I noticed a lot of really mellow ‘fun’ things. Like lying down and petting the cat. Like enjoying the feeling of a delicious plate of food set in front of me.

    Perhaps it’s the word ‘fun’ that’s not right for you. On my list there were a lot of things that are pleasurable. Maybe it’s pleasure that works for you. Or another word.

    The whole point is to have more joy, pleasure, play and relaxing in your life, on your terms!

    I’m glad you confessed the aversion to ‘fun’. I hope my response helps you claim your version!

  3. says

    When I was growing up I used to cry when it was my birthday because I didn’t want to become a grown up. It all seemed too serious and not fun at all to be an adult. What I didn’t know at the time, that I know now, it that life doesn’t have to be so serious. Jobs that I have had that felt really yucky to me were serious in nature. Now that I have embraced my essential self, life is so fun. It’s too short not to have fun.

    Thanks for your post to remind us all to claim the fun things in our lives that don’t have to be expensive or time consuming.

    • says

      That’s so sad and funny that you cried as a child about aging.

      It sounds like you’ve found a more fun path these days, and I am glad!

      This post was for me, too. I can be too serious sometimes and need to remember to lighten up.

  4. says

    Since retiring in 2007,March, I have started a new career as a painting, artist. We moved froman area that has milions of people to only a few hundred, and now instead of only painting on weekends, I paint just about 7 days a week. Working with color and wildlife is my fun. My marketing is so simple I list and show on ebay, and while there are a few ups and downs, I keep it simple and list a starting bid at $0.01, that is good enough for me. I spend time in the wilderness getting different wildlife images to help me in my creative painting, so living in the wilderness is good very close to nature. Thanks for your blog, great way to visit in the afternoon. Have a good evening.
    Jim Springett-wildlife artist

    • says

      Welcome to OI and thanks for introducing yourself. Your portrayal of your artist life is wonderful. I really get the sense that you’re living fully when you’re outdoors engrossed in a painting.

      I’m glad you visited us here and I hope to offer you much more inspiration in the future!

  5. says

    Great posting, Cynthia, and it got me thinking of how much more fun I need to have!

    Fun things for me (not in any order) include:

    Oil painting and drawing
    Time with my daughter
    Time with my cats

    I realize I haven’t been painting lately. I’d better get to it!

  6. says

    What a great post. This issue about fun not being the same as when we were young reminds me of what someone said to me about ‘time’ one day. A year seemed to go forever, even a day sometimes, when we were little – because it reflected a portion of our life. Now, I am 36, so a year represents a ’36th’ portion of my life – so smaller portions, less time it seems. Not sure what I can do about that though haha.

  7. says

    This is a terrific post, Cynthia! For fun…I like
    Eating out with friends
    Splashing with some paints
    Watching football
    Meeting new people
    Being with my writer’s group

    • says


      Thanks for sharing your list! A glance shows me you have a rich life, full of fun activities with your loved ones. What more could one want? Keep having fun!

      • says

        Thanks for sharing the ivitrneew, Antonia. I was excited to feature Elizabeth because of her unconventional lifestyle. As more and more people go nomad, we’re learning more about what we need as humans to be happy, healthy and whole.I’m always inspired by people who dare to live their own way, and you’re one of them!Thanks again for sharing,Cynthia[]

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