Have you lost that living’ feeling? Or, let me put it another way: When was the last time you were so excited by a passion that people asked you, “What’s up with that grin?” Where were you when you were so riveted by a new experience that you forgot you had a single problem? When did you last feel the tingle of a “wow!” moment?
In the scramble of our career ambitions and obligations, it’s easy to forget that we are dealing with a finite commodity: time. We mortals have a limited engagement. So what do you want to experience while you still can? And how much time do you have to do it? In truth, none of us can be entirely sure.
Buried under mountains of work, life logistics and household chores, too many of us are missing our lives, letting potentially delightful moments pass us by.
OPEN YOUR FUN-INTAKE VALVE
The latest happiness research clearly indicates that the secret to a rich, satisfying life isn’t found in outward symbols of success, but rather in the experiences that stir us to our core. That’s because pursuing our authentic interests and passions satisfies fundamental psychological needs in ways that external accomplishments can’t.
As long as you depend on performance for validation, you can’t really take in the best, more exhilarating parts of life — because the chip in your head is programmed only for output.
A mind in the performance “work mode” doesn’t fully participate in or enjoy the rewards of play or pleasure, because enjoyment comes from the realm of input — it’s about experience, not outcome.
The good news: You can start reclaiming your life — today. Groundbreaking research being done in positive and social psychology suggests that you should start developing these skills now. Studies show that participation in leisure activities is one of the most significant factors in determining the quality of our lives.
“The higher the frequency of participation in leisure activities,” says social psychologist Seppo Iso-Ahola, PhD, of the University of Maryland, “the higher the life satisfaction.”
In future installments of this series, we’ll be diving deeper into the research that explains why building skills and awareness in this area is so crucial. I’ll also be offering you some suggestions for upping your own fun aptitude.
It may seem strange to think about consciously developing your ability to enjoy life. But the truth is, the vast majority of us have either forgotten or never learned most of these skills. Too many of us literally don’t know how to have fun, so we end up filling our free time with passive entertainments that, ultimately, aren’t very satisfying.
BUILD YOUR ENJOYMENT QUOTIENT
I call the aptitudes and attitudes required to create optimal leisure time “life intelligence.” Much like emotional and social intelligence, life intelligence is a collection of traits that improve your odds of creating and enjoying a successful life.
Raising your life-intelligence quotient requires harnessing skills that directly oppose the performance mind-set. They include:
1. Allowing experiences to unfold
2. Trusting your decisions and not needing the approval of the crowd
3. Seeking out the unfamiliar
4. Practicing playfulness
5. Surrendering control instead of micromanaging
6. Becoming a participant rather than a spectator
As you develop these skills, you’ll begin breaking free of the performance identity trap. You’ll become a more active, joyful participant in your own life. And that can’t happen too soon.