Why does everything need to be fun all the time?
Updated: Sep 9
Is what no one said, ever.
Well, apart from Doc Martin, in the UK comedy series. But that's why that was funny. See? Fun. Again!
Anyway, seriously now.
You've been there. The office knees-up after work. The need to laugh hysterically in the office as a way of making it all sound like a bundle of laughs. The 'team building' exercises, where everyone frantically tries to revive their origami skills, or build a tower out of spaghetti. Or, if you are (un)lucky the table tennis table, the bean bags, the free bar, and all the other enforced employee engagement tricks of the trade.
You see, I may be a total spoil sport, but to me it always felt so enforced. So very much like NOT fun at all.
BUT - before you stop reading and mentally file me as a complete bore and not fun at all - that is NOT what this blog is about!
I do think that fun and happiness are key components to your career and career change.
The whole reason that you are looking around, not clear on what you'd like to do next, IS because you're not happy. Because there isn't enough fun and happiness in your career.
But what fun and happiness mean for you is largely subjective! (And might therefore NOT consist of bean bags and table tennis at lunchtime).
So, what IS this happiness thing?
Before the 1990s no psychologist ever bothered with happiness. It was UN-happiness that needed to be solved. Unhappy people needed to be - well - normal again, neutral.
It was only in 1998 that 'positive psychology' was invented - the study of how people thrive. And yes, they have made happiness (or, as they now call it, 'wellbeing') the core of their studies.
Since then positive psychologists have identified five elements to happiness: positive emotions, engagement (your pursuit of a state of 'flow', total absorption in a task), positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment (wanting to achieve something just for the sake of it).
Unsurprisingly fun falls firmly in the first two categories. (And if you want to know more about what 'meaning' actually - well - means, then go to my blog on Meaning).
How to define fun
According to Yale's happiness professor Laurie Santos fun is “the magical confluence of playfulness, connection and flow”.
We are all aware that you are happier if you have good relationships, and that being absorbed in a task (which is what 'flow' is) will make you feel happier and more fulfilled.
But do we actually play enough?
You know how - as a kid - you just did something, tried something new out? Especially if it was something that looked like it could be fun?
When was the last time you did something like that? Just for the heck of it? Made a drawing, played a game, went paddle boarding? Just because.
Why fun is important - in life, career and even more so in career change!
Fun IS important. For your happiness. But also to beat loneliness, to combat stress, to take you away from your screen, to make you do something active. The health benefits of laughing (loudly) are also well documented (my ex-colleagues might have been on to something).
In your career fun is important to make you happier at work and more engaged. Fun has a positive impact on your mental health and makes you more productive.
It's even MORE important in your career change. Why?
Because during your career you've become awfully serious about it. You've held on. Planned it. Nurtured it. Looked after it.
Until you realised that it wasn't what you wanted anymore. And realised that you didn't even know what you DID want anymore.
Which is exactly why being playful and having fun is so important now. You want the next part of your career to make you happy. And for that to happen you need to introduce - yes - a bit of fun and pleasure!
Three ways to bring fun into your career change
Do something you love doing
Sometimes I speak to some of you about what you'd like to do next in your career. And you say 'I don't even know what I like doing anymore'.
To which I say 'nonsense' (I actually said something else, but I won't repeat it).
Because whenever I get this response and I dig a bit deeper, you know EXACTLY what you like doing. You love writing. You love being active. You love being outside. You love shopping for EXACTLY the right experience for someone. You love cooking. You love singing. You like looking after people or animals. You are passionate about cycling. Or women's equality.
And even if you think you spend your evenings slumped in front of Netflix, or scrolling your social media feed, it turns out that you always (ALWAYS) are looking at the same type of thing, reading about the same subject, getting absorbed in the same topics.
So, my question is: What is it that you - deep down - really want to do?
Monitor yourself for a week. Look at what you're reading, doing, talking about, investigating, engaging in, doing. Make a list. Of the things you'd love to do. The things that sound like fun. And plan to do at least one of these things in the next two weeks.
For you to reconnect with what you love doing, you need to start doing what you love. And whilst that sounds incredibly cryptic once you've done your 'Do What You Love' audit (where you monitor what you love doing) bringing more of that in your life will help you feel more fulfilled and happier even BEFORE you start making changes to your career.
Talk to people
We are too serious. Especially about our careers. Which is not playful, or fun, at all!
So, what if, instead, you started looking at your career change journey as an experiment? Where you're trying to find out what you'd like to do next - through trial and error? By playing?
First of all, go and explore! Get nosey. Start talking to people about what they do. Ask them why they like it. Who they work with. What their career journey was.
You may not want to do what they are doing. But I'll guarantee you that in these conversations you will find at least one bit of 'gold dust' - a nugget of information that helps you move forward:
It may be that you decide NEVER to go down the path that person went down (Result! You now know what you DON'T want).
It may be that you'd like to investigate something further, and you get a referral to someone who you can talk to.
It may be that the reason they are so invested in their career resonates you and makes you think about what you want to create in your career.
No change without action! Is what I say, often. But there is also no FUN without action!
Because, how do you know if something is for you? By trying something out. By doing it. By having a taster.
So, yes, if you have an idea for the next phase of your career what should you do? Play! Volunteer for a project. Do some job shadowing. Ask someone for an informational interview and ask for as much information as you dare. So that you can find out more about the job that you're interested in.
Why does everything need to be fun all the time?
Well, because it is an important part of happiness. And if you're embarking on a new career that is supposed to bring you happiness what better place to start than bringing in some fun?
Tineke Tammes is an ICF credentialed Career Coach, who supports professional women in making successful career transitions into work they love! Besides that she is also a lifelong feminist, part-time portrait artist, never-only-read-one-book-at-any-time reader, and obsessive doodler. Oh, and she knows a bit about change management too.