“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.”
Walt Disney

There is a list that lives in my head, it may be familiar to you as well. It is the ideal of everything I should do and be.

It includes:

  • Meditate and otherwise work to improve myself every day
  • Wake up early, fresh, and inspired each morning
  • Eat a pristine diet
  • Be enthusiastic about everything I do
  • Be organized and don’t procrastinate
  • Finish all big projects
  • Live fully in the moment

For most of us, such a list is considered daunting, setting up impossibly high standards that cannot be met. It creates a constant background feeling of inertia and “not enough” that then makes daily life feel heavy or lacking.

However, there is a secret that can change this experience entirely, and almost effortlessly transform the list into a source of encouragement and inspiration:

Focus on having fun.

I heard this idea first in the process of interviewing highly successful people for my upcoming book, “The Dreamer’s Guide to Success”. The ones who went the farthest the fastest and with the most ease were so busy having fun they didn’t have time to worry, struggle, or even plan.

They engaged what they wanted with enthusiasm because they were already enthusiastic. They were enthusiastic because they were having fun.

Having fun wakes us up. It dials up our energy and engagement levels without effort, stimulating higher brain function so that big projects become inspiring rather than daunting. We become able to perceive best possible outcomes with ease, and figure out how to achieve them as a game akin to solving a puzzle.

Having fun is the beginning step, not the end result. A few weeks ago this concept hit me in a new, more visceral way.

I went to an “Escape Room“. This is where you and other people are locked in a room and have to solve a series of clues within an hour in order to escape.

I found it to be the most genuine fun I’d had in a long time, and I was high for the rest of the day from the experience. During this time I noticed that my mind was much sharper than usual, like all the cobwebs had been cleared out. I was then excited to do things that had previously weighed me down because I desired to maintain the feeling of challenge and stimulation provided by the Escape Room game.

There is wide consensus in modern psychology that in order for something to be fun it has to challenge us in some way, force us to think creatively, and learn something new as a result.

In video games, players are given challenges that start easy and gradually increase to the point of extreme difficulty as they progress.

Being presented with a series of challenges that are always at the edge of their current capacity is what keeps players engaged to the point of addiction.

Life does exactly the same thing with far more expertise, but the difference is we tend to take life seriously. In a game failure isn’t made important because it’s known that success is guaranteed if you keep playing. You learn more each time you lose and note how you improve until victory becomes inevitable.

When I look at my list with the perspective of playing a game, it becomes fun because it is challenging. I don’t need to succeed at it to enjoy it, the fun is in the trying.

Yes you’ll still have to do things you don’t like, have hard days, and need to lick your wounds on occasion, but that’s all part of the game. With that awareness, you can maintain your sense of progress and enthusiasm even in the experience of setbacks.

To help you ramp up the fun in your daily life, I highly recommend the following activities:

  • Learn something new you enjoy that you aren’t already good at
    I’m writing this having just spent an hour practicing how to sing on rhythm. This for me is equivalent to a gorilla learning how to crochet, which forces me to engage beyond my baseline level and leaves me feeling good all over.
  • Find the fun in ordinary activities
    If you’re folding laundry, running errands, cleaning, etc. ask yourself, “How would a 5-year-old do this?” Invent games out of what you are doing, race yourself, and otherwise make it play time. This video provides one of my absolute favorite examples for how to do this.
  • Do unusual things
    Try an Escape Room, go to a stand up comedy or improv show, go rock climbing, dancing, and anything else that sparks an interest and breaks you out of your routine. Try and do something different like this at least once a week to give yourself something to look forward to and add flavor to your life.

Having fun doesn’t just make accomplishing the list of “shoulds” in your head possible, but it gives it a potent and useful role in your life. Once you stop taking it seriously it becomes the very thing that makes life enjoyable.