My year of fun in review: What I learned

I’ve long considered myself a pretty serious person. I study serious things. I focus on helping workplaces tackle serious issues. And for the majority of my life I’ve been in pursuit of a serious kind of success: power, money, influence, impact. Starting and running your own business – as much fun as it may look on Instagram – is a serious endeavor.

So after busting my butt for 5 years, and staying focused on growing my business, last January I set out on a different kind of mission: to make 2018 my own personal “Year of Fun.”

I wanted to conduct a little experiment on myself: what would it look like to optimize for fun this year instead of focusing so much on success, money, or achievement? So each and every month I focused on cultivating a different element of fun, which perhaps I’ll write more about someday. But for now, I want to share with you the top breakthroughs I experienced – because let me tell you, they shook me to my core.

It’s my hope that after hearing about my experience, you’ll embark on your own Year of Fun in 2019, too! And for all of you who already purchased your 2019 LifeTracker Planners,, you’ll notice that I made the pursuit of FUN a huge theme for the entire 2019 calendar year!

1. Yes, you can plan for fun

Being a fun-loving person is often associated with being spontaneous, a characteristic I most certainly do not embody. I used to think that there are just two kinds of people: carefree, fun-loving spontaneous folks, and serious people who lead more structured, productive, and focused lives. Talk about limited thinking! I used to think being fun and carefree just wasn’t in the cards for me.

But this year’s experiment taught me that it’s not all that mutually-exclusive. You can, in fact, plan for more fun. It’s simply an exercise in mindfulness.

At the start of every month and week, I looked at the calendar in front of me and asked myself: what’s on the docket just for fun?

I added in weekly drum lessons, regular “girls night” hangouts, and rendezvous with friends from far away when my work took me traveling. Instead of looking only to pack my schedule with productive time or business networking opportunities, I added in “just for fun” days – like hiking in Sequoia National Forestfollowing a speaking engagement in nearby Fresno, CA.

And yes, while it is a total privilege to have such control over my schedule and the freedom to essentially create more leisure time, I’d been squandering that privilege in years past. I suspect a lot of us don’t recognize the power we have to pursue more fun in our day-to-day. According to Project Time Off,52% of American workers have vacation days that go unused. And I can relate! I’d been so fixated on making ends meet or making sure my business was growing that I used to think, “I don’t have the time to have fun!” When in reality, having more fun didn’t really seem to draw from my bottom line much at all.

2. More fun actually made me more productive

This year, I took more vacation time than ever before. And my business also performed better than ever before. We increased gross sales by over 15% this year, which is no small feat in a modestly-sized operation like mine.

On top of sheer revenue, I tackled some of the biggest projects of my career this year. I finally finished the book I’ve been working on for the past 3 years. I launched my own independent podcast, which I absolutely LOVE producing. And on top of what I’ve tackled through Bossed Up this year, Brad and I also finished our first home renovation and bought our second house, marking the official start of our property management business.

According to a growing body of research, happier workers are more productive and efficient. This is exactly the result I experienced in my year of fun, but I’ll admit: it took something of a leap of faith. When you’re worried about quarterly earnings being low, or have a huge looming deadline on the horizon, it can be really hard to give yourself permission to stop, put the work down, and make time for play.

But time and again, when I allowed myself to have faith that fun time wasn’t happening at the cost of work time, I was able to really enjoy myself during periods of rest and renewal and experience more focused, productive work hours afterwards.

3. Intentionally making memories boosted my happiness

Late last year, I read the latest book from two of my favorite cognitive scientists, Dan and Chip Heath. Their book, The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact, made me realize that I hadn’t previously put a lot of thought into how I celebrate traditions or mark milestones. It’s actually one of the books that convinced me into having a wedding (as I’d been previously leaning towards eloping.) In it, the Heath brothers make the case that a little bit of thoughtfulness can go a long way in elevating any moment into a once-in-a-lifetime memory.

It inspired me to consider how I wanted to make once-in-a-lifetime memories this year, starting with spending some quality time with my mother to celebrate her 60th birthday. On something of a whim, we went in on a steeply-discounted package vacation deal from one of my favorite online adventure websites, an 8-day guided excursion back in my mother’s home country of Colombia.

I knew this was going to be special because my mom never had the chance (a.k.a. never had the time or money) to return to Colombia since moving to the United States at the age of 13. Plus, it was my very first time seeing her home country myself! Her 60th birthday came around on Mar. 10, so my mom and I had most of the first quarter of 2018 to excitedly look forward to our trek, which was almost as much fun as heading off on it!

We flew out on her birthday, spent a few days exploring Bogotá, the capital city where my mother spent most of her childhood, before heading off on a 4-day trek through the jungle to ancient ruins in La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) in the Sierra Nevada Mountains near Santa Marta, a coastal beach town.

I totally unplugged from work throughout our stay (being on a mountainside in the middle of the jungle made that easy), and we savored our time together. Upon return, I made my mom a video showcasing our time together, so we could look back and enjoy our experience all over again! It really felt like such an important bonding time for my mom and me, and now she’s on a kick about making her birthday a time for a special trip every year! This coming March she’s coming to Colorado to visit us in our new home and go hiking with us here.

4. Cheap thrills count, too!

Back when I was a kid, there was a class at summer camp called “Stupid, But Fun,” in which you and the counselors would presumably hang out and come up with silly games and ways to entertain yourself. Being the already-quite-serious Posh Spice impersonator among my friends, I considered this offering to be utterly ridiculous and anyone who signed up for it to be fully bonkers. But now at 31, I finally get that the dumb little ways you can delight yourself count for a lot!

I started the year by dying my hair turquoise  – for no real reason other than I wanted to give it a go. I bought a moped – which I’m convinced is the most delightful mode of transportation on the planet, if a little impractical at times. Brad and I adopted a baby cockatiel and named him Tunafish (after our favorite Jurassic 5 rapper), having never even seen that breed of bird before.

None of these moves made any goddamn sense, I’ll admit it. But they put more smiles on my face than I can begin to count!

Throughout this year, I asked myself what my 7-year-old self would think of the life I’m living these days, and made a few wacky moves to delight my inner child. Happiness scholar Gretchen Rubin says that the first step of having fun is to deeply understand what’s fun for you. . And I’d argue the next step is to not edit yourself! There’s this very grown-up thing we tend to do to our childhood quirks: we rationalize them, try to make sense of them, and have to have “good reason” to indulge them.

But bringing too much reason into this process really hampers the unbridled pursuit of fun – especially stupid fun. Fun that doesn’t make much sense. But let me tell you: cheap thrills count just as much as the bigger-ticket items when it comes to pursuing a life you feel reflect your values.

5. What you’re aiming for matters

You know that saying “Aim for the moon and you’ll land among the stars”? It’s a tad cliche, but holds some truth to it: the direction you’re heading in will absolutely influence where you end up. In the past, I wasn’t pointing myself in a direction that focused on fun. I was doggedly pursuing business success, growth and learning, maximizing my impact in my community, and ensuring a stable financial foundation for my future. These are all good things, sure, but they’re not all that fun.

So without really thinking about it, I landed somewhere close to all those serious forms of success, without thinking about everyday delights.

And you know what the consequences were? I was tired. I was feeling lonely. And I was limited in my view of what “self-care” looked like.

Turns out, having more fun can actually boost your energy, foster social bonds among friends and colleagues, and help buffer against stress. And after this year, which I can confidently say has been the most fun year of my life, I can’t imagine living any other kind of way.

What would a Year of Fun look like for YOU in 2019?

I want to challenge you to bring more FUN into your new year. Really! I know we’re all a part of the Bossed Up community because we’ve got big ambition. And I promise you that your big goals aren’t any less important when we add on an element of FUN into our pursuits together. So starting right now, I want you to ask yourself, looking at your next week or next month: what’s on the docket for FUN?

And if you really want to make this an intentional practice throughout the course of 2019, snag yourself one of our 2019 LifeTracker Planners now and join me for 3 upcoming master classes on sustainable goal pursuit as well as quarterly accountability calls throughout the entire year. We’re all focused on how we can thrive while we strive – and have more FUN together in the year ahead!

This article was originally published on BossedUp.