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Archive for October, 2009

Are We Having Fun Yet?

When was the last time you had fun, I mean, real FUN?
I recently saw a video called “The Fun Theory”, which I’m sure many of you have seen by now. It was an experiment:

If we turn the stairs in a subway into a piano, would people walk up them instead of using the escalator because it’s more fun?

Heck yeah! 66% more people took the stairs than the escalator. And watching the video, it sure looks like they had fun doing it. The premise was: Fun Can Change Behavior for the Better.

It made me wonder, where had all the fun gone?

With the global stress of the economy, melting polar ice caps, suicide bombers in Afghanistan; the national stress of rising healthcare costs, lowered housing values and skyrocketing unemployment, in addition to each of our own personal challenges, it’s no surprise we’re not having fun.

I reflected deeper, when was the last time I had fun?

Last December my husband and I took our niece and a friend ice-skating. That was fun. I distinctly remember one moment when my niece was pulling herself along the wall like a soggy little wool-encased inch worm, trying not to fall, and a song came on that inspired me to grab her and my husband’s hands. Gliding along in unison, the chill wind blowing on our faces, the music blaring out of the speakers transported me back to other Christmas ice skating venues – Rockefeller Center, Central Park and even Saturday mornings with my father and sisters at Burnett Park in Upstate New York. For a few fleeting moments I tuned out the world and was one with the ice and the two people dearest to me on either side. Pure joy.

But that was almost a year ago. Surely I should be having more fun!

And then a funny thing happened.

Yesterday morning, my husband and I started talking to each other in silly British accents as we got ready for the day. We laughed and laughed. It felt like ages since we weren’t talking about what bills needed to get paid, who needed to pick up what at the store, and who was going to walk the dog when.

The more I noticed the lack of fun in my life, the more fun I started to have.

As my reflection on fun continued throughout the day, I came across a little video by Nic Askew (I’ll show you at the end) which really struck a chord. It reminded me how I get so caught up in trying to Be Someone. Taking more workshops, reading more books, joining more online social networking groups, all in an effort to Get Somewhere. But where am I going? And why would I want to go there if I’m not having fun?

Even as I write this, the voices of my Irish ancestors echo in my head: “Life is hard, no one said it was going to be fun!”

Internally I retort, “Why not? Why does it have to be hard?” I earn my living supporting people to find their passion, tap their true potential, make their dreams a reality and, hopefully to do so with joy. Why can’t I have a little fun while I’m at it?

So my mission today is to lighten up. Have some fun, look for the small places of joy that I know are just waiting to be tapped. Whether it’s talking in a silly British accent, or painting with my niece, I’m going to allow fun to change my behavior for the better.

(Oh and here’s the video… I promised). Enjoy!

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Every morning it’s the same thing. I pull back the shower curtain and turn on the tap, adjust the temperature, step in to the rush of hot water pouring over me and let out a heavy sigh. Tilting my head back under the shower, I enjoy a few brief moments of pleasure before the guilt kicks in. Transfixed as I watch the liquid swirling down the drain, images of women dressed in brightly patterned wraps walking miles to scrape rusty cans-full of dirty water from a mosquito-infested sink hole in some desolate 3rd world country flood my mind. How can I be washing my hair when so many people don’t even have clean water to drink?

Just as I shake that thought away, my mind conjures up another image – me, in some not-so distant future, thirsty and dirty and fantasizing about taking a bath. I’m serious. What if we run out? These thoughts keep me up at night.

Do I turn off the shower? No. I steadfastly continue with my morning routine, guilt and all. I worry that my water use today will diminish my ability to quench my thirst in the future, but it is not enough of a catalyst to get me to stop my present behavior. Apparently I am not alone, and now I know why. It’s my brain!

I recently read an article, “Why Isn’t the Brain Green?” written by John Gertner in the April 16 issue of the New York Times Magazine.

In it, he talks about how, in order for us to change the climate, we need to change human behavior. And unless we detect some immediate threat, it is unlikely our behavior is going to change any time soon. In the article he says, “A few years ago Weber wrote a paper for the journal Climatic Change that detailed the psychological reasons that global warming doesn’t yet scare us; in it, she concluded that the difficulties of getting humans to act are inherently self-correcting. “Increasing personal evidence of global warming and its potentially devastating consequences can be counted on to be an extremely effective teacher and motivator,” she wrote, pointing to how emotional and experiential feelings of risk are superb drivers of action. “Unfortunately, such lessons may arrive too late for corrective action.

Precisely my dilemma! Not enough risk. Unlike my third world women friends, I don’t feel a threat. I walk 4 feet to the bathroom, instead of miles to a watering hole or a communal spigot; I turn on the faucet, and have an unlimited supply of water at my disposal.

Another challenge with changing our behavior is our brain capacity. While climate change is not exactly 20 on my list of worries as apparently it is for the majority of Americans (see article), there are certainly other, more pressing matters that are troubling me. Like my aging in-laws, being able to afford my home, and feeding my dog. She’s over 70 lbs, she eats a lot. And this is precisely the point of the article. Our brains can only handle so many future worries at once. With the financial crisis, healthcare concerns and whatever current daily issues we are facing, the temperature of the planet, unless it is banging down our door, is not the top priority. Also, since we are not exactly sure what to do about it, the future of the planet becomes even less of a priority. We doubt that our own personal contribution will have a real impact. How can my cutting back on water really make a difference?

Well, I decided to find out. According to this website, “taking an 8-minute shower every day can indirectly create as much as 1,368 pounds of CO2 each year. By reducing your shower time to 6 minutes, you can eliminate 342 pounds of CO2 from your annual total.” I am not entirely sure what that means, but it certainly sounds like shaving 2 minutes off my shower could be a fairly good contribution to the planet. Now maybe I can get some sleep!

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