“I never seem to get the chance to really enjoy myself anymore! If only there was more time…”. An all-too common cry in our society these days.
The ‘bad’ news is there will never be more time. 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks in the year for as many years as the cards deal to us. That’s all we’re going to get.
The good news is that there are ways of experiencing more enjoyment during that time. Here are five of them:
1) Commit to having time for yourself
There are 3 keys to making this work for you. The first is to schedule an amount of time that you believe is feasible. If an hour within the next week sounds totally impossible for you, what would be possible? Thirty minutes? Ten minutes? Five? (If 5 minutes truly is your limit, then I urge you to have a long holiday and give serious thought as to why this is so!) Whatever amount of time you set, you need to be able to see/feel/believe that it is truly attainable – otherwise, your lack of conviction may in fact ensure your negative belief proves to be true (ie. the time for yourself won’t happen). So, set a realistic goal.
Secondly, plan an activity for this time that is truly enjoyable for you. If that’s talking on the phone with a friend, gardening, exercising or shopping – fine, as long as you are doing it for your enjoyment and not because you feel you have to or ‘should’!
The final key is best explained by an analogy. Recall a time when you planned to something with a friend and for very good reasons had to renege on your agreement. How did you feel? When I ask people on my training programs this, they reply with “guilty”, “awful”, “like a terrible friend” and other phrases along this theme. Now think of a time when you planned to spend time with yourself and for good reasons needed to change your plans. How do you feel then? Most people reply with “disappointed”, “resigned” and “oh well, maybe another time”.
Notice the difference? I believe it’s time we feel as badly about letting ourselves down as we do when we let others down. And just as we would reschedule with our friend (rather than cancel altogether), we need to grab our diaries and block out this same amount of time next week. Be gentle with yourself – and stay committed!
2) Know your Values and Priorities
In the ‘big picture’ of your life, what’s important to you? Family? Health? Job Security? Being creative?
Your values and how you rank them are linked to having a sense of purpose in what you do. If you value freedom and autonomy and work for an extremely traditional, hierarchical company, you may notice how ‘purposeless’ it feels to wake up to that alarm clock every morning. Where an individual’s values are in conflict with their employer’s (or the industry or profession in which they work), there is likely to be little experience of job satisfaction or enjoyment.
If this rings true for you, please don’t resign immediately! Develop a medium to long term plan to move into employment and/or other activities that are aligned with your values. It may take a while, but it is well worth it.
3) Create a “Fun List”
Grab a sheet of paper (or several) and let your mind go wild! Free or expensive, easy or complex – all ideas are needed!
Maybe the idea of running through fallen leaves in autumn appeals to you. What about a long, luxurious bath? A night at home with a good video and bottle of wine? When did you last relax in a park and look at ‘cloud pictures’ in the sky?
Record all ideas that come to mind. Put the list somewhere you can see it every day and commit to doing at least one thing from this list once a week (or once a fortnight – remember, it has to be feasible for you). Ah … pure joy! (By the way – if you have a partner, this can be a great activity for you to do together.)
4) Add Pleasure to Activities
We all have things in our life that definitely wouldn’t be on our Fun List – but they still need to be done!
Explore ways of making these things more enjoyable. I don’t mind ironing too much if I can watch a good movie while I do it. Music to match my mood (or my desired mood!) invariably accompanies the ritual of bill-paying.
Pleasure can also be added by ‘doing a deal’ with yourself. After 30 minutes of working on your Tax Return, allow yourself to relax with a book for 20 minutes. Finish that report for work, then enjoy a coffee with a friend. The more your reward is something you wouldn’t normally treat yourself with, the more motivating this can be.
Similar to this, permit yourself to do those bigger (or really unpleasant) tasks in bite-sized chunks. I confess – I used to be a very “all or nothing” kind of person. If I can’t complete all that filing in one ‘sitting’, I’m very resistant to even start it!
My husband taught me the ‘chunking approach’ to housework. I used to go crazy seeing the vacuum left in the hallway with only 2 rooms cleaned – and discover him reading a book on the sofa! Now if you visit our home and find cleaning materials in the lounge, it’s just as likely me who left them there!
5) Perform Random Acts of Kindness for Others
We know how wonderful it feels to receive an unexpected bit of helpfulness. Good hotels do this well. On a recent business trip, I was having breakfast in the hotel restaurant for only the second time. What a delight when the waiter came over and poured some tea for me, remembering my preference from the day before.
It’s equally (if not more) delightful to initiate these pleasantries. I was interstate on Valentine’s Day and found myself getting slightly sad seeing the restaurant beautifully decorated with hearts and balloons and missing my husband and son. At lunch I noticed four women about my mother’s age sit down together at a table, delighting in the decorations. Imagining they were possibly widows reminded me of my mother, living alone interstate. On a flash of inspiration I immediately called her to wish her a happy Valentine’s Day. She, of course, was delighted by this, but I assure you my smile was equally as broad and I experienced a nice light-heartedness for several hours afterwards.
Want to surprise someone? Here are some ideas that might help you get started! Put money in an expired parking meter. Hold a door open for someone struggling with parcels. Help someone get a product from a high shelf in the supermarket. Let someone who appears in a hurry go in front of you in a queue.
Got the idea? As you can see, random acts of kindness need not cost a cent. But they can be virtually guaranteed to add value to the receiver’s day and pleasure to yours.
A wise person once said “I may not be here for a long time, but I am definitely here for a good time!” Enjoy!
© Sandi Givens, 2010
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