One of my best friends from college came to Austin over the 4th of July holiday weekend and during several of our long dinner chats and walks around the lake, I shared how much fun I’m having in life right now. I’m not letting moments pass me by, or sitting around waiting for things to happen, and I’m taking intentional time to pause and reflect on what’s good about every single day. I can’t pinpoint the shift in behavior; there was no big dramatic moment, or even an epiphany of any kind, but I can say that whatever prompted this has made me feel a lot lighter and more easygoing. Maybe it’s the combination of a brand-new job and work environment, or feeling physically better after so much movement.
Or, maybe I’m simply realizing our time on this earth is too precious to let a bad mood or day kill my vibe. Either way, it was refreshing to say it out loud. . . and actually feel it.
During our walk, I explained how I’ve been handling life and all of the situations that could potentially derail my mood. Don’t misunderstand — I feel everything that everyone on this planet feels at some point: anxious, nervous, sad, lonely, and the list goes on. It’s what I decide to do when I start feeling that way that helps me truly keep life fun and light. Here are the 5 things in my arsenal that I consistently turn to to keep myself in check and have fun.
1 – 10/10/10.
I can’t remotely take credit for this one. This comes from my friend Sarah, who is the founder of a teen entrepreneur program, WIT (Whatever It Takes). She often prompts her students to “10/10/10” any situation; “Will this matter in 10 minutes, 10 hours, 10 days — whatever combination of 10 you want to come up with, will it matter?” This always helps me put a situation into perspective, and usually helps keep life light. Most of the time, I end up not stressing about the small things and move on with my day.
2 – Ask: “Am I having fun?”
Wouldn’t it be great if we could avoid doing things that were no fun at all? I’d love that. While that might not be totally possible, if I catch myself in situations (especially repeat situations) where I’m not having fun, I move on very quickly and over to the things that do light me up. Whether that’s being around certain people or environments, or simply just going through the motions without even knowing it, it can be easy for me to go on auto-pilot or be so easy-going that I end up doing something I don’t love. I like to do a gut check and ask myself this question, much like I’d ask a guest I was hosting in my home, “Are you having fun?” If the answer is no, cool, do something different. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
3 – Don’t wait for anyone else.
Show of hands if you’re the type that will only do something if you have a friend or “security blanket” to join ya? I used to do that until I realized how much of life I was missing out on. Listen, I get it, in my world, I’d way rather enjoy doing something really cool with a friend or someone I was dating, but life and schedules don’t always line up perfectly. I’ve stopped waiting for other’s finances and schedules to do the things I want to do, and have started doing things for myself — on my dime, and on my time! Much like I don’t think you should wait for a special occasion to wear the dress, pop the champagne, or try something new, don’t miss out on life’s fun adventures if someone can’t join ya. It might feel weird at first to go alone, but really it’s only weird to you (plus, my guess is you have plenty of friends you could call that you haven’t seen in a while).
4 – Consider the “&”
Hear me out on this one. When I say “consider the &,” I’m talking about remembering that one bad thing about your day doesn’t have to control the other areas of your day. Let’s put it into play shall we? You go into work and get some not-so-favorable news, so you’re bummed — I’d go so far to say that you’re upset. Yet, you have plans that evening to hang out with your best friend who is in town for 24 hours. This work news is occupying your mind and your disconnected from the evening. This is where you take a hard stop pause and remember: we can feel both feelings at the same time and it doesn’t have to mean anything more or less. Rather than lead with anger or hurt, acknowledge it: “I don’t like the news I got at work today AND I’m excited to see my friend.” Speaking from experience, the second I start to shift my thoughts and identify how I feel and how I want to feel, I start to notice I am more present, engaged, and able to have fun and put the right energy into the right places.
5 – Always have something to look forward to.
For the past year, I’ve made a point to have at least one dinner or drinks date with a friend during the week, and one on the weekend to give me something to look forward to in between my work days. I often plan 2-3 weeks out, and even though I may have to shift things to another day, or a morning workout, I’m constantly looking forward to something, which in turns helps me keep my days in check. If I’m trying to budget, I’ll host a friend at home, or suggest a coffee and a walk instead. It’s such a simple thing, yet I always love opening my calendar and seeing that date set with people I love.
On my friend’s last day in town, we were gathered around the kitchen table when she said, “You know, I’m thinking back to our 20’s when we were in college and having the time of our lives. We were living it up, making so much room for fun, and not letting too many things consume our minds for too long — and I feel like that’s exactly where you are right now after spending 5 days with you.” And truly, I couldn’t agree more.
Later that day, I dropped off my friend at the airport, and as soon as she was boarded up and headed back home, she sent a text that read “Thanks for a fun weekend, you remind me to laugh more.” It brought me to tears because that’s exactly my barometer for measuring how life is going. Am I laughing, and am I having fun? If the answer is no, it’s always time for me to figure out why and make changes.