The Fun Balance

Running through a murky swamp somewhere north of Whidbey Island at 2 a.m. wasn’t my idea of fun. I had been IMing with my partner all day about this crazy 200-mile, 28-hour relay race, complaining about my lack of sleep and my tired feet and the stinky men in the back of the van.

By the time I got home, I couldn’t wait to do the Ragnar again next summer. What’s up with that?

A friend described it as Type 2 fun. I’ve been obsessed with Fun Types ever since.

According to a Google search, there are at least two different kinds of fun:

  • Type 1: Fun that is fun in the moment. Laughing with friends, going to the movies, reading a good book – uncomplicated fun that you recognize, if you’re paying attention, as fun while it’s happening.
  • Type 2: Fun in retrospect. Challenging or grueling in the moment, but when you think back on it, it was awesome. The time of your life.

When I think back on the Ragnar Relay and that middle-of-the-night leg, I remember turning off my music so that I could hear the frogs singing in the swamp, the fog eerily blanketing the trees, my feet padding along on the soft, dark trail. A perfect Type 2 Fun memory and no wonder I’m doing it again next year.

I have extrapolated on this theory of fun:

  •  Type 3: Fun in the moment, but highly regrettable afterwards. Over-drinking and over-eating both come to mind. Casual sex. Reading all night. Watching TV in general.

Type 3 fun is an indulgence. I’m a big fan of indulgence, but I believe it has to be part of a balance of the different types of fun: it can’t be the main ingredient.

The question is, what’s the right balance? Too much Type 1 feels a bit lite, a bit superficial; too much Type 2 feels too intense, too much of a grind; too much Type 3 feels self-destructive.

As a coach, I point out when my clients are relying too heavily on just one kind of fun; I point out the imbalance. I have a coaching client who defends her choice to read late into the night as her way to have fun. It’s her main ingredient. But it makes her tired and irritable the next day.  It’s an indulgence and comes at a high cost. What would happen to her enjoyment of her life if she balanced her fun differently?

And what if you could transform Type 2 into Type 1? After all, if I’m having the time of my life, I want to know it in the moment, not wistfully realize it later.

I experimented with this recently on a run near Mt. Rainier. The trail was hot and at altitude: I was tired and thirsty and working hard. Definitely Type 2 material.

I decided, in the moment, to make it Type 1. I paid attention to the beautiful forest around me, to my happy little dog running with me, to the sun and warm air, and the early morning-ness of it all. Mt. Rainier popped out over the ridge at my turnaround point and I stretched my arms and shouted Hello to the magnificent snowy mountain across the valley.

A “time of my life” moment and I enjoyed it at the time and in the moment.

Probably just means I wasn’t working hard enough.