You're familiar with the phrase, "there's the rub," meaning "there lies the difficulty"? It's usually used to describe a stumbling block in your path or the central dilemma. But while it's associated with Hamlet, did you know that this phrase was not coined by Shakespeare? I'll finish this thought in a moment...
Things that are funny are almost always fun. But things that are fun are not always funny. There's the rub. Most of us, I've found, confuse these two...to our unfortunate detriment.
It's easy, and dangerous, to forget the distinction; when we focus on trying to elicit laughter we can quickly get discouraged because trying to create laughter puts a lot of pressure on us. Especially when some of us are not naturally good at telling jokes or being outwardly silly. Even if we are naturally good at it, focusing on laughter is still a mistake because it causes us to prematurely focus on the outcome rather than the process of humor.
You see, laughter is a result, while fun is a process. Funny is an action, while fun is an attitude. Your light attitude is virtually unrestricted and can be had almost anywhere at anytime, while laughter has some very definite limitations. Since you can take your light attitude into any situation or circumstance, while trying to provoke laughter is sometimes inappropriate and unwelcome, is there any wonder that I am advocating fun over funny?
How to Start Taking Yourself More Lightly...Today
Here are three steps you can take right now to forget about being making people laugh and start focusing on having a light attitude:
1. Remember Your Fun. What games did you enjoy when you were 5 to 10 years old, when you were having fun naturally. Think of 10 specific examples of games you enjoyed and then ask yourself, "How many of them involved active imagination and physical movement?" I'll bet most of the games on your list involved both.
2. Plan Your Fun. Take the list you made in Step One and update each game to a version you might be able to play currently. Can you think of an adult version of hide and seek, tag, or playing with dolls? How about trying to avoid direct eye contact with your boss when she's looking for someone to work overtime this weekend, playing "phone tag," or trying on clothes at the mall? But those are my ideas -- see what you come up with.
3. Have Your Fun. Give yourself permission to have fun and back it up with a commitment to have 15 minutes of it each day. Why do you need a commitment? Because you are bucking years of incorrect indoctrination that it should be reserved for recreation. You want the excellence which, research shows, fun creates so well.
The lesson is simple: you want the full benefit of humor's powerful natural medicine, so don't confuse lightness with laughter. They are definitely not the same thing. While it might be funny to give an elephant an enema, for example, I'm sure it's not fun! And now you don't need to worry whether or not you can create laughter to benefit from the natural medicine of humor.
Want to take your health and success even further? Here are three more steps which will supercharge the commitment you've made with the first three:
1. Fill Your 15 Minutes. Maybe you can't find 10 variations on your childhood games...here are some great suggestions that'll help you:
Practice compassion. Compassion only requires a commitment to understand another person's point of view. Often the practice of compassion has more to do with refraining from a negative response than with making a positive one. Compassion works because it suits our nature to understand each other and recognize our common experiences.
Anonymously do kind things. Whether it be sending an encouraging note, giving a small gift, or paying for the car behind you at the toll booth, an anonymous act of kindness involves a touch of mischievousness and appeals to your humor nature. And doing it anonymously reinforces that your act is done for pure joy, rather than recognition.
Play practical jokes. I'm not advocating victimizing anyone; a practical joke can be spontaneous, simple, and painless. For example, filling up a coworker's desk with miniature golf pencils won't hurt anyone. Practical joking encourages a mischievous, childlike perspective and communicates a willingness to play.
2. Expand Your Commitment. Take your 15 minutes and turn it into a commitment of 30 minutes each day. Don't feel like your 30 minutes needs to be all at once, break your fun into "bite size" 5 or 10 minute chunks. But I can't overstate how much your health, wellness, vitality, and success will be infused with energy when you intentionally create 30 minutes of lightness each day.
3. Have Fun All The Time. Weave it into everything you do, even if you are the only one who knows you are having it. To do this I want you to get in the habit of regularly asking yourself the most important question possible: "Am I having fun?" When the answer is "no," do something to fix that right away! When you must persist in such an activity, you must do three things:
A. Finish the activity as quickly as possible without lingering over it.
B. Do whatever you can, mentally, to make a game out of it.
C. Compensate yourself for tolerating the situation for as long as you had to.
Ever since we started school, people in charge have been teaching us to suppress our playful nature and, thus, limit our greatest health and success. However well intentioned our authority figures were, we were incorrectly taught to equate seriousness with being responsible and successful. How fortunate we are to not only learn that we are actually more efficient, creative, and effective when we take ourselves less seriously, but also to learn exactly how to lighten up.
Shakespeare, by the way, didn't originate the phrase "there's the rub," he only made it famous. In Hamlet, Hamlet considers death as a way to end life's struggles and finally rest easily. But then he also realizes there would be a catch.
"To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there's the rub;For in that sleep what dreams may come,When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,Must give us pause."Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 1
Don't fall for the trap of trying to elicit laughter. You'll put less pressure on yourself and you'll also feel the full measure of humor's incredibly powerful natural medicine.
How to turbo-charge your health, success, and vitality! Clifford Kuhn, M.D., America's Laugh Doctor, teaches people and organizations to be more healthy and successful through the use of fun and humor.