Cultivating Fun: Face Challenges & Adversity with Ease & Grace

This post is based on a talk I gave on January 9th at the Adventures Within Women’s Retreat. 

I’ll start this post with my new favorite quote, by Stephen Johnson (author of the book, Wonderland):

“You will find the future where people are having the most fun.”

It’s now 2021, and we have the opportunity to create a whole new year, maybe a whole new life.

People ask me about my brand, Make Everything Fun. I’m not trying to be naive here; we have all been through so much adversity recently and frankly, life can be hard. I invite you to experience all emotions because emotions have one purpose: to be FELT.

To go ahead and be sad, or angry, or frustrated, or any “negative” emotion that needs your attention. Please don’t block your emotions or sweep them under the rug. (For more on this important topic, I recommend books like The Body Keeps the Score and When the Body Says No).

And what about FUEL to get you through those difficult moments?  That’s where fun comes in.

Let’s start with three quick tips that can help to shift your energy right away.

Then I’ll get into my Fun Formula for life design.


Tip #1: Smile. Babies smile all the time, and of course, they get the most enthusiastic responses from those around them. Smiling creates a chain of events in your body along the lines of “all is well”. Smiling releases endorphins in your brain. It makes you more likable. There’s something called mirror neurons, so when you smile, other people smile. Smiling makes you more successful. When you speak, you can hear a smile in somebody’s voice. I always tell people that when they get on interviews or speak, make sure to smile!

Tip #2. Laugh! Kids laugh around 400 times a day, yet adults laugh only a fraction of that. Laughing has similar benefits to smiling, but you get the added benefit of an abdominal workout!

Everyone has a different version of what is funny, from SNL sketches to Carol Burnett. Last night my family was gathered around my phone because we wanted to laugh at the “Alexa Silver” sketch on SNL. We have recently been obsessed with giggling about animals begging, so this Corgi video has been a recent favorite. For my doctorate level research, I collected video ideas from participants on what they thought was funny (because positive psychology was part of my dissertation). I’ve included a partial list below (at the very end of this post).

Remember that humor is all in the eye of the beholder, but I have yet to meet someone that doesn’t laugh at ANYTHING.  

Tip #3: Offer compliments and positive comments to others AND SELF. This tip is based on a concept called The Losada Line. This concept comes from the work of Dr. Losada, who studied highly effective teams.  What he noticed is that in highly effective teams, the positive comments outweighed negative comments significantly.

In fact, highly effective teams made three to ELEVEN positive comments for every ONE negative comment made.

They started to hypothesize that there was a difference between “neutralizing” a negative statement and optimizing human communication. We can neutralize a negative comment by saying three positive statements. That is the Losada line.

But we can go beyond neutral. As positive comments go up, the effects of those positive comments increases. I love challenging people to try for 6 positive comments for each negative one. I even challenge those super high performers to stretch up to 11 positive comments for each negative. Woo hoo!

Now it’s your turn. Perhaps you said something negative to yourself already day? (You know, the voice-in-you-head that says things like “I can’t believe I said that; I feel so stupid!” or “I am so mad at myself; I said I was going to cut down the sugar this year and I just ate an entire chocolate bar!”.

Go ahead:  Say SIX nice things to yourself (even if it is just in your head). If this is too much at once, start with three (to neutralize the negative comment) and see how you feel.

I’ve got a fourth tip; in fact, I have many, many other ideas that I present during workshops. But just trying to keep it simple here, and this last one requires a bit of pre-planning: 

Bonus Tip: Create a Jar of Awesomeness. I got this idea from Tim Ferriss. When something goes really well, write it down on a little slip of paper and put it in a jar. You just keep filling up that jar, and then you are READY when you have a bad day.  When you have a bad day, start taking out all those little slips of awesomeness until you feel better. 

Why is this an effective strategy?  Because we have this thing called the negativity bias. I won’t go into detail here about the negativity bias, but it basically means that our brains are like Velcro to negative events, and it’s like Teflon to positive. We tend to let the positive things kind of slip out of our memories, but we ruminate over negative things. 

What the jar of awesomeness allows us to do is to cut that negative dialogue circuit so that we can then get back onto the positivity, which, by the way, feeds positivity. 

Applying the tips above, you will start to attract all kinds of good things, because success begets success. The jar of awesomeness is something I encourage everyone to start. I actually have done them with my kids and it feels great to both write down and ready nice things about each other. 


Now that we have tools to shift your energy into the fun and positive (where the future lies!), let’s apply a little formula for life design. It has six areas, so you could even see it as a Star of David that demonstrates balance across its areas and points.

We won’t go down the Star of David rabbit hole in today’s post, but in a program that I attended with John Newton last month, we studied the aspects of this holy symbol. John likened it to a set of triangles that intersect (one at the root chakra moving up, and one at the crown chakra moving down, and guess where they intersect: the heart).

Whether or not you want to get mystical here, I do think it is important to remember balance across all the points or areas.  I think when we set goals or resolutions, we tend to think along the lines of professional aspirations and money dreams, but we forget “what it’s all for”. Here are the six areas of the fun formula for life design:

Freedom means different things to different people, but for me, it means freedom from the cubicle. We want freedom to be able to set our own agendas and achieve our life’s objective and purpose.

Family, for me, is a huge part of who I am and what gives me joy. While it can be challenging to balance the many roles of mom, partner, daughter, daughter-in-law, and many others, connections with family make my life so much more rich and complex.

There is a line in the song, “Everybody’s Free (to Wear Sunscreen)” that I’ll quote and modify here:
Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle
For as the older you get

The more you need (your friends).”
I very much believe the above to be true.

Finances can create such a problem for so many people. Years ago I did a Financial Wellness Certification course so that I could understand more deeply how financial issues affect overall wellness. Here is a short video with some fun tips for finances.

Fitness and food of course have everything to do with taking care of your body at a physical level. I like to think of food as fuel that gives us the energy levels for a fun life, and fitness as the thing that boosts our neurochemicals like endorphins. Yum!

Faith doesn’t have to necessarily be a religious practice, it’s really more about knowing that there is something greater than ourselves in this life.

Have fun along the journey.

The promised links to videos (I hope at least ONE makes you laugh!)
British Animal Voice Overs:

Bob Newhart, “Stop It”:

Jimmy Fallon: Jack Black playing the Sax-a-Boom:

John Maloney: Horse in a Hospital:

Saturday Night Live: Down by the River:

Amazon Echo:

Monty Python and the Holy Grail Bunny Attack Scene:

Dana Carvey SNL Choppin’ Broccoli:

Carol Burnett Blunders:

Young Frankenstein:

Ellen’s Never-Ending Scares:

Squatty potty:

Slay Your Poo-Stink with the Golden Fart of the Mystic Unicorn:

Jim Carey Ace Ventura: “Do not go in there”:

Mick Jagger Told John Maloney “He’s Not Funny:

Wheel of Music Impressions:

The Break-Up, the dinner table singing scene:

Steve Martin (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels):

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