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Having Fun is Essential to Resistance

Malibu ready to pounce

If it’s not fun, you’re not doing it right.

— Bob Basso

Boy, have we been having fun!  Malibu, the new kitten, put on 9 ounces in the week between vet visits.  Considering that when we weighed him the first time he was 1 pound 5 ounces, that’s an amazing 43% weight gain – the healthy kind.  He has been here about two weeks and he is the most spoiled kitty I’ve ever seen – and, trust me, I’ve seen some SPOILED kitties.

Every morning, after my prayerful meditation, I go into my office (also known as Malibu’s room) and before I even get to his crate, he is purring.  What a wonderful way to start the day!  He is so happy to see me!  To be honest, this is because I am liberating him to eat, play and use his box.  Even so, it’s step in a positive direction.

I take him out of his crate and after a little petting/purring, I put him down on the floor.  He is interested in everything!  He runs from bookcase to desk to fish tank to shredder to me, and around the office again and again.  If I’m not paying enough attention to him, he sits at the foot of my chair and calls up to me.  If I’m dumb enough to be wearing long pants of any kind, he attempts to climb up so he can be closer – OUCH!

Everything he does is fun – for him – AND it is a learning opportunity.  As he continually explores his world, he learns how high he can jump, how to solve problems, how to communicate with humans and probably a lot more that I don’t even realize.

After some breakfast and some playful learning, he settles down for a loooong nap.  Don’t misunderstand me, he doesn’t go willingly.  We put him in his crate and he complains for a minute or so and then he nods off for several hours.  What a life!!!

Fun Motivates Us

Just like the kitten, we respond to fun.  Ellie wrote about the effect that fun has on our motivation earlier in the week in Are We Having Fun Yet? She had found that when she was forced to use the treadmill at the gym, she would wait to get the one that was more entertaining and fun.  I listen to books on my MP3 player because walking the same route day after day, for years on end, can be a bit boring.  Listening to books entertains and motivates me.  Also, I often listen to books which teach me about topics that interest me.  For me, this is fun.

In his post Learning Should Be Fun, Tom Stoppard explains that when we learn something the chemical dopamine is released into our brain.  Using cocaine has the same effect (dopamine is released into the brain) just in much larger amounts.  As Stoppard explains, “The reason for this electro-chemical connection between learning and drugs of reward is that our brains have obviously been designed to find learning fun.”  So, when I walk, I get the benefit of the endorphin release from the physical activity of walking itself and the dopamine release from learning as I go.

Visiting Old Friends

As I explained in Finding the Starting Line, that initial bit of fun is part of my toolkit for how I make my way from my emotional set point to a more positive view of my day.  Sometimes I go back and listen to old favorites because as much as I love to learn new stuff and my retention is good, I don’t always bring what I’ve learned to my consciousness when faced with a challenge.  Listening to old favorites helps me improve my mood.  One of my all time favorite motivational speakers is Zig Ziglar.  Zig teaches lots of topics including goal setting, attitude adjustment, and how to get along with other people.  He is a phenomenal storyteller and often makes his points using humor.  Here is one of my favorites about how he helped a woman to adjust her attitude and save her job.

After Zig had worked with her, she had changed her emotional set point and her view of her life. By telling us this story, he helps us to reconsider our view as well. Just listening to Zig can raise my energy level and my hopes for the day.

Take Small Steps

It’s amazing what will motivate us to change.  For years, I had known that I needed to walk every day and there were times when I actually did walk five out of seven days for months at a time.  But, it wasn’t until I got my dog that I actually achieved the goal of walking every day for about 30 minutes.  There are only two reasons that the dog and I don’t walk: pouring rain (sprinkles don’t count), and actual illness.  What I wouldn’t do for me, I do for her.

This resistance to doing what we know is good for us seems to be part of us.  If it weren’t, we would all be successful, skinny, motivated people who could do pretty much anything we chose.  Part of our resistance to change may come from our decreasing flexibility as we age – and I’m not just talking about physical flexibility.  One of the ways in which we are less flexible is that we get into ruts.  We stay with the safe and known.  This is how we manage to make it home safely from work and yet we can’t remember the drive.  When we become familiar with the route, we mentally switch to autopilot.  It is only the unusual along our route that gets our attention.

Again, this is the winning evolutionary strategy.  As our ancestors walked through the jungle, they needed to be able to notice the real dangers, not jump at every little thing.  So, they became familiar with their surroundings and over time only the changes, opportunities or dangers, got their attention.

One of the reasons that our resistance to change is so persistent is that although we may change quickly, our circumstances do not.  As PJ Eby says in his article How to Change Your Life, “The truth is that people can change easily and instantly. The real problem is that they also change back just as easily!”  And why do we change back so quickly?  He points out what, in retrospect, is a blinding glimpse of the obvious.  We make the change now, but the results take time.

DUH!  (Sound of hand slapping forehead)  At some level, we all know that results take time, but emotionally we want the pay off NOW!!!  Logic doesn’t enter into it.  We want what we want – NOW!!!

As a culture, we are very results oriented.  We tend to reward ourselves for our accomplishments, not our actions, and according to PJ that’s backwards.  If we want to truly overcome our resistance to change we need to build in some rewards up front.  Since significant changes take time to produce results, we must reward ourselves for performing the right actions that will eventually produce the results.

So, we need to do what comes naturally.  Take small steps, make small changes in our behavior and reward ourselves for those.  The results will come naturally.

2 comments to Having Fun is Essential to Resistance

  • Zig here is repackaging the ol’ cognitive therapy concept. And the truth be told, it works. There various ways to deliver this message to reluctant folks, but he is a great motivatior to those who are ready to hear this message. We all know people who are stuck in negative land. Hopefully they will find their way through motivation speakers like Zig. J.

  • PattiAnn

    Thanks for your comment. I’ve always enjoyed Zig because I enjoy his stories. No one ever had taught me this stuff and I like his “down home” approach. His stories have become classics.