I was prompted to write this article because I realised I wasn’t experiencing much fun in my life. With a busy home life and working hard to grow my coaching business, I found that there was always so much to do. Like so many of you, I was running from one week to another. Weekends weren’t spent relaxing or enjoying some down time, but were more focused on getting everything organised and in place, so that we could all get through another crazy week. I realised that I wasn’t living. I was merely existing.
And in my work as a headhunter and executive career coach I’ve noticed that I’m certainly not alone. In fact, if I can share with you, I see this all the time with my clients. For the majority, they’re working really hard every single day in their demanding executive careers, and then find themselves spending the weekends on the side lines of their kids sports games, or as the taxi driver bringing them to their activities. Working parents experience so much guilt that we seem to spend our free time trying to make up for something. Perhaps it’s the Irish Catholic guilt thing that so many of us grew up with. We really struggle to get that monkey off our back.
But it’s summer and a chance to experience a bit more free time and live a little more freely. The kids get to enjoy their months of vacation, long days followed by lie-ins (unless you’re dragging them to the childminder like most of us are). Without the usual crazy schedules to follow, things feel a lot calmer. But it’s not for long. Let’s enjoy this while it lasts.
I was away on holidays in Puglia in Italy this year when I had a significant lightbulb moment. I realised that, as I observed my kids and husband enjoying the amazing snorkelling in the seas of the Adriatic or watched them swimming in the calmer clear seas of the Mediterranean, that it struck me. Every few hours they returned sharing their adventures with me; the amazing fish and sea life they’d found; how they’d jumped from a rock cliff into the sea below; or described the coastline they’d seen while swimming together, that I wasn’t part of it. I was merely on the side line. I wasn’t experiencing the fun that they were. And it wasn’t a good feeling.
I’m not a confident swimmer and am nervous out of my depth. I know this. But like so many, I never did anything about it. It was this choice that led me to the point where I wasn’t able to participate in the snorkelling and swimming that my kids where so obviously enjoying. It was a big learning and realisation for me. I was also aware as I listened to them that my kids are getting older and more independent. It reminded me of the fears shared by so many of my clients. They see their kids maturing and heading off to college and they feel lost. What is their role now that their kids don’t need them? How do they recreate a new relationship that meets their needs to remain connected with their kids, while allowing their kids the freedom to become independent young adults? It’s a real dilemma.
Life passes quickly and I realised that I needed to cop on. Stop living on the side lines and start getting involved in life. I had to begin new activities that I would personally enjoy but that I could also do with my kids. This would enable us to remain connected now, throughout their teen years as well as into young adulthood. Because if I didn’t, I knew I would regret it.
A lot of my inspiration in life comes from my friends and clients. Little do they know that I learn so much from them and I’m eternally grateful. One friend took up jogging this year so she could spend more time with her 10 year old son. They run three times a week and spend their weekends at fun runs throughout the country. I thought that was genius. They’re both enjoying a greater connection, while staying fit, and can continue to do this long into the future.
I decided I needed to take action. I was taking my kids surfing in the gorgeous town of Lahinch in Co Clare. It’s a mecca for surfers and having spent a few glorious days there, I understood why. The water was amazing and the coastline on the Wild Atlantic Way, breathtakingly stunning. Spending time with my kids and the amazing instructors from Bens Surf School was, without question, the most fun I’ve had in years. Being in the water, surrounded by such beautiful nature, amongst groups of students who were also trying to learn, was wonderful. I realised that in my head I thought I had a 25 year olds body but the reality was that my 45 year old hips struggled to keep up. My head knew what I needed to do, but it was disconnected from my poor hips and knees. Nevertheless I kept on trying, and falling, and smiling as I watched my kids zoom by on their boards.
All I could do was laugh. And I’m talking about real laughter. That laughter that comes from the pit of your stomach that isn’t caused by a funny joke or watching a comedy movie, but a deep sense of lightness and joy that comes from somewhere deep inside us. It might sound corny, but it was almost spiritual. For a few hours each day, I was living my life in a way I’d never experienced before.
Our group carried their surf boards from the glorious beach to the surf centre, each and every one of us was beaming with joy. Sharing our stories of the best ride or how it felt to get trapped under a wave. You can guess which was my story. And the parents where all lined up waiting to meet & greet their kids. All asking how they got on and did they have fun. I got a few funny looks from some and smiles from others (they’d obviously seen my endeavours in the water and we knowingly smiled at each other). But it struck me. You’re all on the side lines. And you don’t even realise how much fun you’ve missed out on. Your kids are having a ball and you’re not part of it.
And I so desperately wanted to say to each and every one, please sign up to an instructor and take part. This is so much fun and you’ll laugh so much and you’ll get quality time with your kids, and you’ll push yourself out of your comfort zone, and you’ll experience swimming in the Atlantic and you’ll be beaming for the rest of the evening. But I didn’t. I felt it could have been portrayed as me telling them what they should do, or oh look at me so cool surfing with my kids, but this wasn’t the point at all. I knew what it felt like standing on the side lines, and I’d learned a valuable lesson. That taking part is scary, challenging and uncomfortable but it’s way more fun than watching. And can’t that be true for so many things in life. How many of us remain caged or comfortable rather than act boldly and take the risk to doing something new or challenging in our careers, and in our lives.
The title of this piece is ‘how to have more fun’, and I’d love to share with you, if I may, some simple tips that worked for me:
Fun isn’t something that only kids should have access to. It’s there for all of us. As I share with so many clients, we all have a blank canvas to create the career and life we want. It always begins with getting clear on what we really want, and then we can make it happen. I know what I want. And that’s definitely going to be having more fun. So I’m wondering, what one thing do you want to introduce into your life and will you commit to scheduling time to make it happen? I promise you won’t regret it.
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