The Urban dictionary describes the phrase ‘are we having fun yet?’ as “an annoying phrase used by dipshits at convenience stores, offices, or pretty much any place of business”. Too bad that I didn’t understand this during my days at the office where I heard the phrase too often!
Since retirement I’ve heard this term used in various settings. Last week, an aqua fit instructor who was tall, shapely and barely 20 years old used it when shouting at our class of older women while we struggled with pool dumbbells. I heard a service station attendant ask his colleagues this question as people waited patiently in line when the credit card machine malfunctioned. The comment raised eyebrows but no responses.
During the last job in my career, some managers who reported to me asserted that we needed to make work fun for employees. In their minds, coming to work was meant to be fun. This concept puzzled me. Was it the responsibility of a management team to ensure that staff members had fun at work? The discussion at meetings of what it meant to have fun at work insinuated that work should not be work — rather it should be fun!
Certainly, some work projects fell into the category of fun. At the trade association, where we worked, planning activities for members was fun at times but at other times the planning became repetitious and resulted in boredom. Planning staff parties was fun for some people while many people avoided parties and staff get-togethers. For them the promise of fun at a party with co-workers held little ‘fun’ value.
Most work projects required research, creativity, intellectual curiosity, and hard thinking. While applying mental muscle to solve problems was fun for some, for others this was challenging and difficult. When deadlines or equipment failures or staffing shortages occurred, stress levels escalated. Rote or menial tasks such as photocopying or filing created boredom. Such circumstances often set the stage for someone to ask ‘are we having fun yet?’
In retrospect the focus on fun by the management team was a commentary on morale in our office. It came from a desire to improve productivity and happiness among employees.
Unfortunately the phrase ‘are we having fun yet?’ persists in many settings. While it may be used as an attempt to motivate — as with the aqua fit instructor — it usually fails to produce the desired effect. In the attendant’s frustration over credit card machine failure, the phrase sounded sarcastic.
What is fun?
Dictionary.com defines fun as something that provides mirth or amusement, something that provides enjoyment or playfulness.
My favourite happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin, describes a secret of adulthood as “What’s fun for some people may not be fun for you — and vice-versa.”
Perhaps, the answer to ‘what is fun?’ depends on the environment, the people involved, and the situation. What is fun changes all the time. Sometimes, it’s a frivolous group activity; sometimes it’s an individual pursuit. Group activities often involve play and a social environment. Individual pursuits that are considered fun usually involve pleasurable time spent on hobbies or interests.
Some people find fun when challenged. They need purposeful activities. They like achieving difficult goals and the resultant feelings of accomplishment. Others thrive on the communal aspects of fun and need participation with others as part of the fun experience.
Learning to have fun
Learning how to increase fun in daily life is worthwhile.
While fun can’t be legislated, an environment for fun can be orchestrated. Proponents of mindfulness urge us to savour each moment especially when we are with people we care about.
Most of us can have more fun if we lighten up. My mother had a favourite expression “don’t let the burnt toast ruin your day!” Too often an inconsequential issue can create negative feelings that change the mood of a day.
Having fun with others usually results in having fun yourself. One of my friends has a contagious laughter. When I’m with her, it’s natural to laugh heartily and often. She has a powerful manner that makes people laugh regardless of circumstances. On a camping trip with her, we laughed continuously through several days of rain and discomfort.
It’s important to learn to laugh and make fun of your own mistakes. All of us do stupid things and make bad decisions. We’re told that we learn more from mistakes than from success, yet we are often too ashamed to honestly look at what the mistake will teach us. With maturity and time, we can embrace life’s mistakes and, perhaps, learn to laugh about the learning offered from a failure or bad decision.
I’ve resolved never resort to the cynicism of a remark like ‘are we having fun yet?’ When I hear the phrase, I’ll look for the real meaning behind the comment. Meanwhile, I’ll focus on having fun in the moment, laughing with others, and laughing at myself.
I’m interested to know whether readers have been offended by the comment ‘are we having fun yet?’ What responses have been helpful when confronted with this remark?
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