Recently, Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project, wrote a blog post in which she described three different levels of fun: challenging, accommodating, and relaxing.
Challenging fun is demanding and might involve learning a new skill. Accommodating fun is the kind where you enjoy yourself, but you’re working to meet the needs of others, perhaps more than your own. Relaxing fun requires the least amount of effort, but also affords the least amount of genuine sustained happiness.
These categories resonate with me, and I would add another dimension: I tend to think of fun as either something I’m producing, or something I’mconsuming.
Producing fun means being an active participant in generating the fun activity. It could be throwing a party, doing an art project, or even cracking jokes with friends (“riffing” is a totally productive activity!)
On the other hand, consuming fun means enjoying yourself in a more passive way. This usually involves some kind of media, but it can range from television and movies, to the internet, to music, or theatre, or a puppet show! (I think playing a board game straddles the line between producing and consuming fun, since you’re enhancing an existing product with your own active participation.)
While I think being a producer of fun tends to be the more valuable fun flavor, I’m not going to totally knock the idea of being a consumer of fun. I think it serves a couple of important purposes—first, it can serve as a kind of palate cleanser between focused activities (I use Facebook pretty much exclusively for this reason), and secondly, it provides a lot of creative fodder between productive periods. It can stimulate good ideas, while still giving your brain a bit of a rest.
For me, the perfect ratio is about 70% producing fun versus 30% consuming fun. What about you?