1. You watch Madmen and think that, for all their angst, those 60s guys and gals had a lot more fun than we do.
  2. You check your Blackberry before you pee in the morning.
  3. You have a lot of entertainment in your life, but not necessarily a lot of fun.
  4. The seasons are really only relevant to you in terms of planning where to go on holiday.
  5. You believe you would have more fun if you had more time or money.
  6. Your most meaningful relationship is with your “to do” list.
  7. You drink, eat or shop too much just because you have a hunger you can’t satisfy.
  8. You feel like you’re spending a lot of time looking after other people’s fun, but you don’t get enough yourself.
  9. You’re not quite sure what to do to have fun.
  10. You have this funny feeling that you’re not living the life you were meant to have.

Gretchen Rubin pretty much hits the problem on the head in her book The Happiness Project.  One day, she had an epiphany:  “I wasn’t depressed and I wasn’t having a midlife crisis, but I was suffering from midlife malaise – a recurrent sense of discontent and almost a feeling of disbelief…. I had everything I could possibly want – yet I was failing to appreciate it.”

Three years before reading The Happiness Project, I had a similar, startling realization. It came during a game at a family reunion.  It was a simple exercise in which my uncle would stand on one side of his cottage and throw an egg clear across the roof to the other side, where the rest of us would vie to catch it.  You can picture it: 3 generations of over-excited family members, lots of enthusiastic screaming, raw egg everywhere. It was glorious, unrefined, ridiculous fun. And in the middle of it, I suddenly thought: Where has all the fun in daily life gone? Is it just me who feels this way? And is this just self-indulgence, or does fun matter?

Three years later, I have the answers to these questions.  First, I know that many others share feelings like Rubin’s and mine.  Whether you think of it in terms of being happier or (as I do) simply feeling more alive, it’s clear that many of us feel switched-off when we actually want a richer life.

And there’s one thing we can be certain about: fun does matter. There’s a bill to be paid for feeling switched-off.  For example, not only do we feel lower, but our health can actually be affected because we lack the mental and physical resilience to be at our best. Our social ties are weaker because the glue that binds them – fun, positive experiences – is watered down. Our work and our parenting suffer because we have less to give. We’re less creative and flexible, and more focused on just managing.

All this is why we need to switch-on, but I think there’s one more thing, and maybe this is the most important point of all. We need to switch-on because, arguably, being switched-on is the point of life. Being alive, truly alive – isn’t that what makes life lovely and worth living? If we’re not switched-on, why are we here? Don’t we want truly to live?

In my next post, I will start to share initial thoughts on what it takes to switch-on, but in the meantime, I would love to hear your perspective on this.  Are there any other signs of being switched-off you’d add to the list?

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