Written by : Transcript – Commit to a Summer of Fun with Mike Rucker, PhD 

Transcript – Commit to a Summer of Fun with Mike Rucker, PhD

Follow along with the transcript below for episode: Commit to a Summer of Fun with Mike Rucker, PhD




[00:00:01] PF: Thank you for joining us for episode 473 of Live Happy Now. Summer officially begins on June 20th and that’s the perfect time to launch Live Happy’s Summer of Fun. I’m your host, Paula Felps, and this week, I’m joined by Mike Rucker, an organizational psychologist, charter member of the International Positive Psychology Association, and author of The Fun Habit: How the Pursuit of Joy and Wonder Can Change Your Life.


We’ve teamed up with Mike to offer a free, eight-week email course that will set you on track to have a fun-filled summer, and today, he explains why fun is so important, how to make more room for it in your life, and what to expect when you commit to having a summer of fun. Let’s have a listen.




[0:00:49.3] PF: Mike, thank you for coming back on Live Happy Now.


[0:00:51.5] MR: Oh, my goodness, I love being here, so thanks for having me.


[0:00:54.5] PF: Well, you’re so great to talk to you because you’re one of the few people that I know who studies fun, and what a great career pursuit that is, you know? It’s like, I’m going to study fun. So, I wanted to find out, I don’t think I’ve ever asked you this question, like, what made you realize the importance of prioritizing fun?


[0:01:16.1] MR: Yeah. So, my story really is being an early part of the International Positive Psychology Association, when that started in 2000, right? Cheek sent me, “Hi, I’m Martin Seligman.” You know, brought all these folks together, was lucky enough to be, you know, one of those early folks, and rightfully, we’re all looking at happiness, right? Because that – at the start, I think, as an ideal, trying to figure out how we can make the world, you know, happier, was a good goal.


We ultimately called it thriving because we added elements of subjective well-being, right? You know like academics, we have to make everything [crosstalk 0:01:53.7]. I’m working on this on the academics now with regards to fun and I feel like in the book, The Fun Habit, I made fun fairly easy. You know, we’ll just get real quick to my definition, it’s essentially anything you find pleasurable and then I’ll circle back to your question.


But now, because we can bring it down to levels, right? We’re now talking about fun in different context and I find that fascinating because again, you know, academics picking up where I left off now, you know, fun has 30 different subcategories and I think that’s great but you know, because fun in the broad context can, you know, you can start to make it too ambiguous where people are like, “You know, what does that mean for me?”


And the good news is, you get to define it and we’ll get into that as we talk but what happened with happiness is that unfortunately, and we kind of have a term for it now. So, and I’m sure you’ve had podcasts about it, the term being toxic positivity, we turn happiness into an ideal. So, instead of valuing happiness, where there’s no problem with that, right? Wanting people to be happy, wanting your family to be happy, wanting to be happy, that’s not problematic.


But it’s when we turn folks into being concerned about, “How can I optimize for happiness?” paradoxically, what we did was created some of the most unhappy people and I happen to be one of them, I talk about that a little bit because I was literally looking for correlations and always ruminating on you know, how I could become happier. When that happens, what we now know is you create a gap between where happiness lives because it’s always out there in the future and where your feet are.


And so, the short answer to your question is, fun as a construct, is really rooted in mindfully being attentive to the pleasurable things that you do but then, also, understanding that you have the agency and the autonomy to bias your life towards those.


[0:03:45.8] PF: So, why is it more helpful to pursue fun that to pursue happiness? You kind of touched on that.


[0:03:52.2] MR: Yeah. So, happiness is really this lagging indicator, right? When we are asked, “Are you happy?” It is an act of retrospection, right? We have to think in the rear-view mirror, like, “Am I happy? Hmm, that’s interesting” right? So, we start comparing ourselves to our neighbors, we think about our life circumstance, which can oftentimes be ephemeral, right? We might have won the lottery, so in that moment, we’re really happy, right?


But then, we ask you six months from now because some of that money has gone and you’ve kind of fallen off a cliff, right? Where fun is just something we have access to in any moment and so sometimes, it’s referred to as contentment but when you focus away from happiness, right? So that there’s something to be built further, it’s this end goal or there’s something to be achieved and then all of a sudden, happiness will occur.


The fun, which can really happen in any moment, so you know, it’s this product of enjoyment and the things that we do. Once we sort of focus on that, then we do pay attention to where our feet are, like, “Wow, I’m not enjoying what I’m doing, let me change, maybe the environment or the people that I’m with or the activity that I’m doing.” We can do that in the moment and the beauty of it is once we start to index these micro-joys in our life that corpus of micro joy starts to remind us that we’re happy.


So, happiness is this beautiful byproduct, and we start to become less concerned with being happy because we know that joy is right in front of us by deliberate design that we don’t have to wait around for it to happen.


[0:05:30.1] PF: You know, and as kids, we pursue fun, like, that’s just our natural state. We’re looking for fun things to do and we find them and somewhere along the way, we get serious and that wears off. Is it hard for people to learn to seek out fun again?


[0:05:48.2] MR: It’s not hard, that’s the beauty. I think once you kind of wake up to it, it’s clear that when you just do a couple of exercises, like the ones that we’re going to do this summer, and you become mindful that, “Wow if I enjoy myself.” I colorfully call this building my fun cup, right? “That the rest of my life is better.” And so, if there are any science nerds listening, I’ll only give a couple quick science lessons.


The principle here is the hedonic flexibility principle and as I was creating the book, it was the big lightbulb, right? And so, similar to what we learned about sleep in the 90s, you know, in the 90s, we’re all wearing sleep depravation as a badge of honor, right? Because it’s how you hustle, that’s how you became more productive, right? Like, you know, winners became winners, you know, after the kids went to bed.


We now know that’s an asinine assertion, folks that are in a sleep deficit are some of the least productive folks, and we’re now learning the same about leisure. Folks that don’t live a balanced life, that aren’t finding joy or at least, simple pleasures in the things that they do are also falling victim to burnout, and so under that guise, right? Fixing that becomes important and so, once you kind of understand that, once you sprinkle in some of these fun things.


And just like sleep, it’s not about, you know, finding whimsy in a hundred and six to eight hours, right? Like, I’m not prescribing 12 hours of sleep. It’s that most of us aren’t having any fun at all and so, we need to figure out how to create that balance by deliberate design, and as I alluded to, it’s really easy. What I found is folks that do it well are the ones that are going to do the exercises we’re going to get into this summer.


Just being deliberate, you know? What is it that I, you know, find enjoyable? Reframing what fun means to you. You know, for some folks, they’ll say, “I’m just not a fun person.” And then when I dig deeper, it’s because they believe that what’s marketed to us, right? This high arousal, “I must be at a rock concert with all my friends drinking because that’s you know, what fun is.” Or at least, that’s what Instagram tells me.


No, it could be a low arousal activity where the most amazing summer for you is some alone time at the pool, engrossed in a good book that if I ask you in a couple of weeks, you know, “What was it about?” You could tell me in rich detail because that’s how meaningful it was for you and so, figuring out what those things are, and if they’re not in your schedule, being deliberate about scheduling them in, we’re almost halfway there already.


[0:08:22.0] PF: Oh, that’s terrific and you know, you and I have been talking about doing this for over a year, we wanted to do a summer of fun. We talked about that and summer is marketed as being so much fun but the reality is, it’s not as lighthearted as we want to think. It’s like, crazy busy, there’s so much pressure, so many things that we have to get done, and it’s compacted into like this three-month period. Why is that a great time to start doing these exercises and make them habits?


[0:08:49.5] MR: Yeah, so, I think it’s access would be the biggest one, right? I mean, there is a lot of different reasons but I have this tool called “SAVOR” and it’s essentially just an acronym and so, the “O” in SAVOR stands for “Options.” When we have better options, we tend to have more fun, and the summer just provides so many options, right? I mean, even for small communities like my own, there are things that are available to us for free that we can engage in and discover which you know, and we’re learning how to do that and that becomes a proxy for actually getting it done.


You know, we’re kind of in the winter months, and no one’s leaving their homes, it’s so easy to just essentially be in the groove that we’re habituated life and let that time pass us by but the extended daylight that summer provides, the fact that folks tend to have a little bit more autonomy and agency and then again, just access to activities, quite frankly, sometimes, for us, it can be a nostalgia because as you mentioned, as kids, a lot of fun in the summer, and so wanting to get back there, using that as a lure to be like, “You know what? Summers are meant for fun.” All of these can encompass, you know, good tailwinds for getting us started.


[0:10:05.8] PF: And you’ve created for us, we’ve partnered with you to do – provide this eight-week email course for free and I absolutely love it. I’m so excited to share it with everybody. Can you kind of talk us through just really, briefly touch on these eight steps and what they’re going to learn along the way?




[0:10:22.6] PF: We’ll be right back with Mike, but part of having fun this summer, includes, getting better sleep. I’ve become such a big fan of cozier sheets for a lot of reasons, but as the temperatures rise, I found one more reason to make them the only sheet I want to sleep on. Thanks to their cutting-edge temperature-regulating technology, Cozy Earth bedding lets me stay cool and comfortable, even on the hottest nights.


That means, I can wake up refreshed and ready for the day, and here’s the best part, our exclusive offer for listeners like you, gets you a 30% discount and a free item, using code “Cozy Happy” at cozyearth.com/livehappynow. I bet you’ll love the unbeatable combination of softness and durability as much as I do. So, invest in your sleep health this summer and stay cool, backed by Cozy Earth’s 109-night sleep trial and a 10-year warranty.


Visit cozyearth.com/livehappynow today to unlock this special offer and optimize your sleep for better health, and after placing your order, be sure to select, “Podcast” in the survey, and then select, “Live Happy Now” in the drop-down menu that follows, and now, let’s find out Mike Rucker’s eight steps to having a summer of fun.




[0:11:37.3] MR: Yeah, so, the first thing is really just being aware of what you find fun, right? For adults, oftentimes, we do need to reconnect to, “What is it that I want to integrate?” And the issue there is, especially folks that find themselves in that sort of inverse euchre of happiness that so many of us talk about, right? And for folks that aren’t, you know, familiar with that, essentially what we know is that because between, you know, let’s say, 25 and 65, let’s cast a wide net, with some of the [inaudible 0:12:04.5] time for us, right?


And we’re not in school anymore so we kind of lost some of the agency and autonomy we had there and so, we need to deliberately integrate some fun into our schedule, and so that’s the first step. Like, “What is it that I want to do?” Because if we allow, you know, FOMO and kind of the rhythms of our family to dictate everything, then oftentimes, we can feel very passive in that. We want to feel active, and then it’s pre-committing to those things.


So, really early on in this course, we’re going to pick a few things that we want to do and make sure they happen and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to pay for them in advance. We’re going to learn, you know, some simple tactics to just make sure that we’re actually doing the stuff that we want to do this summer, and then the rest of the course is just an ode to things that can kind of amplify our fun.


So, are there opportunities in your schedule to at least get out in nature to some degree? Are you connecting with the people that you love? Because, even if you’re an introvert, right? At least, having some prosocial interaction is what we know great and set, latency, enjoyable experiences, and then it’s, how do you invite yourself to the local culture because like I said, summertime is really great because there are all these opportunities to enjoy your township or the county that you live in.


And yet oftentimes, if we don’t go looking for it, we don’t know it’s there and then one of the last modules is about kindness because I think kindness really does pair with fun. We’ll get in, for the folks that want it, I’ll send links to the studies but really doing that in a joyful way, like, “How can we play with kindness in a sort of fun way to end this strong?” And then the last module would be, how can we use all of these tools that we learned over the duration of the course to kind of move into fall and continue to benefit from what we’ve learned over the summer?


[0:13:58.0] PF: It’s such a great set of action steps and I was curious how you developed this process because it’s very thoughtful, very measured. You know, it’s so easy to do and I’m like, how did you come up with all of this?


[0:14:12.9] MR: Well, an ode to one of my collaborators, Haley, who is a diehard introvert and so we would go back and forth because as she was helping me put together – she’s been my blog editor too for like, 10 years and so the kernel of the idea really started with her because she was like, “Okay, you know, you’ve over-emphasized” on sort of higher all activities in certain content that I put out and you know, I am doing this with my friend.


And I am doing this with my friend and so I started to pick up on that. I was like, “Wait a sec, are you guys doing this in a systematic way?” And she’s like, “Yeah, we kind of, I’ve pre-commended to this and we made sure you know, that we do X, Y, and Z.” And you know, for folks that are listening, you might know that movie Tag about adults that have kind of committed, you know, enjoying each other’s company every year.


And so, as we were putting this together, we realized that folks that either had some sort of program were a lot more successful than folks that did it in an ambiguous way. So, the short answer is this is really just a reboot of the year of fun, which was a program, you know, to stretch it out an entire 12 months but because the summer you know, is so ripe with opportunity for fun and then as you know serendipitously, right?


As we were putting this together, the New York Times reached out, you know, because they were like, “Let’s invite our readers to fun.” It was all, I think, the universe saying like, let’s – with November coming up, no matter what your slant is I think we’re all kind of bracing for you know, fall, maybe not being as enjoyable as we would like and so, having this opportunity to you know, make sure that we maximize our enjoyment with both what we want to do but then also sharing that with our loved ones became important.


[0:16:02.2] PF: Yeah, I love the way that all came together.


[0:16:05.0] MR: Another thing that I think we’re really awakening to is that fun is one of the most useful aspects for engaging in all of these lifestyle changes that we’d talked about for what? The last 50 years?


[0:16:16.2] PF: Get up, move around, healthy behavior, yep.


[0:16:19.3] MR: But instead, we’ve been talking about want for the last quarter of a century, right? Like, you know we get fixated on the World Health Organization and I am guilty of this too, like I have to get that 115 minutes of exercise and yet, we never stop to ask, “Are the things I’m doing for exercise enjoyable? Am I drawn to them? Do I find them pleasurable?” Now, studies are finding that if we ask that question first, that is actually the most successful moderator with regards to anything that we can do with health interventions.


And so, that one is just serendipitous for me, you know, the fact that I have looked at enjoyment for so long and oh, it just happens to be the most useful tool when it comes to you getting people to engage in healthy behaviors. That’s been such a pleasant surprise for me.


[0:17:04.2] PF: That’s awesome and so what do you hope that people will get out of doing the summer fun eight-week email course?


[0:17:11.2] MR: Well, obviously, I hope they have a lot more fun.


[0:17:13.2] PF: Yeah.


[0:17:13.9] MR: And like I said, you know, these tactics aren’t going to be earth-shattering and luckily, we’ve made them very bite-sized, right? So, this isn’t going to take much time for people to get through but the nice thing is these simple and not just really can right that ship. If you feel you know, life has gotten a little bit mundane, you know, you feel a little bit stuck, all the you know, adult life is about habituated behavior.


You know, we’re going to kind of unroot that and hopefully, sprinkle on some of those micro joys during your summer. So, a few more smiles and a few more hugs, and a few more belly laughs.


[0:17:47.4] PF: Something we can all benefit from.


[0:17:49.8] MR: Exactly.


[0:17:50.7] PF: So, fun is one of those things that doesn’t seem like, A, that anybody would be opposed to it or that there should really be any stumbling blocks to having fun but I am sure there are things that keep people from having fun. What are they, what keeps people from practicing fun?


[0:18:06.6] MR: You know, there is so many that it’s going to be different for each person but certainly, we’re time [importer 0:18:14.2] right? So, it really does require a little bit of deliberate design and so we’ll get into that. For some, it is a sense of guilt. A lot of folks and there’s gender slang to this, you know, it is certainly excuse the female but they feel like they find joy in serving, right? It’s called the sandwich generation, right?


So, they want to take care of their kids in a very loving way, they have aging parents that they want to make sure they’re okay and they feel like if they take time off the table, and when I say that, I am not just talking about females. Again, it’s just we know that there is a bias towards that data that they tend to be the family caregiver, right? That if they are engaging in some sort of self-care that they can’t fully be in it because they feel guilty because it is taking time away.


And what we’ll learn in the course is that that’s anything but, that to be the best version of yourself so that you can be the most productive and have the vigor and vitality to be that good person when you are doing these things, those require just a little bit of time for you to enjoy life because when you don’t, what happens is you ultimately end up getting depleted and even the best of us, right?


So, the last chapter in the book, I look at folks that have essentially dedicated their whole lives to serving others with regards to nonprofit and when they’re completely selfless, eventually, they won’t have anything left in the tank to get and so, when you think about it as being the long game, then fun in that sense really does become important and so once you learned that, I think it’s easy to then recalibrate.


Like, “Wait a second, this isn’t a guilty pleasure, right?” Which is such a horrible word anyways, this is really something that is going to impact me in a positive way where I can bring that to the folks that I love, and then if you want to get even geekier about it, that’s actually contagious. When you are happy about what you are doing, you tend to set ripples, you know, both at work and at home that will then catch on with the folks around you.


And oftentimes, you can create positive upward momentum in really easy ways, you know, just by doing a few things that you have to look forward to and like to go one level deeper, the reason is, is that we know that folks that don’t have something to look forward to even if it is just an hour out of the 168 that you have in a week, if you have like a really tough three or four days and we all have them and there’s nothing in your schedule that you’re like, well, at least, you know, something as simple as, “I might go have ice cream with my best friend.”


If you don’t have that to look forward to, then you really lack one of the significant tools of resilience because like you just – then what your brain starts to feel is, “This crappy day is just going to be on repeat” right? But again, just some small form of simple pleasure to kind of root yourself like, “Okay, I’m in it right now but I know that something down the pipe is going to be fun and I’ll get there soon enough” is all it takes.


[0:21:21.8] PF: We’re big on that on our house, making sure we have at least one fun thing going on. Like there’s got to be something on that calendar that we’re going to do that we’re really looking forward to and it does make a difference.


[0:21:34.7] MR: Yeah. I mean, you already know because you’ve been living it for a while but I think you know, for a lot of busy adults we just forget, right? That we have some of that control. A study that I bring up all the time and I think you had him on the podcast because she has an amazing book herself called the Happier Hour. So, you know, her vacation mindset study, she didn’t do anything but just remind folks that they have agency and autonomy as they go in.


And just remind yourself that this is meant to be a reprieve and you know, all of the positive benefits. Essentially, what they found was they saw some of these benefits you would get from an actual vacation just having a vacation mindset going into your weekend and so it’s this small sort of reframes, you know, what I call story editing, that can be really powerful but yet, so accessible to almost all of us.


[0:22:24.8] PF: One thing has struck me as I was going through the emails and what you have planned for this course is this would be a great thing to do with an accountability partner because it’s like, you sign up for it and it’s like, this is going to be fun but as you said, we have to commit to that time and it can be easy to let it slip away. So, how do we do that, how will that help if we get somebody to do this course with us?


[0:22:48.0] MR: Well, it will help on multiple levels, right? So, one, especially if you want to do some fun things with you know, a good friend, then that social contract is precommitment and so you’re going to get those things done, right? I mean, you started talking about it, it’s much more likely that happen. I would say that that’s the biggest benefit but then also, you can share ideas, right?


Oftentimes, brainstorming is really enriched when you can say, you know, and I’ve actually seen this, which to me, it’s a little bit foreign. So, like I love when it works but I don’t quite understand why some people need to do this. A good friend of mine who I don’t think, I’ll just say his first name so I don’t out him but I literally had a conversation with a good friend a week ago who wanted to read, go through the play model because he felt that his life had gotten habituated.


And he asked his wife, “Where do you see me light up? Like, where do I have fun? Because I’ve kind of lost that scent, you know?” Life is so busy because they have two small kids, like, “When can you just tell like, I’m in my moment.” And she gave him those clues because he couldn’t find themselves and she was spot on, and so sure enough, he implemented that in and I just checked in with them and yeah, you know, they were working.


And so, for some folks, you know, that type of communication with a good friend that can kind of gut check you and go, “Really?” You know? Like – because sometimes too, you know, I think we talked about this last time, you can trick yourself. I mean, at the lowest level, it’s social media use, right? Often times, we’re just escaping frustration and boredom so we can trick ourselves into thinking like, what we’re doing is enjoyable when it’s not really.


It’s just something that we’re doing to pass by the time and get away from the garbage. So, being a little bit more proactive, what, in geeky behavioral science we call, active leisure can be helpful too and so, having an accountability partner like, “Is that really fun or should we go do this because it’s a little bit more challenging?” And I think, will lead to kind of a richer experience, it can be helpful.


[0:24:52.8] PF: That’s awesome. So, I’m really looking forward to seeing what people say about this, what kind of experiences they have. What I’d like to do is have you back at the end of the summer and we’ll talk about this. We’ll get feedback you heard, what we’ve gotten back from it, and really, you know, I’m going to walk through this experience too and really talk about how it changed and then how we can take that into the fall and winter months because, as you noted, it might be one to buckle up for.


[0:25:19.7] MR: Well, and we call it the fun habit for a reason, right? Might as well turn it into a habit so that you know, this is again, the long game, right? Not just something that is episodically done and then moved on from – we’re not meant to just have fun this summer.


[0:25:33.0] PF: All right, well, we’ll do it all year long. Mike, thank you so much for sitting down, I’m so excited to share this email course with our listeners and I will see you back here in a couple of months and we’ll talk about it again.


[0:25:43.5] MR: Yeah, I can’t wait.




[0:25:49.2] PF: To sign up for the Live Happy Summer Fun with Mike Rucker, just visit us at LiveHappy.com and click on this podcast episode. We’ll also tell you how to find Mike’s book, The Fun Habit: How the Pursuit of Joy and Wonder Can Change Your Life, or follow him on social media, and while you’re there, you can also sign up for our weekly Live Happy Newsletter. Every week, we drop a little bit of joy in your inbox with the latest stories, podcast info and even a happy song of the week.


That’s all we have time for today, we’ll meet you back here again next week for an all-new episode, and until then, this is Paula Felps, reminding you to make everyday a happy one.



(Visited 11 times, 1 visits today)