Sit down with a notebook and list things you enjoy—anything from picking your teeth to touring Nepal. As you write down each item, seriously consider doing that very thing later today or this week or this year.
You'll have different emotional reactions to each idea. We're looking for one in particular, something I call the Spontaneous Smile. This is a smile that bubbles up almost irrepressibly. Your whole body may relax. I've learned to trust this response as a powerful clue from the true self, a signal that one's innate sense of fun has been awakened and is pointing the way to a joyful, meaningful life.
Genetic research suggests that our fun preferences are largely inborn and remain consistent throughout life.
In your trusty notebook or Oprah.com Journal, begin listing things you remember enjoying as a child. Pay particular attention to things that made you "lose time," so that hours seemed to disappear in seconds. What absorbed you completely? You may want to ask family members, whose recollections can jog your memory.
Next, look for patterns in this childhood fun. Did you like playing alone or with others? Inside or outside? Calmly or roughly? With words, objects or actions? Choosing careers, avocations and personal activities that fit this code will make you happier and more purposeful across the board.
This technique requires that you keep a cursory "fun journal" on a calendar. Every day, jot down a brief list of your major activities. Give each experience a fun "score," with zero meaning no fun and ten meaning fun-tabulous. As the days go by, you'll begin to see which activities and people yield the most fun—and you'll be surprised.
My clients almost always find that the activities they think will be supremely fun (eating dinner at the Ritz) consistently rank lower than things they've been taking for granted (eating Ritz crackers for dinner). Almost all of us can have wonderful fun without nearly as much money, education, beauty and power as we think we need.