Over the years, I have had a number of people ask if I shoot for sport or to train for self-defense. At first I thought that was an unusual question but after having it asked a number of times, I came to realize that a lot of folks who either don't own guns, or don't use the guns they own, tend to think it as an "either or" situation. I enjoy shooting as a sport and this has a direct impact on the amount of time and ammo I spend at the range. However, the highest and best use of a gun is to preserve innocent life, so this aspect of gun ownership must be taken seriously.
Recognizing and appreciating the self-defense uses of firearms doesn't mean you can't have fun or that you can't engage in informal "plinking." There's an old saying that all trigger time is good and it's true, but only if you aren't practicing bad habits or those that will get you killed. I have known some people, including instructors, who feel that you need to wipe the smile off your face when you enter a shooting range because this is serious business.
In my view, that's taking things to an extreme but people do need to approach self-defense training from a more serious point of view than when they are causally putting a few rounds down range with the family or friends. As with most things in life, balance is the key, especially if you are trying to get someone dear to you to learn to shoot for self-defense. If you hope to succeed, then don't make a trip to the range unpleasant, hard work, boring, or physically and/or mentally exahusting. If you do, then you'll have no one but yourself to blame when the mention of guns or shooting provokes a frown and a fight. Enough of this, let's get back to training v. having fun.
Notice I said training, not practicing; every time you pull the trigger you are practicing. The key is to be sure you are practicing good habits even when you are just having fun "plinking." Since a trip to the range should be fun, make sure you do something you enjoy, but leave some time and ammo for training. Have a training plan before you leave home. While it can be detailed, it doesn't have to be a step by step program. A training plan can be as simple as I'm going to work on drawing and engaging one round and do that several times. It's important to make the mental transition from fun shooting to training for self-defense. You are training for an event you pray will never occur, so approach it seriously. In fact, approach training like your life depends upon it -- it just might!