The word “work” sounds painful. It sounds absolutely miserable and actually CAN be miserable if we are “working” at the wrong job or working with the wrong attitude. Work is not necessarily a physical PLACE. It’s mostly a place inside our heads. It’s really only work if it’s not play. If we can all find ways to make “work” feel like “play”, we’re all going to be a lot happier with what we do AND we’ll be much better at what it is we are doing. This is a simple philosophy, isn’t it? Who doesn’t want to play all of the time? landart landscape contractors Maybe some of the “type A’s” out there who “LOVE to WORK” will disagree with our assumption, but many of them are either trying to escape something else in their lives… or maybe, just maybe they have actually found what we’re talking about….a way to make work feel like play!
Play doesn’t necessarily mean that what we are doing is EASY. In fact, most of the “play” activities that adults enjoy typically involve difficult challenges and some level of physical duress. We tend to enjoy difficult physical challenges like biking, rock climbing, gardening, building furniture and home improvement projects. When we do these physical tasks on our own time, on our own terms, we often think of them as enjoyable hobbies—or play. Unfortunately, sometimes when we turn these hobbies into our structured daily job commitments (landscaper, factory worker, construction laborer), the fun seems to drain out of our former leisure activities and they become “work”. Of course, difficult, mentally challenging activities can also be considered fun hobbies. Some people love solving puzzles, playing brain teaser games, reading, organizing, painting, etc. However, if we are REQUIRED to solve puzzles, figure out the answers to difficult questions, read business documents, create an organization or create a complicated design for “work”, we tend to find it exhausting-even debilitating. It’s not the physical difficulty of what we’re doing that makes our hobbies into work….it’s our MENTAL state of mind!
The first real issue we need to address to find happiness at work is to identify the TYPE of work we could do to make our work feel more like play. It will only feel like play if a majority of the tasks we do for work are things we would enjoy doing, even if we weren’t being paid to do them. This description doesn’t necessarily mean that our work must include watching television while drinking beer or shopping for clothes and handbags in order for it to feel like play. But, if we are able to find work that involves viewing and editing video content, brewing; or sampling beer for sale to the public; or being a professional shopper, we may be able to feel somewhat like we are ‘playing’ instead of ‘working’—especially if we combine these enjoyable aspects of our work with the proper mental attitude. In fact, if we are fortunate enough to find work that REQUIRES us to watch television and drink beer every day, we probably won’t find this work very attractive after a few days. Finding the TYPE of work we should be doing is a very involved self-analytical process that is far beyond the reach of this article, but the type of work we do is a vital piece of the big career picture. There are other identifiable reasons why we may not normally associate work—even “fun work”—with play.
There are generally 3 MENTAL realities that cause us to feel like we are working instead of playing:
1) Loss of freedom (“Commitment”)
2) Consequences of what we do at work
3) Expectations of others
Lack of freedom involves being required to do what we don’t necessarily want to do-even if the task would normally be fun if done under our own free will. This can also be called “commitment”. Think about the times we are invited to formal parties. As the hour approaches, many of us really don’t feel like going. We get all nervous inside and start to feel trapped. In fact, going to the party may feel like a chore—similar to work. We may fight with our friends and spouses over whether or not we’re going—right up to the last minute-especially if we’ve formally committed to going. But during the party, we usually have a good time and realize that the only reason we didn’t want to go was because we had made a commitment that encroached upon our freedom to do whatever we wanted to do at that particular
moment in our free time. Or think back to the times when we were kids: when we were FORCED to do something, even if it would normally have been a fun activity, we often rebelled against it because it wasn’t our idea. “I don’t want to go outside and play right now—I want to stay inside and play video games”. Even though we are not typically “forced” to go to work, most of us don’t have a true “free” choice-we must work to live up to our lifestyles, in most cases. We’ve committed to doing something on someone else’s time in exchange for a pay check and a chosen lifestyle. Work is
typically the second most important and life-altering commitment we make in our lives—right after marriage. And most of us spend more awake time working than we do at home “playing” with our spouses and families. At work, we are not free to haphazardly engage in only the activities that we want to do when we want to do them. Our workdays are generally structured, scheduled and compartmentalized in ways that allow us to accomplish tasks that sometimes have nothing to do with what we are interested in doing. Since we have committed to performing tasks in return for money, insurance and other benefits, we are required to do what we don’t necessarily want to do and it’s usually on someone else’s schedule. This commitment to a lack of freedom is, typically, a primary reason behind our animosity toward “work” and can explain a difference in our mental attitudes between work and play.
Negative consequences of our work can also cause us to be less than exuberant about our careers. We know that if we don’t do our work correctly, there may be real and public consequences for us and other people involved. Knowledge of these potential consequences can put heavy pressure on us. If we fail at what we do, we may lose our jobs, damage our reputations or lose money both personally and for our companies. In the cases of medical arts, public safety, military and other hazardous vocations, lives can actually depend upon the consequences of our work. These
consequences can affect every aspect of our lives, the lives of our families and the lives of others. This consequential pressure, life threatening or not, can be very uncomfortable and many times we would like to be in a position to avoid it all together. When we must face consequences at work, we usually have no way out-we feel trapped by our responsibilities and grow concerned over what may happen if we fail. Being trapped by potentially negative consequence under these circumstances may cause us to dislike what we do for work. The consequences of play are much less critical in most cases. For example, in most cases if we lose a game, it’s just an “L” instead of a “W” on our “win / loss” record. Our ego may be bruised, but it only hurts a little while, then it goes away until our next attempt to play.