Merging Work and Play

I love the sense of playfulness the artist captured in the movement and sheer delight of the two children in this picture.   I took this shot while waiting for my plane in the Greenville-Spartenburg airport in SC.  It is a reminder to have fun, to find time to play in our lives, and to experience light hearted moments.   I am heading there again this week and remembered this photo.  I got to thinking that the average person spends an inordinate amount of time at work and not enough time in play.

The traditional American work ethic is to indulge in leisure pursuits or “play” only when our work is done.  There is a common belief that work requires self discipline, long hours, and sacrifices.  As a career coach I often ask people what the word “work” means to them.  I get answers like; “boring, drudgery, wage slave, too many hours, frustrating, exhausting, routine, hard, meaningless, etc.”   I remember asking my daughter as a new college grad what came to mind when she hears people talking about getting a job and going to work.  She thought for a moment and then said:  “I see a sweaty bald guy in overalls dragging a ball and chain in a warehouse with a concrete floor and small windows and it’s raining outside and the water is dripping on the floor.”  I wonder how many other people have such dour imagery around the concept of work!  (FYI my daughter is an entrepreneur at heart and is enjoying being a freelance writer and social media consultant in Denver as I write this)

We are taught that we must strive for success and be our best, and work hard to get ahead.  Well meaning parents  teachers, and  other authority figures tell us to “keep your nose to the grindstone” and “pay your dues” and “climb the ladder to success.”  This doesn’t sound like much fun to me.  Does this advice motivate you to go out there and get a job?  Surely there is a way to make a living and be happy at the same time, a way to merge work and play.

What if we shift our perspective and start bringing a sense of  playfulness into our jobs?  Wouldn’t our workday be more pleasurable?  Absolutely!  Let’s look at the concept of play.  As in this photo, the children appear to be alive in the moment, are having fun and seem to be exhilarated.  (Considering they are sculptures that’s kudos to the artist.) How can we bring this joy, this sense of fun and being present into our daily work lives?  A good place to start is by looking at your situation with “new eyes”.  Here are some questions to consider:

  • Does your work environment support you or deplete you?  
  • Are you doing work you enjoy and find satisfying?  
  • Do you feel valued and appreciated at work by peers and management?
  • If freedom and flexibility are important values for you does your current work provide these?

Think of play as an activity in which you are fully present, enjoying the moment, feeling free, valued and appreciated by the other players.  Whether you work for somebody else or are self employed there are ways to bring more playfulness into your life.  For starters, if your work environment doesn’t support you, change it.  This is easier to do if you are the boss but even as am employee there are often options to personalize your work situation.  Would you be more comfortable (and potentially more productive) with an ergonomic chair or an office with a window?  How about suggesting flex time or job sharing to balance your work and leisure time? 

What are you passionate about?  Can you create a livelihood doing things you are passionate about?  (See The $100 Startup for guidance on this.) Is there a way to bring passion into your work?  If you work with a team, do you mutually appreciate and value the other “players”?  What might you do to contribute to the well being of co-workers?   What needs to happen in order for you to have more fun at work, to feel energized and yes, playful?  Sometimes it is as simple as shifting your perspective and changing your attitude.

“Work and play are words used to describe the same thing under differing conditions.”  Mark Twain

 

 

 

 

 

Let Your Passion Fuel Your Work

purple orchids

When you enjoy the nature of your work, your potential for true career fulfillment skyrockets., positioning you for greater success.   In reality, many people are not in “work they love” but in jobs that they need simply to pay the bills. They diligently move through their work week doing what needs to be done to meet the required performance standard.  You know the scenario: hanging onto a job even when you are burned out or yearn to be spending your precious hours focused in another direction.  You slog through your days and gaze eagerly at your weekends so that you can do the stuff you are passionate about.   

The question is, do you even have enough energy at the end of your day, your week, your long stint without a vacation to really enjoy your time off when you have it?  Can you keep working the “day job” week after week, month after month, year after year without something else in your life to energize you?  Probably not.  

One of the recommendations I make to my clients is to identify what they are passionate about and then find a way to spend time on that passion.  To clarify what you are passionate about, try to remember the last time you were really engaged in an activity that brought you joy, made you feel  exhilarated, excited, or energized. The things that bring us to that place of feeling more alive or more in tune with our joy are our passions. They feed us, and give us energy, rather than sapping it away. We all have things we have to do in life that sap energy, so we must balance them with things that create more energy for us.  

One of my clients shared that she just didn’t have enough juice at the end of the day to do anything but go home, eat something and either zone into the TV or go to bed.  Susan is only 24 years old, way too young to be feeling that way at the end of the day.  I asked her to think about the last time she felt really energized in her life.  She told me it was when she was acting in community theater three years ago.  Had she tried out for any parts since?  No, she was too exhausted from working which is why she came to see me in the first place.  She figured she needed a new job.  

Sometimes it is not the job, it is the lack of balance in our life.  Susan needed to get in touch with her passion again.  She needed to “feed the muse” inside, to get that fire going in her belly again, to be excited and enthused about something in her life.  It was quite evident that just talking about her experience in the theater raised her energy level.  I swear her eyes sparkled and she became more animated as she talked.   

She left our session with a spring in her step and a promise to start looking for play auditions.  Within a few weeks, not only had she identified a play she was interested in, she tried out and was cast in the lead role!  Even though the rehearsals required a two hour commute four days a week after work for months, Susan persevered.  The very act of engaging in her passion fueled her through her work week.  I had the great joy of attending her play a few weeks ago and seeing her alight with joy as she masterfully applied her craft.   

The play is now over but Susan is fired up to find more opportunities to act.  It doesn’t need to be how she earns her living, but it needs to be in her life. She does administrative work and thought it was at odds with her passion.  Now she is looking at administrative positions within the arts, media, and entertainment communities.  Who knows, she may find an admin position with a theater company and have an opportunity to expand her role.  

What energizes you?  Identify it and do it!  Who knows, a new career direction may evolve from your participation in YOUR passion! 

If you want some help with this see “4 Ways to Discover Your Passions”.