Truth Byte #15: The purpose of life was never work.
We are all working way too hard. Well, most of of are. We wake up earlier than we want to, go to bed later than we should, and drink coffee all day to keep us going. And for what? Work.
I am tired of hearing people complain about work.
Work was never supposed to be this hard.
Do you remember those lazy summer days of your childhood? Do you remember what it felt like to just play, without any regard for time or activity? One thing would meld into the next, at some point there would be a snack, and everybody would fall into bed feeling happy-tired. When is the last time you had a day like that?
Let me guess.
You were on vacation.
Why have we set up our lives this way? We have created a culture in which the holy grail of success is always just out of reach, and even people who seem to have it all are hungering for more. Many of us dredge out of our home to work at jobs we simply tolerate so we can pay the bills and maybe save up enough for a holiday here and there. And even if we have mastered that arena, life outside of the job-world becomes work too. It’s work to raise kids, work to keep our homes in decent condition, work to stay fit, work to make a home-cooked dinner. It’s even work to get out to the golf course or book club – things we are supposed to just enjoy doing!
In the hunt to re-frame our concept of work, I have been listening closely to what the people around me are saying, and my ears perk up whenever I hear the word work in any context. I had a new friend profusely thank me the other day for a dinner party I threw. “You put in so much work!” she exclaimed.
My research bells went off, and I listened a little more closely.
She was not impressed by the meal or the company or the conversation (which were all 5-star quality that night). Or maybe she was, but that isn’t what she mentioned. What impacted her was how much effort she assumed went into throwing the whole thing together.
And what she didn’t know, and didn’t assume, was that the whole affair for me was simply the grown up version of me playing tea-party. With a few modifications. Instead of my plastic tea set, I have real china, and instead of stuffed animals, I have real human company. For me, the dinner party was playtime, a chance to live as a grown up what I always played at as a child.
And I think this is where we have the fundamental disconnect. We have lost touch with what filled us up, and what felt fun as kids, and replaced it with a list of have-tos and shoulds.
“But”, that nagging voice in your head will argue, “We can’t just all sit around having guests over every night. Work needs to get done!”
Agreed. But if we don’t make space and time to play, life gets really hard (and really boring!) really fast. I just need one tea-party/dinner party a quarter to fill my bucket. You might need one ski trip a season, or two nature walks a month, or a handful of giggly girl’s nights out every couple years to ensure there is a work-play balance.
People in other parts of the world know about this critical balance. There are entire cultures that have city-wide naps! There are places in the world that people just move slower, get less done, and are generally happier and more connected to themselves and each other. We have a lot to learn about the art of relaxing and how to play without performing. If you are tired a lot and generally dissatisfied in any area of your live, playfulness can revive you.
Without unstructured time to connect with friends, explore new places, and get out of your routine, life becomes a drag, and you become one of those people who complains a lot.
And, as you know, those people are annoying.
So don’t be that guy. Get thee to the playground, and test out the monkey bars, or walk up the slide, or swing so high your stomach flutters. Whatever it is that you think of as fun, do it more and do it mindfully.
It will keep you young, and keep life interesting.
And isn’t that all what any of us really wants anyway?
Need more balance in your life? Come play with us at our next Path of Leadership workshop. You can even register right now!