By now, you probably know I work a lot. I care about what I do and I spend lots of time doing it. Sometimes I work too much. (I can’t be the only one). When it stops being fun, you’re doing it wrong. We’re not given a lifetime so we can piss it away doing something we don’t enjoy. Although, somewhere along the way, it happens to many. Complacency, boredom and resentment are products of dishonesty and passivity. Being honest with yourself and taking action are two things you can do to ensure you enjoy your work and life.
Every once in a while, I catch myself reminiscing. That fancy, five-dollar word means ‘indulging in the enjoyable recollection of past events’. There’s nothing inherently wrong with reminiscing, but I find myself doing it when I’m unhappy with my current situation. When you’re living life like you’re meant to, there isn’t any room or time for reminiscing.
Why do we ‘work’ at all? We all learn early on that being able to afford things makes life more enjoyable. We start working so we can buy baseball cards, dolls and candy. Then it's video games, clothing and makeup. Next it’s a car, rent and education. Then it’s food, medical bills and a mortgage. Eventually it’s our kids’ education, parents’ healthcare and a bigger house.
As we age, we get better at doing things out of necessity. This is good! But, we also seem to get worse at doing things ‘for fun’. How much do you need to work to have fun? Consider what you enjoy doing. Usually, it’s either free or inexpensive to do. I’m self-employed because I live far from the nearest design firm and freelancing allows me to work less than 40 hours a week. In fact, I can work fewer than 20 hours per week and still scrape by. This leaves plenty of time for fun.
Why do you work? How much time do you make for fun? What would happen if you worked less? In my experience, working less and having more fun is a way to improve both your work and your quality of life.
Let’s say you don’t like your job currently. Before you jump to the conclusion that you need to quit, ask yourself a few questions and answer them honestly. When you reminisce, what’s the reoccurring theme? What do you enjoy doing most? I’m not asking you for your life goal or your singular passion, but the small things. For example:
- I enjoy adventure. This means going new places with very little agenda and a willingness to get lost on a regular basis.
- I enjoy getting regular exercise. This means being able to hit the gym 4 times a week.
- I enjoy the wilderness. This means getting out on a camping or backpacking trip and unplugging for a while.
- I enjoy having conversations. This means being around people who are willing to go deeper than small talk.
- I enjoy photography. This means making time to get lost with my camera.
- I enjoy swing dancing. This means making time to take my girlfriend out for a fun evening.
- I enjoy learning. This means making time for hobbies.
- I enjoy writing. Thanks to you, I have a fantastic group of friends I get to share my writing with each week.
I work and have a job so that I’m able to make time for the things that make me happy. They’re the things I can do pretty much any day. Being honest about what you need in your life to remain happy is the first step to reclaiming your childhood fun and getting grounded.
Go ahead. Make your list. I’ll wait.
Now that you have your list, what comes next? A list of ideas is worthless without execution if you want change. Choose the smallest, easiest item on your list of things you enjoy. What would it take to make that thing happen today (or tomorrow if you’re reading this at night)? Make plans to start working these things you enjoy into your weekly schedule. Having some good, ol’ fashioned fun can breathe some much-needed life into a tired routine and job.
If your job is the main source of your stress and discontent. Maybe it’s time to start thinking about a job or career change. In that case, start with your list of things you enjoy and brainstorm on how you can do more of that with a job change. Some jobs like teaching offer lots of time off. Other jobs offer lots of travel. Some jobs allow you to spend lots of time outdoors and other jobs allow you to work with people who need your help. With a well-paying job, perhaps you can afford to take more time off and have fun.
Finally, eliminate excuses. If making up stupid excuses was an olympic event, we humans would take the gold. You think you’re too young, too old or too poor. You don’t think you have enough experience, enough friends or enough support. You don’t live in the right location or were born at the wrong time. You have freckles, a weird name, an accent, tattoos, no hair. Who cares? Drop the excuses and just do it. Take action. You might fail first, but that’s part of the game.
People who change their lives aren’t privileged, special or talented. But they do have some things in common. They are honest to themselves and they take action. By extension, they have fun because they choose to do what they want.
Now go out, have fun and start living.