On the surface it sounds simple... play is fun and work is not. But really... what makes one thing fun and another not?
Is it something intrinsic about the task itself? Well, there may be elements of that, and I'm sure each of us has different things that we find appealing or not, but somehow I think the answer is much more complicated.
Depending on one's outlook, a task that's generally considered to be "work" could be thought of as play, and vice versa.
Consider these examples:
I'm out in the yard pulling weeds. One of my neighbors comes by and says off hand, "You work SO hard!" My thought: "Actually I'm avoiding work, and this is fun. What I'm really supposed to be doing is sitting at my computer debugging a bunch of code."
Or how about this one. I'm at a cafe watching some songwriter friends perform. Someone requests a song which my friends play, and then come sit down with me to take a break. My friend says, "If I have to play that song one more time I think I'm gonna put an ice pick through my temple. I just wanna go home and relax."
So under the right circumstances, pulling weeds feels like fun and playing the guitar is work. But what makes the difference?
It's kind of an interesting question when you stop to think about it. I mean, if one could crack the code of the mysterious work/play boundary, then theoretically, one might be able to take tasks that currently reside in the "work" category and re-categorize them as "play".
Think about it the possibilities - "Oh Boy! I get to do the dishes!!!"
So maybe it's all just a question of attitude. If you approach it with a fun state of mind then it will be fun, and if you approach it like drudgery then it will be work.
OK... so repeat after me:
"Doing the dishes is fun! Doing the dishes is fun! Doing the dishes is FUN!!!"
Are you feeling it yet? ... Me neither.
Hmmm... So maybe I need to break this down further. When I really think about it, some of the elements of "play" for me include the following:
- It's optional
- Nobody is judging my results
- There is no hurry
- It has no bearing on my intrinsic value as a human being
- Nobody is "counting on me" to do it
OK... I could go on, but I'm starting to sense a theme here.
It would seem that for me, "fun" is defined as anything that steers clear of my old "I'm inadequate" buttons. Not exactly the answer I was looking for, but enlightening nonetheless. So maybe if I could just get past the idea that I'm intrinsically "not good enough", life would feel like one big never ending party?
Well, I'm not gonna hold my breath for either side of that particular equation, but I suppose it wouldn't hurt me to try to be a bit more Zen in my approach - you know, focus on the moment at hand rather than all of the judgments and stuff that I pile on top of it.
So what do you think? What makes something feel like work vs. play to you? Does your list look anything like mine, or do you think it's all dependent on our own individual "issues"?