What does it take to thrive these days? If you read my post about my "Thrive Cycle," you learned about the filter I use to thrive through anything new in my life. My cycle has only three categories: Play, Rest, and Nourish. And they serve as my filter...for everything.
Play is all about what's fun and fulfilling. Rest is all about what restores and replenishes my mind, body, and soul. Nourish is more than what I eat and drink, but also how my mind fills with creativity, my heart fills with compassion, and my gut fills with courage. It's been a refreshing and life giving way to lead my life over the last nine plus months. When my filter is engaged, I'm happier, healthier, and more whole.
But What About Work?
As you probably noticed, "work" is not one of my filter's categories. This presents a bit of a challenge since work is how I contribute to the financial well-being of my family and it occupies much of my time each day. It’s hard to play without doing work first. Right?
In my 49 years, I have not been immune to the Puritan work ethic—you know, the belief that work is supposed to be hard and not enjoyable. Work is one of those things we think of like death and taxes...it's inevitable. A necessary evil. Something to put up with even if we don't like it.
Or is it?
With all the change and growth I've experienced over the last three years, my thinking on work has significantly evolved. I now question the validity of the thought "work is hard." And I've found more often than not it just isn't true. It's certainly not helpful. It feels like scrunched shoulders, a tight diaphragm, a headache. I like to think of this feeling as “shackles on”—those heavy metal chains and straps that tie me down and keep me from moving.
When it comes to leading a wholehearted life, there isn't much room for the thought "work is hard." It creates suffering in me (and probably you too!). I behave in ways I don't like when I’m operating out of this martyr mentality. And also, my work suffers. I'm not at my best, and I don't get into flow. My creativity is hampered.
Work as Play
I decided to change the thought "work is hard" by turning it around to its opposite, "work is play." I looked for moments in my life when that thought was true. And my almost three decade career revealed many, many moments when I enjoyed my work. I had fun. I’d been in the zone. There were times when my work actually felt like play. And to return to my shackles analogy, that meant it felt “shackles off”—like freedom.
My creative zone showed me the most evidence of play in my work. When I'm passionate about what I'm doing and filled with purpose, my work is as delightful and life-giving as a romp on the playground was for me as a child. I can go for hours and it feels like minutes. I move from what the Greeks referred to as Kronos time (passage of linear time) to Kairos time (the passage of God time, which doesn't feel like time at all).
So now if work doesn't feel like play, that's my clue I'm not listening to my essential self and my social self and her band of chatty monkeys are steering my ship. It's time to say "no thank you" or change my perspective.
More often than not I can simply change my perspective and find the fun. My "no thank you's" are rarer and rarer these days partially because my Thrive Cycle perspective has helped me filter out unhealthy situations more easily. I find it’s a lot easier to see the "work is hard" opportunity coming and do something about it before I'm in knee deep.
Thoughts to Noodle On and Share
What helpful ways have you discovered to shift your perspective to make work feel more like play?
Where are you finding moments where work feels like play?
Where does work feel hard for you right now?