Meaningful Work And Joyful Play

“What do you do for fun?”

That may sound like a weird question for your doctor to ask you, but what can I say, I’m weird 😉 I’ve been doing some training on how to coach for nutrition and lifestyle change, and one thing I read this week really struck me.

Stress depends largely on a balance between meaningful work and joyful play.

So lately I’ve been asking my patients what they like to do for fun. If I’m seeing a patient for depression, chances are good they can’t tell me one single thing they do that they enjoy. One patient went so far as to tell me (tearfully) that she is not getting any fun out of life at all.

We’ll talk about Part Two in a minute, but I want to start by talking about meaningful work. Many of my patients, especially if they struggle with depression, have trouble with seeing their work as meaningful. They feel like they’re punching a clock, going through the motions.

I read once (probably connected with some small-business training or other) that all business boils down to making someone’s life better. Think about that. Why do you open your wallet and spend money? Because you believe that transaction will make your life better. Subscribing to Disney+, buying a new pair of shoes, sending your kids to private school, saving for retirement instead of taking an extra trip this year. Even paying taxes makes your life better (by averting the likelihood of prison for tax evasion)

There was a talk not long ago I attended about improving quality at a big hospital system. The speaker was talking about a time he visited an aircraft carrier. One of the airmen’s job was to clean up the deck. The speaker asked what his job was. He could have said “I’m the janitor,” or “I keep the deck clean.” But that’s not what he said.

When asked what his job was, the speaker said the airman stood up straight, looked him in the eye and said “Sir, I help planes take off and land safely to protect our pilots and further the mission of the United States Navy. Sir.” Wow! That’s a man with a clear idea of how his job makes people’s lives better!

When you go to work every day, your job will feel much more meaningful if you focus on how you are making someone’s life better. I challenge you in the comments to give me a job that DOESN’T make someone’s life better.

On the other side of the coin, no matter how meaningful your work is, you still need to make time for R&R, otherwise you’re courting burnout. My work is extremely meaningful, all of it, from doctoring to my Shaklee business to writing this blog. But if I don’t take time to play, I start to get irritable. I even have found myself feeling cynical.

For me, “play” means lots of things. I hang out with my kids and play video games sometimes. I practice martial arts with my family. I have a number of fiber crafts I love: spinning, crochet, knitting. I read novels. I practice my faith. I sing along with the radio and my music selection on my phone (not always well but with great enthusiasm, LOL). I do all these things to balance my incredibly meaningful but at times extremely stressful work.

In chasing the elusive “work-life balance,” it helps to focus on incorporating both meaningful work and joyful play in every day.

QUESTIONS: Two today! How do you play joyfully every day? And can you think of a job that would NOT make someone’s life better? Don’t pick politicians – that’s too easy 😉

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