Success Is Fun, But Work Should Be Too

My Dad once gave me an Ann Landers newspaper column about the idea that success is fun, but work is work. I'm not taking too much of an issue with that. Success is fun, and work sometimes is not. There are days when I have tasks to do I – at work or at home or anywhere really – and I gnash my teeth and wail (usually quietly inside my head) and do everything to avoid doing what needs to get done.

I think this is pretty typical. How many times do you read tips in magazines, newspapers and on blogs about how to avoid procrastination? And that's because there are (I believe) psychological reasons involved with procrastination. In my case, mainly fear of failure or an exaggerated sense of how big the task at hand really is.

But I also blame the attitude that work can't be enjoyable. Look, everything in this world can't be fun, but then again, when I actually do take the bull by the horns and get to that task I may have been dreading, whether it's putting away the laundry or writing a report, I always enjoy it more than I think, once I get stuck in and start concentrating.

I think generally that we would be better off if we focused less on success and more on enjoying the actual work. I think that it's a fallacy that success is what makes us happy. In the book Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott (a book on writing that I can't recommend highly enough), she quotes from the film Cool Runnings, about the Jamaican bobsled team and their Olympic dream. The men are desperate to win the gold medal, and the coach says to them, "If you're not enough before the gold medal, you won't be enough with it."

Nothing could ring more true. How many times have you achieved your goal and after sipping some champagne you realize that nothing has really changed? I'm not advocating abolishing goals, but at the end of the day, your life is still your life. And that's why it's important to be satisfied with not only your successes but your work. I do think that in my case, the less I focus on where I'm headed and the more I am present in the here or now, doing what needs to get done and enjoying it, the faster I actually get to my goals.

We live at the top of a hill. It's a good 10 minute walk from the closest train station up to our house. And by 'good' I mean, it's definitely 10 minutes down the hill, but at least 12 minutes up. And 12 minutes is longer than you think when you're tired at the end of a long day.

But there's a bus. It goes straight up the hill and drops us off right smack in front of the house. But it only drives by about every 10 minutes, so if you're not lucky and arrive when the bus has just been there, you'll have to wait 10 minutes to get to the top of the hill on the bus – nearly the same amount of time that it takes to walk up.

So what to do? I have found that if I stand around waiting for the bus I get really irritated and antsy. If I choose to walk up the hill but keep stopping at each bus stop and looking to see if the bus is coming, again, I feel pretty unsatisfied. But if I make the commitment to just walk up the hill I also end up enjoying it (along with getting a little extra exercise), get lost in my thoughts and get there in what seems like no time at all.

When you make the choice to commit – really commit – to whatever it is that you're doing, or even dreading, sometimes you discover that the work just seems to melt away. And (gasp!) you may even enjoy it.

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