Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Setting the sliders I - work and play

Before I set off on my first foreign holiday on my own, at the age of 17, my father advised me always to find a balance in life. A precept I've always tried to adhere to, but over the years, the more I think about it, the more complex it all seems.

There are so many parameters to life. Imagine a slider bar, the knob capable of sliding from 0 to 100 in any given area. Where would you set it to achieve contentment?

Over the lenten period, I intend to look at many different parameters of life. To kick off with - a week before Lent starts - I'll look at the balance between work and play.

"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy". Too much work - bad. Too much play - also bad. So do we set the slider exactly in the middle? How easy is that to achieve in life? In the economy, work is about stick and carrot. About working for money (carrot) but being told what to do to earn it (stick). We got to work to pay for what we need to survive and prosper.

I love the Polish dichotomy between the words rigor and luz. (That's luz as in 'loose', not as in the Spanish for 'light'). Too much rigor is bad... too much luz, well, look at the denizens of Bar na Luzie in the underground passage at W-wa Zachodnia station.

Time to consider my life and my work. As I sit here writing this post - am I working? Or playing? As I sit teaching English, or promoting British-Polish trade and investment - am I playing? Or working? I find myself supremely blessed with work that I truly enjoy. And a hobby - blogging - that most would consider hard work.

So is the work-life balance not so much about playing hard and working hard, but more to do with blending the two concepts? The very notion of 'work-life balance' suggests the two are at odds with one another, that work precludes life and vice versa.

Work is not just paid work. Work around the house - the simple act of washing dishes and cleaning the bathroom is work. This must take precedence over having fun - business before pleasure - always. Do what you have to do before doing what you want to do. But again, deciding which is which is not always straightforward.

So many jobs in the economy are neither well-paid nor enjoyable. They are dull, routine, denying the employee the chance to fulfil himself or herself. But they are necessary. And while they can be a drudge for many, letting off steam after hours by complaining or drinking, occasionally one meets that happy bus driver or supermarket assistant who can still find joy despite the routine.

To summarise then - where would you set the slider between duty and rest, between getting things done and relaxing, between earning money and spending it in a pleasurable way?

Your comments please!

This time two years ago:
Sublime Jeziorki sunset

This time three years ago:
Sunrise getting earlier


Decoy said...

I would suggest the location of the slider in your image is ideal, for me at least. You should aim to try to get a balance, but as you suggested, work always takes priority, so thus the slider will lean towards work.

For me, I see much of the work I do as being an 'enabler' of sorts to allow for better play. When cleaning up at home, or blogging, it requires effort that is paid off in enjoying the play side more. And when it comes to the 9-5 job that most people say they don't like, I guess the same people don't realise that they are usually building relationships, making friends and other connections while working, no matter how much drudgery there may be in the actual tasks. This, again, allows them to have a better standard of living and playing as a result, I feel.

Kolin said...

Good post. My first instinct was to slide the slider WAAAAY to the right, but I discovered it was a fixed image.

I reject your slider dichotomy.

I suggest that approaching the problem by setting a slider between two extremes represents an overly restrictive view. Of course there are some ends we need to pursue in order to secure shelter, food, and other necessities. There are also many things we do that give us different types and degrees of pleasure, or serve a good which we have decided is important or valuable.

When I see questions like this (work/play, work/life balance) I sometimes shudder - you mean when I'm working I can't also be playing? When I'm working I'm not living? Frightening!

What I try to do as much as possible (not everyone is so lucky) is to make those 'work' activities that I do resemble 'play' activities as much as possible. I'm not always successful and sometimes work can seem like drudgery. But what I have found to be the most stable and sustainable solution so far is to 'work' at things that also bring me joy in and of themselves. It's a work in progress!

Michael Dembinski said...

@ Kolin, @ Decoy,

The trick is to turn work into play, and play into work. I think this easier in some professions than others (teaching and journalism being the easier ones!)

"Sustainable" is the key word - I've seen so many executives of my generation burn out in pursuit of money and corporate power. It simply isn't worth it.

student SGH said...

It's best if you can pleasurable and necessary activites. At work should we seek self-fulfillment.

The slider bar - how you set it depends on how much fun you can have from your work. If you don't pleasure in what you do for a living at all, slider must go to the left. If you have a great job, may it move right.

Burn-out - after all if people do burn out it is because their private life is frustrating. I don't understand why so many people keep late hours at work, when their children wait for them at home...

We work to live, not live to work!

Anonymous said...

„Work hard, play hard" is the sure recipe for early grave. Best everythings in moderation.


Paddy said...

Good speech by a guy called Nigel Marsh on this subject at the TED website.



Paddy said...

Human beings are so diverse. We’re an animal that can live in any climate or side by side successfully in concentrations that are only surpassed by rodents and insects. Human history has needed leaders who can work without pause for year as much as it is has needed the chilled out philosophers-in-exile, the servants and slaves living those lives of quiet desperation.

I have worked with or for a few pracaholiki in my time. Moving to Poland has made me realize it’s not for me, but I was glad some people are built or become that way. If crisis or chance called upon me to do so, then I would sacrifice the meaningful and time consuming parts of my life to address them. “If Duty calls me, I must go, to ‘list and stand and fight the foe, but part of me will always stray, over the Hills And Far Away.”

My own view is that we can’t avoid the roles that nature, nurture and circumstance pre-cast for us, that somehow destiny comes into it.

But one thing I would agree on is that if you are going to be a pracaholik, it should be doing something you and others gain meaning from. The advent of the computerized society has robbed us of the satisfaction of a good day’s work done at the cost of freeing us from the bondage of manual labour.


Michael Dembinski said...

@ Paddy

Destiny vs. free will.. the next slider coming real soon.