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  • Dora Nudelman

Work Hard or Play Hard?

I think that many of us have been brainwashed into believing that in order to deserve to enjoy ourselves we must work long and hard for most of our lives. Just look at how the general work force is run, i.e., how people are taught that they need to work hard, often at jobs they don’t even like, in order to “one day” retire and finally get to do what they enjoy.

But what if we have it all wrong? What if the real path to fulfillment is living each day with joy, rather than just waiting for “someday” to finally reap the benefits? Long-term goals are fine, but we cannot constantly sacrifice our present moments for the sake of something that we hope will happen in the future.

Have you ever noticed how you feel when you need to get something done? Sometimes it can cause you to feel overwhelmed, anxious, impatient, and even reluctant. As such, perhaps the dangling of the carrot, while motivating at first, is really just an illusion that we buy into in order to get through our day-to-day lives (unless, of course, we take consistent action in the present to joyously align with what it is we actually want to manifest).

Personally, I find that when I am happy, I am also inspired and energized to get more stuff done. I can certainly burn both ends of the candle and get things done that way, but that can also cause me to feel tired, depleted, and eventually apathetic if I take it too far.

This got me thinking. What if instead of working hard in order to earn our right to enjoy what we love, we enjoy what we love so that we have the energy and enthusiasm to do what we need? What if we stop thinking that we do not yet deserve to have what we want and, instead, start believing that we inherently deserve to live a life filled with joy and purpose, just because?

It’s not always easy making choices that suit our desires. But ignoring our desires isn’t the answer either. There has to be a way that each of us can follow our dreams while, at the same time, fulfill our responsibilities. Well, perhaps the way to start is to stop always feeling so guilty about everything.

There are some company cultures who actually get it. I’ve seen examples of this, mostly in the tech world, but perhaps it also exists elsewhere. It’s where the corporation understands that people come first. It’s where the company heads get that their employees are, in fact, their assets. It’s also where trust is given freely and a light, flexible, and fun work environment is the standard in order to keep employees happy, relaxed, and inspired.

With a few exceptions, I believe that most people, if given the chance, would exemplify integrity and self-discipline if only they were given the freedom and opportunity to do so. But when mistrust and fear are the name of the game, it’s hard to make anyone feel at ease.

I look at the European lifestyle and I admire how laid back they generally are. Their motto is not to live to work, but to work to live (or better yet, work and live). They siesta, they savor, and they re-energize so that they can live happy and fulfilling lives, each day and in the moment, not just in retirement. They often have month-long holidays in the summer and they realize that people are not robots. They value community, family, passion, and personal engagement out in the real world. This, I think, helps people feel more alive and excited about their day-to-day, rather than waiting for the weekend to have some fun, or farther still, retirement.

Perhaps our North American culture can learn a thing or two from their example. Perhaps each of us can independently take something of value away from this too and apply this philosophy into our own lives, at least to some degree.

I'm not saying that we need to become hedonists. Rather, we simply need to start having more fun in our lives, and stop trying to justify it so much. So ask yourself this: "What can you do today to bring a bit more fun and enjoyment into your life?" and "What dream have you been putting off that you can start working on right now, even in the slightest?" Maybe this is a good place to start in order to find that happy medium between living and working. And deeper still, perhaps this introspection will be a great catalyst to finding that fulfilling "work" that doesn't feel like work after all.

We all have dreams, goals, desires, and aspirations for the future, but on our path to attain these things we must not take for granted our present moments and the need to enjoy the process. Tomorrow will come, but how are you spending your "now"?

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