Work Hard. Play Hard. – as seen at the gym
I joined our local Anytime Fitness of Milford Gym a couple of months ago and have been going practically every day to work out. It’s part of a programs that I’ve put myself on to lose weight and get off what meds I take. I enjoy going for my workouts each morning and the results are starting to show. The other morning I noticed today’s little saying in the signage that the gym has on the front of the building – Work Hard, Play Hard.
That seems too attuned to personality type “A” people. I’d rather Work Hard; But Play For Fun. Life is too short to turn everything into hard work. There certainly are professional athletes for whom
playing a game is their work. Our weekend TV is full of pro-sport programs of all sorts. Even things that one might not initially associate with professionalism and hard work, like skateboarding or ping pong have pro circuits and many have their own TV coverage as well. While the professional athletes may have to work hard at it, even they will occasionally say “It’s only a game”, during an overly serious interview. Most of the really great pro athletes will still tell you that they play the game for the love of the game and it is just icing on the cake that they are well paid to do so.
Back to my philosophy – Work Hard, But Play For Fun. I think it is really important that one have activities – sports, hobbies, whatever – that they do just for fun. These are things that they can relax and enjoy. They are also things in which the participants usually don’t get all hung up on winning or losing. Fishing might be a good example. You’re outdoors, enjoying nature and able to clear you mind from most other things as you mentally try to figure out where to cast your line and how to play it in to attract fish. If you get fish that doesn’t mean that you won and they lost, any more than if you come home empty handled. It’s more about your imagined skills as a good fisherman. Yes, I know that there are also professional fishermen and event they have TV shows; but, for most of us, fishing would be a relaxing and non-competitive sport.
The concept of Work Hard Play Hard, it seems to me, is counterproductive to the very reason that we turn to play to begin with – to relax from a hard day’s (week’s) work. If you cannot let go of that winner-loser, zero sum game mentality, then how can you relax? There are lots of sports that don’t necessarily involve direct competition, or at least they don’t require that. Many of them, such as golf, pit the player against the course. Of course, when you start playing those sports with others the fact that you do keep score makes the game immediately competitive, if you let it. When you play alone, the only person that you can get mad at is yourself, which could result in many broken clubs.
The alternative is to play at whatever you are doing for relaxation just for fun. That is difficult for most of us because we tend towards measuring ourselves against something; whether it be an established standard or the results that someone else achieved. We have this need to somehow measure and mark our progress in the game/sport/hobby. For many just keeping track of their personal best is enough. If the activity is too simple and we quickly master it we just and quickly lose interest in doing it. Imagine a game where getting to a score of 100 was the best that you could do and you got there after just a few rounds of playing at it. Would you continue to play that game?
Hobbies can provide the perfect outlet for our need to relax and have fun. One nice thing about most hobbies is that one can master the skills needed for the hobby, but the challenge always remains to use those skills to create something else, collect something else or observe something else. The challenge is in the execution and not achieving some set goal. There is also always the challenge of developing new skills or perhaps taking the hobby in new and unexpected directions.
So there is worth in the activity continuing to pose a challenge for you to be better at it. Once you see that it has that challenge and figure out where you are in the scoring scale, I can almost guarantee that you’ll try to find someone else who engages in the same activity, so that you can compare yourself to them. It’s at that point where you have the choice to continue the activity because it is fun for you, or turn it into work because you “need” to be better at it than others. Choose wisely at that junction; otherwise your play will become hard work. I chose not to turn my fun into more hard work.
It’s a weekend and you’ve worked hard all week; so, play for fun and relax! I’ve got to run off to the gym now and see if I can top my personal best on some of the machines.