Is it a good idea to postpone fun? What if work was fun?
There’s a famous “marshmallow” experiment on little children to show the benefits of the ability to delay gratification. Basically, toddlers were offered one marshmallow immediately, or two if they were willing to wait a bit. The researchers found a correlation between those children who waited and future achievement.
Interestingly if you look at the childhood of most of my middle-class Indian peers, it was this experiment. Except, it was conducted during our entire childhood. Delay the gratification, fun activities, video games, and focus on work first. Get the homework done, the exam preparation finished (did it ever finish?), attend classes, then more classes. Time for fun later.
At a personal level, I managed to escape the rat race (after getting my engineering degree) to find the field of design. A few classes in my Master’s programme in the US, a few great professors and I was hooked. Since then, even in the initial years of working at consulting companies, I was excited to get back to my desk—work was interesting, the flow, which made it like a grown-up version of the play, basically.
Meanwhile, I’m a parent. At home, for fun, we tried the marshmallow experiment with our toddlers and found that the results varied wildly based on, well, how hungry and mischievous they were at the time.
I’ve since changed jobs multiple times, like everyone else, and am running my third start-up now. One thing I know is that I cannot go back to, even for a lot of money, is a job that’s not fun. And that’s what we look for in the people we hire too—is someone that hasn’t been flattened by the youth of drudgery (though looking at the system as it is, I can’t blame them!) and still has the potential to approach their job with excitement.
In fact, the only way to succeed in fulfilling your responsibilities is to make sure that they can be framed as fun. If you have the privilege to do what you love, nothing like it, the fun part takes care of it itself. If not, choose a workplace that encourages playfulness and risk, rather than focusing on hours spent and mistakes made.
All of this is easier said than done, of course, and requires a lifetime of commitment to put into practice. I have a long way to go here too. But what we have to gain here is only a lifetime of fun, and who wouldn’t want that?
Previously Published On Thrive Global by Nishant Jain