August is the traditional month of Americans at play. It is the month often devoted to family vacations, trips to the beach, roller coaster rides at the park. Scenes of youngsters building sandcastles, teens lounging beside pools, and parents relaxing in hammocks represent our attempt to squeeze the last bit of fun from a summer which is quickly fading to a new school year and back to work for many adults.
These familiar scenes have me thinking (as I occasionally do) about a saying a college professor of mine often repeated to us as students. He demanded of us to work hard and to play hard. What did he mean? In that particular college setting, I believe he was stressing the importance of devoting serious time and effort to our studies, but also allowing ourselves to enjoy the play which weekend brought with it—football games, dates, and parties. Looking back, that was sound advice, and if you could learn to work as hard as you played—and to play as hard as you worked—the college experience was an enjoyable, memorable, and rewarding one.
Why then should the “work hard, play hard” philosophy stop at college? No, I believe with the right balance of work and play, our lives can be much more fruitful and bring much greater joy. Are we succeeding in that?
Drive down a busy part of town and count the help wanted signs. It won’t take long with that exercise before you realize that, as a society, we certainly no longer have the ‘work hard’ attitude.
So then, you might easily come to the conclusion that we are heavy on the play side of the see-saw. That Americans are too busy having fun to work. I must disagree. Look around you and see how many people you can spot truly having fun and enjoying themselves. You won’t find many. We have lost not only the ability to work hard, but to play hard as well. The two are codependent you see. For us to truly enjoy ourselves at play, we must first apply ourselves fully at work. Likewise, if we never take a necessary break from work to relax, our work-ethic suffers. That cold glass of lemonade always tastes better after mowing the lawn.
Only when we can learn to balance the two and work as hard as we play and play as hard as we work can we realize a higher level of happiness and satisfaction in our lives. We can look back on a job well done and then put our minds towards more leisurely endeavors. It works, I know, because I apply it daily in my own life. What I can’t promise you though is that you’ll feel like a college student again!
Until next time, keep working—and playing!