So maybe this isn't a typical day at the office, but you get the idea...
In grade school, work is designed to be all about fun. Or, it’s supposed to be, if you have good teachers. The best teachers are passionate enough that their enthusiasm is infectious, and they cleverly disguise learning mechanics as games and worksheets that are delightful to complete. I realize I may be flagging myself as an academic nerd to be reminiscing so fondly on the lateral thinking puzzles I used to do, or the Pencil Wise number games that I would actually bust out as soon as I got home. What can I say – they do make working fun!
Now, the best academic tutors also follow a similar prescription. Academic tutoring is often a long haul affair, requiring dynamic curriculum content and adjustment to student progress, attitudes, and learning. There are so many ways to make the 1-on-1 learning experience engaging and fun. Whether in a creative field like expository writing, or in geometry, great learning is all about priming a student to the right brain processes. We may then all arrive at the same answers (at least in math), but every individual’s path to building that mental skillset will be a little different, filled with different puzzles and hacks!
All this said, in addition to seeking good teachers and tutors, you can (and should) have a role in making your work more like play. It’s important; in fact I would even say essential, to your health. Studies have shown that we’re protected from burnout and depression if we're able to find fun in work. For ambitious, high-achieving students, this will be an indispensable skill to carry forward into your career.
Here are 3 tips to get you started down the path to work-time bliss. If these seem obvious to you or you’ve heard them before, they are still crucial enough to be worth repeating!
- Align aspects of your work with what you truly enjoy.
- What do we tend to enjoy deeply? Usually things that pique our curiosity, that tickle our fancy somehow, and may be very personally meaningful and satisfying. There are tons of career coaching books out there about finding happiness, most emphasizing the need to look beyond money (only once past a certain minimum threshold, though). In school, you’ll need to look for those specific classes or projects that strike deeper chords for you, and strive to do more of their kind. Moving ahead into your career, you’ll have tolook for the specific tasks that remind you of ways you loved to be when you were younger.
- Why do I recommend relating this to your youth? Well, that was the time of life when things were just less complicated. We tend to be more ourselves when we have fewer responsibilities. There are always times when things are relatively easy and simple, then explode with uncertainty, then are reduced into simple syrup again. It’s just the natural course; this is how we find new directions and fulfillment in life. Stay rooted to your core self along the way, and you are sure to find satisfaction in each new venture.
- We feel better when we’re in our element, of course. That doesn’t mean that you should try to be entirely comfortable in a work environment, which most of us would find boring after a time. Instead, inherent traits like being competitive, tendency to reflect, or intellectualism are important factors to match to the work you do. For example:
- Do you seek a fast-paced field with a lot of players?
- Do you love to think deeply and integrate a lot of pieces into a sum greater than its parts?
- Do you thrive when you are analytically breaking down a subject, and discussing metrics and flaws?
The more you can harness your intrinsic personality as an advantage in your work, the more the work will make your heart sing.
3. Find situations where you can relax enough to learn.
This tip is more relevant to job life than to school, where you essentially have to learn regardless of how you feel about it.
In work life, there is a need to perform, but what some people may not give themselves is the time to continuously learn. Any challenging, fulfilling job will require you to figure things out on the spot. Look for environments where the pace of the learning curve is within your reach. Though it can be scary, moments of learning on the job can be the most exciting. After all, you’re in a brand new place, faced with mysterious unknowns that are all little puzzles to solve!
Our work can stop being fun when the subject matter stops being interesting; we don’t ever feel like ourselves doing it; or we are overwhelmed by what we have to do. After school, the runway of obvious choices being presented to us disappears, and we’re left to find out what options we have on our own. That means we’re free to craft work that is within our means to accomplish, and is also delightful to us. Design your work and career. You’ll find that great reward comes from taking the time to look past the obvious: salary, benefits, and name brand. You can be a part of something that you find truly amazing – it’s all about what the experience means to you.