Play, Work, Real Career?


Joy Diet

Jamie Ridler is doing the Joy Diet by Martha Beck as a book club and I am joining in the reading.

This chapter is on Play, at least that’s what it said. It ended up being about work so I was so confused. I grew up in a Puritan household where "If it were fun, we wouldn’t call it work," was said often.  We worked hard and only then could we play. 

Beck wrote that a playful attitude, "allows you to master what is in front of you, to form symbiotic alliances and partnerships, to adapt successfully to any challenging situation, and above all, to find a sense of fun that makes the whole shebang intrinsically satisfying." And that this is vital for your career.

When she talks about career, she is not talking about your work. She is talking about what is most important to you. Whether it’s family, cooking, helping people, or creating films. And it can be more than one thing.

Even if what is important to you doesn’t have a big part of your life, you can add it in. Like a former client who bartended so she could go back to school for her real career. Or the mom who thinks her kids are her real career so she gets a flex time schedule. Or the two women who planned and worked out how to open a bakery while they worked in other jobs. Or the banker that volunteers as a fire fighter. It may take years and that’s ok.  But, if you add a bit of your real career to your life every day it will be more fulfilling.

To help you loosen up and have more fun, Beck suggests thinking of parts of your life as games. Not everything needs to be seen as your real life. You can play the corporate game without seeing it as your all in all. What if you started choosing projects that interested you, instead of ones that would look good? Or worked on projects with people you liked?

I know from my own life when I pursue from curiosity, genuine interest or love my life feels more energized and fulfilling.

And she reminds us that we can walk away from games that aren’t bringing us closer to our real career, ones that are no fun at all, or with people we can’t stand. Stay open and curious for a new game to play.

I’ve played the journalism game, the web design game, the graphic design game, and now I am playing the "share what you are learning and help others see the potential in their own lives" game. Which is the current way I get to access my Real Career.

At first I was miffed at thinking of my Important Work as a game. But, when I loosen up needing certain outcomes, I am better at listening and learning in the moment. I do my best work when I am relaxed and flexible.

The goal is that eventually there will be no difference between your work and your play. Life will be more fun.

So what’s your real career? How can you do more of it in your current life? And what are the games you are playing?


  • Gina says:

    I enjoyed reading your comments. Thanks for reminding us to loosen up and not worry so much about outcomes. This seems Zen-like to me and I find it a challenge. But I’m working on it….or should I say playing on it?

  • Lucy says:

    Yes, but life is a game. Or so I would like to think. Great post.

  • christa says:

    I enjoyed reading your comments because this chapter gave me some difficulty. I have explored this topic many times in my life and I never seem to get to the answer. Because it seems to be so elusive to me, I can only come to the conclusion that I’m just not readt yet. It will come. Maybe sooner. Maybe later. I just can’t know!

  • Karen says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on play with this week, they are similiar to what I was thinking..

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