Valuing joy

March 6, 2021 By

Last week, I was putting together a presentation and trying to find the right images and designs for it. Visuals are important to me and I love this part of my work. It’s fun, the time flies by, I feel energised. The creativity flows into other aspects of what I do, too, and I often feel that my overall message is clearer and more on point afterwards.

All good, right?

Apart from this little voice which starts niggling at me and which tells me that surely this doesn’t qualify as “real work”. It’s too enjoyable, too easy. There must have been something else I should rather have been spending time on, something more difficult, more boring. Something more virtuous. More work-like.

And then the guilt starts seeping in. I’m at this too long now to really listen to it or give it too much attention: I have made a mindful decision to do work I like, and I am grateful for the moments of joy it brings. But still. It never fully goes away.

The feeling that time spent doing something I think is fun is somehow slightly wasteful. I’m not talking about time management here. Or procrastination – although read about why I think procrastination gets an unfairly bad rep here. This is not about the times when we put off things that really need to get done and they come back to bite us later.

I am talking about not taking joy and enjoyment seriously. And more than that: about actively de-valuing them and seeing them as signs that something is of less importance. Not serious enough, not worthy of time and investment (the parallels here to how women’s contributions to society are viewed are perhaps undeniable).

But if we renegade the parts of work – and life – that we really enjoy to the “nice to have” category, if we see them as rewards that we get if we’ve been good and done everything else first, if they are the icing on the cake, or the dessert that you always feel overly indulgent when you order no matter how many of your greens you ate beforehand – then we are losing out. We lose out on the potential and benefits that enjoyment brings, we lose out on the things that rejuvenate us, that build our resilience, that make us human.

We lose out on parts of ourselves.

So embrace what you enjoy. It’s possibly the most important thing you can do.