Do you ever feel like real success isn’t compatible with happiness? When clients first come to me, they often tell me that they’re struggling with how to be successful at work or in their business while also being truly happy.
Being “successful” at something typically requires hard work and often brings with it additional responsibilities and more stress – especially when it comes to achieving career or business success. But “success” in your career or business doesn’t have to be at the expense of the rest of your life.
There are three key ingredients that will help you to be successful while also living a fulfilling and happy personal life.
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Three Key Ingredients to Achieving Success that Feels Good
Key #1: Understand what it means to be happy and how to choose happiness for yourself.
If you want to understand how to be successful and happy at the same time, then you need to understand what happiness is. I’ve previously discussed what happiness is and how to choose to be happy, so I’m not going in-depth about it today. If you haven’t yet read these two articles (or would like a refresher), do yourself a favor and go read them.
The short version is this: happiness is about understanding who you are, being comfortable with that person, and making a choice for yourself every day to do what’s needed to feel good about yourself and who you’re being. No one but YOU can make you happy.
Key #2: Be sure that you’re going after your version of success (not society’s or someone else’s).
To achieve success and be happy with it you need to get clear on what you want and why – and make sure it’s what you really want.
Being successful on paper yet feeling unfulfilled and drained by your achievements often results from working hard toward things you feel you should be doing as opposed to going after the things you truly want. There’s nothing more unmotivating than slogging towards goals that don’t light you up on the inside.
The remedy for that?
- Understand yourself deeply (which is part of Key #1)
- Redefine success from the inside-out your way (read how to do that here)
Key #3: Learn to work and play hard – the right way.
Want to know the one thing most people forget about when trying to figure out how to be successful while also enjoying their success? The answer is simple: play.
It’s time to live by the often used (yet little understood) phrase: “work hard, play hard”. Unfortunately, most professionals I know work hard, but forget to play. Yet play is a necessary component of success that brings with it happiness (and little to no stress).
Today we’re diving into how to work and play hard so that you’ll be more likely to achieve your desired goals, have fun along the way, and be happy with where you end up. Because what’s the point if you’re not going to enjoy yourself?
What it Means to Be Successful
Since we’re discussing how to be successful, let’s define what it means to be successful. When I talk about career success, I’m talking about achievements that are fulfilling yet allow you the time and ability to have a satisfying personal life. Success only happens when you’re happy about it and are able to enjoy your life as a whole.
I don’t care how many “achievements” you rack up or the accolades you receive within your career, if you’re miserable and unfulfilled then you’re not a successful person. Career success means enjoying what you do and being fulfilled by it – typically because you’re utilizing your unique strengths and talents in the work you do while making an impact.
But success in your career isn’t the entire picture. Because you’ll want to feel successful in life too. And that means being able to take care of yourself, having time for personal hobbies and interests, and spending quality time with family and friends.
True career success doesn’t come at the expense of your personal relationships or your health. You need to remain a well-rounded person.
How to Be Successful Without All the Stress by Working and Playing Hard
What Working Hard Really Means
We all know that part of being successful includes working hard. But don’t confuse working hard with not liking what you’re doing, overburdening yourself, or being overwhelmed. Because that’s not what working hard means.
If you’re doing work that you enjoy and are using your talents and strengths in the work you do, then you’ll want to do it well. Working hard merely means that you’re doing your best (within reason). It’s not about perfection, it’s about doing something well and then moving on so that you can continue to do your job.
Why Playing is Just as Important as Working
But you can’t just work hard. Even when you like what you do, your body and brain need a creative break. Which is where play comes in. This is where I find many high-achieving professionals go astray. They either feel they don’t have the time, replace play with “party”, or think they’re too old to play.
But play – real play – is necessary if you want to find success that won’t burn you out and make you miserable. Here’s the thing: you’re not successful if the “success” you’re having isn’t sustainable. That’s why people who are successful for the long-haul adopt a work hard, play hard mentality.
If you’ve been achieving much, yet left wondering why all of your “successes” are leaving you mentally drained and physically exhausted, it’s time to put some play back into your life’s equation.
What it Means to Play Hard
The definition of play is to engage in an activity for enjoyment and/or recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose. Thus, play is something you do purely for fun. Moreover, it’s more about the act of doing than the end result.
To understand what play really is, you also need to understand why play is important. The purpose for play is three-fold: to have fun, to access your creativity from within, and to increase your physical and mental well-being. All of these are important attributes to achieving success.
Which brings me to why partying hard isn’t the same thing as playing hard. Even if you’re not fully aware of it, you’re paying a price for not getting enough sleep, drinking too much (hello hangovers!) and living a party lifestyle. Too much of this contributes to burnout.
So, what exactly does it mean to play hard? It simply means prioritizing play within your life. Every. Single. Day. It’s not just something you do occasionally or when you’re on vacation.
[Related Reading: Feel Too Busy to Take a Break? 3 Tips for Resting Without Guilt].
How Play Helps You to Be Both Successful and Happy
When it comes to succeeding (both in work and in life) and being happy with that success, playing hard is just as important as working hard. Play will make you happier, healthier, and more productive. It increases your ability to create success that feels good.
There are many benefits to playing as an adult. But I want to highlight 4 that contribute to your ultimate success and your happiness levels.
Benefit #1: Play is an act of self-care.
Playing has all the benefits that go with good self-care, including:
- increasing your ability to focus, your energy levels, positive feelings, and your ability to be productive;
- decreasing negative feelings, negative tension within, and stress.
By including some play into your day, you’ll be making yourself more likely to succeed because you’ll be more focused, have more energy, and will be more productive. And you’ll also be happier while doing it.
Benefit #2: Play stimulates creativity.
Playing is creative and will hone your creative thinking skills. And, although this creativity may include your artistic side, that’s not the only benefit to being creative.
Creativity comes in many forms, including creative problem-solving and your ability to see patterns when others can’t. It’s that kind of creative thinking that will increase your ability to succeed at work and in life (and be more productive in general).
Benefit #3: Play keeps your social skills sharp (and even improves them).
Play is social. If you’re like most professionals, a large part of your day is spent working alone with your head down, communicating via email, and having either short calls with clients and/or colleagues or attending conference calls. Even though you may be communicating with people, it’s not very social.
Much of our everyday interactions don’t include connecting with people (on a human level). Connecting with people and being social is necessary for good mental health, and play provides a wonderful opportunity for that.
Benefit #4: Playing increases your energy levels.
Although sometimes play uses up some of your energy, it also creates more. The reasons are two-fold. First, playing often involves physical activity, which can naturally increase your energy levels both immediately and over time.
Second, the interaction with others and brain stimulation provided by play increases positive thoughts and mental energy. And that increased energy will help you be more energized to do the hard work you need to get ahead.
Ideas for How to Incorporate Play into Your Daily Life
I know that you’re thinking that you have no time. And you’re questioning how you can add yet one more thing to your schedule. Before you get overwhelmed, I have good news.
As I mentioned above, when you play you’re also taking care of yourself. It’s a healthy part of self-care – which isn’t optional (it should already be a part of your life). Also, play doesn’t need to take up much time. Sometimes it will (and should), but it doesn’t have to. Be creative and figure out how to insert a bit of play into your daily life that’s simple and easy.
Finally, the benefits of play will help you get more done in less time. And the increased focus and productivity will help you create more time for play.
Examples of playing to try out:
- Sharing jokes with family, friends, and/or co-workers;
- Calling your kids from work for a few minutes to goof off;
- Dressing up for Halloween and going trick-or-treating with your kids;
- Pretend playing with your kids (yes, you can do this too);
- Playing a board game with family or friends;
- Coloring for 10 minutes;
- Drawing or doodling;
- Writing a poem for fun;
- Listening to fun music and singing along like no one’s listening;
- Dancing to music; and
- Setting a play-date with your significant other (and do something FUN).
The possibilities are endless. Just remember that the point of play is to have fun, increase your energy levels, and de-stress. So, if you’re not having fun or it’s stressing you out, then you’re not playing.
Also, play will vary from person to person. It’s personal – so don’t feel like you must do what others do for fun. But don’t be afraid to try new things either (that’s part of the fun). Finally, be careful not to insert too many rules into your play because you’ll risk making your activities too difficult and more stressful (and getting away from play).
How to Start Playing Hard For Stress-Less Success That’s Fun
Now that you know one of the often overlooked ways for how to be successful and happy (at the same time), what next? It’s time to get started by making play a priority in your life. To do that, take the following 5 steps:
Step 1: Figure out what you like to do.
Start by looking to how you played as a child and what you do for play when on vacation. These will give you some clues on where to get started.
Step 2: Create a list of fun activities.
Don’t limit your fun list only to what you’ve come up with by looking to your childhood. Be creative and think outside the box. And remember: you can try something for fun and then decide whether you want to keep it. Also, include anything you’d like to try or do even if just occasionally.
Step 3: Commit to a minimum amount of time per day for playtime.
Decide how long you’d like to play per day and per week. This step is important if you want to incorporate play into your life on a regular basis. So, think about what a reasonable minimum amount is and stick to it. I recommend setting aside at least 30 minutes per day for fun and at least one block of at least 2-3 hours per week for play (during the weekend).
Step 4: Set aside time in your calendar for your daily/weekly fun times.
If you don’t schedule it, then you’re not likely to do it. So schedule it in and follow your schedule. Quick note: don’t forget that play is part of self-care. For example, you can go for a fun bike ride with your significant other or kids as part of your exercise routine and include that as part of your play too.
Step 5: Review your list often and change things up.
The last thing you want is to do the same few things so often that they start feeling boring – and are no longer play.
What to Do Next
If you haven’t been incorporating play into your life, its time to do it. I promise that you won’t regret it. You’ll be happier, healthier, and more productive for it. And you’re more likely to be successful in your endeavors because of it too.
And before you go, it’s time to make a commitment to yourself. In the comments below, tell me how often you’re committing to include play into your daily routine and at least one thing that you’ll include on your fun list.
Until next time…
P.S. Play is an important piece of self-care – which is easy to forget to do in today’s high-stress, overly busy way of living. For more about how to take amazing care of yourself without having to adopt a long, complicated self-care routine you don’t have time for, get my 3 Simple Tools to Decrease Stress and Exhaustion Now.