work or play?


I must finish my work before I can play


I can play anytime I like

Which of these is more you?

Often when I ask a room of people to make their choice, the room divides.

Those choosing the former, talk of not being able to enjoy their relaxation or play until the work is done. The list of jobs needs to be ticked off. Completing the work is in itself enjoyable. The play is a reward for completing the work. They sometimes mention responsibility or duty.

Those choosing the latter, talk of performing better when they have had down time, play or relaxation. They speak of choice. They describe making work into play, to increase their enjoyment.

Occasionally someone stands between the two, recognising a different stance in different circumstances, such as work or home.

I’ve never experienced someone not knowing.

I don’t recall the lesson in school where we learned this? I don’t recall the conversation with mum or dad, where they explained the pros and cons or the virtues of each approach?

It seems we just know. Somehow in life, we have learned through experience. That learning is often so well ingrained we don’t even see a possible alternative. It just is.

There are many opposites like this, not just work and play, where we have a position, a life stance. Many, I suspect, we have never been consciously taught which is best, we have just absorbed this into our existence, our way of being.

Weird eh? Enabling sometimes, disabling at other times. Strange that such life impacting choices seem invisible, out of conscious awareness. They just are.

life as a pot of numbered balls

random happenstance life
I’ve just watched the FA Cup first round draw.

Clubs matched randomly. Balls with numbers on, drawn blind from a perspex receptacle.

Imagine if our lives were determined this way. Our relationships determined by the number on the drawn ball. Our life longevity similarly. Our quality of life. Our ails and illnesses drawn randomly from the pot.

What if there were no choice? If this random selective ‘fate’ determined every twist and turn. The grabbing of a numbered ball swirling around in the pot of life deciding our future. The school we went to. The friends we made. The job we secured. Our performance and pay in that job. What if the balls determined our future, our choices at every stage? What if there was in fact no free will?

Ironically much is in fact determined by happenstance. Either because certain life choices determine subsequent choices, or because we are ‘run automatically’ by our beliefs, our values, our early life experiences coding all our subsequent behaviour.

Maybe we are more like the first round draw than we think?

if you think you planned this, think again…


Our life is governed by happenstance.

The parents we were born to. The country we were born in. The society and culture not just of our country, but our community – city, village, countryside. The siblings we grew up with. The location we lived in, which determined the school we went to. The people we met and befriended on that first day. The teacher we had. The kids who lived in our street and we played with. The party that we so nearly didn’t go to, but where we met our first girlfriend/ boyfriend. The friends who moved away and those who didn’t. The college / university we nearly didn’t choose. The rooms in the halls of residence we were assigned. The flat mates who became lifelong friends. The modules we chose and those who chose them too. The holidays we experienced. The tragedies we witnessed. The joys we embraced. The job applications we got interviews for. The career we fell in to. The soulmate we met. The people we sit next to. The colleagues our work introduces us to. The offer on the house that got accepted. The neighbours we have. The choices life offers us. The priorities life places upon us. The love we feel. The pain we cope with. The hope we hold. The happiness we seek.

Every happenstance changes our life path.

Human Beings are very resourceful. Our ability to adapt, to make agile choices in the moment is unparalleled. Our capacity to face adversity and to be resilient in spite of happenstance is amazing.

Interesting therefore that in organisations we try so hard to plan change?

Much in our lives is governed by happenstance and yet we still remain in control, make positive choice, survive and even thrive. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of that?

Perhaps we should be more curious about what makes that possible for us as unique individuals? Why at times it is easier and at times it is harder? How we might be more resourceful more of the time?