A reader asked whether I ever “play hooky”… that is, go off my stringent work schedule… to relax or play instead of doing what I had planned to do.
I love this question. It has to do with how we relate to the idea of productivity.
The short answer: Yes, I do play hooky. Maybe once every few weeks, I take an afternoon off unexpectedly.
But if we do it very often, then it’s not playing hooky anymore. It would be better called procrastination. We’d eventually feel guilty because our conscience bothers us that we’re not living according to our purpose.
Playing hooky is only meaningful if we follow our plans most of the time.
But what about living with the flow?
Given that you read my articles, I’d guess that you’re heart-driven and wish to live authentically. Maybe you think of yourself as a free spirit.
Do we really understand what freedom is, though? Being a free spirit might sound like having no obligations… and that may be possible for a short time, such as during vacations, but it’s not sustainable as an ongoing way of life.
We need to pay the bills, and to fulfill our responsibilities to our community. We yearn to experience the deepest joy — which arises from personal growth. To grow means to stretch beyond our comfort zone.
To be honest, if money (and purpose) were no issue, I’d probably do nothing in my business and would be playing video games all day, while eating junk food! That would be “going with the flow.”
Or even healthy activities like spending extended amounts of time in nature.
Yes, it’s wonderful to do those things during vacations and breaks, but if it was a replacement to ongoing work, I’d eventually feel a painful lack of deep purpose.
By spending pleasurable time instead of working, I wouldn’t be contributing to others, nor to my genuine growth. And pleasurable activities that are easy (and don’t contribute to growth) are so addictive, that it would be hard to stop.
Do you think “go with the flow” is admirable because it came from some enlightened spirituality such as Taoism?
Effortless action, right?
Here’s what the founder of Taoism has to say:
“Don’t think you can attain total awareness and whole enlightenment without proper discipline and practice. This is egomania. Appropriate rituals channel your emotions and life energy toward the light. Without the discipline to practice them, you will tumble constantly backward into darkness.” — Lao Tzu
Living in flow with the Tao actually means to align our consciousness with Reason, which is an important part of human nature.
Also, if we wish to align with Mother Nature, we have to see that Nature is quite disciplined. The seasons are predictable. The rivers flow in only one direction. The animals migrate in calculable patterns to find food and to foster their young.
So again, can we play hooky?
Yes. Play and spontaneity are part of our nature, and we can certainly take unplanned times off. But it’s only really fun when we live by discipline most of the time.
Even though I work by a strict schedule, there are many breaks in my schedule. (Further reading: Why and how I rest before I need to.)
Also, in discipline, we can be playful and spontaneous too! My schedule says to write a blog post so I’m here now, writing… yet I try to approach my writing with intuition, flow, play, and spontaneity. So the “flow” is very productive when it’s done within a planned structure. This is what prolific artists do, too.
Thai people have a term called thamngan sanuk which means to have fun while you work. It’s a wonderful idea that exists in many other cultures too.
But what if I don’t feel like it?
When I show up for my business tasks, I rarely want to do it. I almost never feel like doing it at first. But then I remember the benefits of discipline. So I get to work — and then I start finding my way into creative flow, and into connection with the person who will be receiving my work.
At the end of the planned work session, I’m proud that I’ve created something. I’m grateful to have grown by stretching myself beyond my comfort zone a little bit, and that I leaned into the spirit of connecting and serving others. I feel accomplished with what I’ve done.
And that’s how I know I’m living on purpose, and with that comes deep joy.