The Joy of Doing

I am a doer.  I love nothing better than to jump into an experience—be it a new sport, travel to a new place, or work on a new project—feet first, and fully engaged.  Sometimes, the less I know about what is to come the better.  The fun and challenge lie in figuring things out when I am in the midst of the action.  I call this the joy of doing.

Back when I was younger, my friends used to like to set me up on dates with men who liked sports, for the obvious reason that I also like sports.  Inevitably, these dates went something like this. 

“You like tennis?  Have you tried xyz racquet?  It is the latest from abc company.  It is made from a composite of def and hij materials.  And the strings, wow, they are made from klm and nop woven together, strung at exactly xxx pounds per square inch.  It is a beautiful racket. And it costs a fortune.”

Or here is the same version for skiing. 

“You like skiing?  I just bought a new pair of skis.  The latest from abc company.  They are made from this amazing material, def.  And they have a new shape that is supposed to revolutionize the sport. And they cost a fortune.”

Talk about killing the joy of doing.  And the conversation.  And the date.

When I do a sport, I could care less about what type of material the equipment is made from.  And I could care less about whether I have the latest this or the latest that.  I don’t even care if I am any good—because usually I am not.  What I love about sports is how I feel when I play them.  I enjoy the freedom of movement.  I enjoy the mental engagement of trying to coordinate my muscles to complete the different physical tasks required in the sport.  The sprint to the net or goal.  The power of hitting something.  The trick to throwing a particular type of ball.  The coordination of hands and feet.  Don’t ask me to dissect the technicalities of the equipment I am using.  Ask me about the rush I feel when I am applying my brain power to the movement of my body to do something new.

When I play tennis, one of my greatest joys is engaging in a long rally with my opponent.  I don’t care who wins.  The longer the rally goes on, the more shots we each get, the greater my joy.  I usually lose these rallies because I end up laughing so hard with enjoyment that I mis-hit my shot at some point.  I have no problem praising my opponent for the shot that sealed the rally in their favour.  A good shot is a good shot, regardless of who made it.

There is nothing better than the feeling of a tennis ball hitting the sweet spot of your tennis racket and seeing it sail back across the net to a perfectly placed place on the opposing court.  To make that happen, your brain turns off, and you give free reign to all of your muscle training, your hand-eye coordination, and your instinct.  You are in the zone.  Everything clicks. 

This is not the joy of thinking and analyzing.  This is the joy of doing.  The Nike slogan, “Just do it” is not just a catchy slogan.

What does this have to do with running an organization?  Or the world of work? Or education?

I was reminded of the joy of doing recently when talking with a friend about my struggles with a writing project.  I was so focused on getting the writing done, that I forgot to enjoy the process of writing.  And because I was not enjoying the process, I was not getting the writing done.

In today’s highly technical world, I am not the only one who struggles to hang on to the joy of doing. We are so focused on the specifications, the numbers, the quantitative data, or the end product, that we forget to enjoy the process.  We forget to revel in the moment and in how something feels as we do it.

It is time to mentally shut out the onslaught of technical specifications, data, targets and deadlines.   Instead, let’s get back to the joy of doing.