A few months ago, I made a commitment to myself to start doing the Washington Post crossword every morning. I thought it would be good for my brain, and to up the ante, I made a few rules.
You know me: Michele Woodward, Rules Girl [when you know the rules, you also know how to bend them. I am just saying.]. Here are my crossword puzzle rules:
Rule 1: Use only pen.
Rule 2: Take only 15 minutes.
Rule 3: If I’m not done in 15 minutes, drop it.
Five times out of six, I complete the puzzle under the rules. Which is surprisingly fulfilling. Ups my general Happy Quotient, if you want to know the truth.
And, there are one or two things I have learned from this exercise:
A. My intuition about a word is almost always right (except the other day, when the clue was “John Paul II, e.g.” I wrote “POPE” when the answer turned out to be “POLE”. Ah, well.)
B. Sometimes an Across word is best solved by looking at the Down words that make it up
C. Challenges can be fun
That’s right, fun. Look at me – I used the f-word.
Maybe you were raised with that wonderful work ethic that says “anything worth doing has to be hard”, which leads quite handily toward “work is hard, fun is frivolous; ergo, no fun for you, bucko”.
So you equate fun with anything but work.
Fun is tubing down the river with a cooler of beer trailing behind you.
Fun is a yo-yo tournament.
Fun is running a marathon (except for that pesky mile 21 where everything gets a little wobbly and you wonder where the fun is. The fun comes at mile 26.375, baby).
Work is a grind. Work is hyper-competitive. Work is eat-what-you-kill, dog-eat-dog, scarcity thinking writ large.
Fun and work, therefore, can never be equal.
But maybe think about it this way: work is just a challenge.
And crossword puzzles are challenges, right?
And some challenges can be fun and rewarding, and even fulfilling.
Especially if you know the rules and work within them. Kinda.
So, if my math is right, work can be fun and fulfilling if you turn the grind into a a kind of game, and you create some rules for yourself – rules you stick to.
[You may have heard of this idea of rules before. We also call these "boundaries".]
Such as: “I will not work on weekends.”
“I won’t waste a minute in malicious office gossip.”
“If something doesn’t go my way, I will drop it and move on rather than obsess, stew and fret.”
These are just some of mine. Just like using a pen to complete the crossword in less than 15 minutes.
You have a choice, too. You can make your own rules.
Start by asking yourself, “Is this thing I’m doing fun?” And if the answer is no, then figure out a way to make it fun. Make it a game.
And I’m thinking you’re going to win because you made up the rules.
You winner, you.