2016 is the Year of the Monkey in the Chinese horoscope. That means it will be a great year for me. I am not a Monkey (I was born in the Year of the Dog) but I admire the monkey spirit.
According to Chinese astrology, “People born in a year of the Monkey are witty, intelligent, and have a magnetic personality. They display personality traits like mischievousness, curiosity, and cleverness. Those born in a year of the Monkey are fast learners and crafty opportunists. They have many interests and need partners who are capable of stimulating them.” Monkeys know how to have fun. We adult humans, not so much.
I love watching young children doing chores or errands with their parents. They have no idea that grocery shopping or gardening or washing dishes should be tedious and miserable. They’re doing important, grown up work. And they’re having fun.
If there’s one thing you probably need in your career, it’s more playfulness. We’re driven by an ideal of perfection that can never be obtained. When we make a mistake, we berate ourselves, often for weeks after anyone else has ceased to care or remember. We agonize over “getting it right,” which kills any sense of joy we have in getting it done. We go through life grimly checking items off our to-do list, rather than connecting with why we choose to work in the first place.
Here are my tips for bring more monkey spirit into your life in 2016:
- Read more and read more diverse ideas. Many professionals read only for work; they have simply lost the habit of exploring new ideas for fun. This is your year to make learning play and make play a learning experience. Resolve to read something about a discipline as far from yours as possible. Science, philosophy, pop culture – pick any or all of them. Creativity will flourish when you push your brain in new directions. And that might make you better at what you do for a living.
- Bring toys to work. Many creative companies allow – even encourage – employees to bring toys to work. Toys can serve as brief breaks from intense concentration and as a way to focus your concentration when you need it. Stress balls, small desk puzzles, any physical toy can work the way fidgeting does. Some neuroscientists believe that fidgeting depletes restless energy, distracting part of the brain so other parts can focus on mundane tasks.
- Gamify your chores. Everything is a game if you let it be. Crank up music and dance while you work (with headphones, if you’re at the office.) Give yourself rewards for finishing tedious or challenging tasks: a cup of your favorite tea or a walk around the block.
- Assume a secret identity. This is one of my personal favorites. Pop culture is currently having a superhero revival, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t get in on the fun. If you see yourself as a shy, withdrawn worker bee, build a superhero identity that includes bold, heroic feats of courage. If you think of yourself as lacking focus, give your alter ego laser vision that can penetrate concrete walls. You can be anyone you want to be – on the inside. Eventually, don’t be surprised if you start to believe you have those powers. If you feel silly, think like Beyoncé who created a whole stage persona named Sasha Fierce. If it’s good enough for Queen Bey, it should be good enough for you.
Channeling your inner monkey this year will help you lighten up, manage stress better and may even make you more productive and successful. Fun should be one of your most important career goals. Tom Peters once said: “The number one premise of business is that it need not be boring or dull. It ought to be fun. If it’s not fun, you’re wasting your life.”