When professional athletes are interviewed before a big game they often say they’re just going to go out there and have fun. Have fun? Really? Millions of dollars and their entire future might be on the line…and they want to go have fun.
Seems kind of crazy, but we all know what they’re talking about. They’re playing a game, after all, and if they were to become consumed by the gravity of a high-stakes contest, they wouldn’t be able to play their best. Having fun means playing your best, and playing your best means you have the best shot at winning. Professional athletes know they’re playing a game, and they work hard to adopt a mindset that allows them to have fun while pursuing a very difficult goal.
That ability to have fun at something serious is a useful skill for anyone who works hard to be successful at virtually anything. It means looking at whatever you do as a sort of game. A game is something you play…and when you’re playing a game, you have a particular perspective.
When you’re in a game, you’re almost always in it to win. That’s what makes playing fun. It’s not about being ruthless, or playing dirty in order to defeat an opponent. Good character and sportsmanship matter as much on this playing field as any other. The important thing is having a clear understanding of how to win the game, and then going about it in an intelligent way.
For example, it doesn’t make sense to take slights personally—whether they’re real or imagined. That’s a distraction that keeps you from playing to the best of your ability. And, when a mistake gets made, the obvious thing to do is learn what you can from it and move on. Doing otherwise would only hamper your performance.
Playing the game well can be its own reward, whether you ultimately win or lose. It helps you to enjoy what you’re engaged in, and that can be a powerful motivator to achieve at a higher level. So…just go out there and have fun.