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8 Elements of Enjoyment

People who focus on trying to figure out what makes their competition successful don’t have enough good ideas of their own.

This is why many young professionals and hobbyists devote so much to the materials of work. Instead of the work itself, it’s easier to buy our way into something. It’s not the stuff that makes people successful. It’s the intensity of focus and their ability to generate ideas.

An artist might buy pricier brushes. A photographer might buy the latest camera and lenses. Instagram is full of #desksetups and #workplace photos that consist of little more of some mood lighting and a bunch of Apple products arranged in ways no human would use (who lays their watch out like this?)

I’ve been studying the way people work and grow professionally. There are 8 “elements of enjoyment” that come from any task or project. Most any pop psychology book will touch on some part of these.

To enjoy something:

  1. Confront challenging but completable tasks
  2. Have concentration
  3. Set clear goals
  4. Receive immediate feedback
  5. Have deep, effortless involvement
  6. Maintain a sense of control
  7. Develop a disappearing concern for self
  8. Have a sense that the passage of time has been altered, usually shorter than you think

The tragic thing about work today is everything is more complicated. Everything has matured and become far better than it ever has benefits. When I learned HTML ten years ago there wasn’t much to it. You could learn it like your ABC’s in about a week. The good news is, like planting a tree, the best time to start is today.

Critically, whatever you start — whether it’s a hobby or a profession — must start somewhere achievable. Someone who sits down to learn to program and thinks, “I’m going to design and develop a graphic design app powered by AI” is likely to burn out in frustration within the hour. Someone who says, “I want to make an app that can display a table of results” is on to better success.

Or put another way: you don’t start riding a bicycle by strapping an engine to it and dirt biking off the cliffs of New Mexico.

That might sound obvious, but that guitar, paint canvas, and the stack of gourmet cookbooks in the corner can attest otherwise. You have to maintain control of the task. Athletes performing at the top of their game don’t just practice more than you, they practice with more concentration. Those people at the gym checking their messages in between sit-ups aren’t cutting it.

These same elements of enjoyment can be applied to personal friendships, too. Knowing you and some friends are going to a place, or doing a specific activity dramatically increases the enjoyment most people get out of being near each other.

Likewise, having it be effortless to develop plans and communicate is one reason why so many find it hard to make new friends as an adult. Having more concern for others, which can increase the value you have on yourself after the event, is another reason people find it challenging to expand their network.

At work, supervisors who want to help people develop new skills or talents would do well to remove as many anxieties, worries, and other “things that are out of control” as possible from colleagues. Deadlines, budget constraints (within reason), and worries about other responsibilities constrict people from having deep, effortless involvement in a task.

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Photo of Justin Harter


Justin has been around the Internet long enough to remember when people started saying “content is king”.

He has worked for some of Indiana’s largest companies, state government, taught college-level courses, and about 1.1M people see his work every year.

You’ll probably see him around Indianapolis on a bicycle.

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