Playing Vs Working/Studying: Which is more Satisfying?

I have been watching many of the people in my life. I see some who try to avoid studying or work as much as they can. Then there are the types who seem to shoulder their responsibilities well and work or study hard. Which of these two groups of people appear (to me, subjectively) to be more satisfied? Tough question, and I went into it with a bias, feeling that the latter would be more satisfied. But after careful introspection and review, I came to a different conclusion.

Play harders

I expected to come to the conclusion that the play harders would be less satisfied. This is because of the short vs long term outcomes. The Play harders would satisfy the pleasure impulse quickly, only to be confronted with the fruits of their (lack of) efforts. They would not have the things done that they were supposed to and that creates stress and regret.


I also expected - in a similar vein - that the workers would feel the shorter term struggle only to smugly look on at the play harders when they themselves had accomplished their obligations. They would have the satisfaction of being done and complete, in a stress free way, with open time ahead of them.

Play harders Surprise

I found some (limited) surprises with a small set of the play harders. Most of them displayed the lack of satisfaction that I expected. They showed the classic signs of stress and regret when the moment of truth came. Eventually they had to do the same work in less time, under higher pressure and to a lower standard than the workers. But there were the others - who did not show these signs of stress despite the reckoning that came.

Another Surprise from the Workers

The workers, I expected, should show signs of contentment with their accomplishments and perhaps even gloating over their less assiduous peers. Yet, most of them did not. They seemed to be bothered by something. On closer inspection, they seemed regretful of the fun they felt they missed by not playing. They also were often preoccupied with the next coming obligations, rather than being able to enjoy their temporary freedom.

So Who felt Satisfied?

On both sides of the fence - the workers and the play harders, there were satisfied people. These groups had a common feature. They were intrinsically motivated. The play harders accepted their lack of accomplishment because the sheer joy they felt playing was completely satisfying. And the workers felt great satisfaction because they were not working for any extrinsic forces. They felt the joy in doing the work itself.

Next Question

Watching all this and reviewing it, I found the relevant question popping up? How can we become internally motivated?