Have you worked hard all week? Then it is time to have fun with equal intensity this weekend. The old adage "work hard, play hard" is hip, but professor Lonnie Aarssen, a biologist at the Queen's University in Kingston, wanted to know whether it's actually true. In a survey he checked whether hard workers are also the biggest fun lovers.
He surveyed a total of 1,400 respondents, whom he asked questions about work and leisure. He tried to find out how important studying hard and having a prestigious job matter to the respondents. He also asked the participants how important free time and hobbies are for their sense of happiness. Based on the answers, the biologist sees a clear link between the the attraction to working hard on the one hand, and the attraction to having a lot of free time on the other hand. "People who work harder, also enjoy their free time more," the biologist concludes.
The four motivations
Why is it that a desire for working hard often goes hand in hand with a desire to having lots of fun? According to Aarssen, this is because the four fundamental motivations of mankind, which we all experience during our lives. Most animals have two: a sexual motivation and the instinct to survive. The two others are typically human, according to the biologist: the urge to have a legacy, which means that you want to make a permanent impression on the world. The fourth is the urge to have free time. The latter two cause us to want to work hard and relax just as hard.
Self-protection against fear of death
According to Aarssen, these two human motivations stem from the realisation of our own mortality: the urge to work hard causes us to be able to leave a legacy when we die. It is our illusion that we can defeat our own mortality that way. The urge to have free time is practical in distracting us from thinking too much about death. The biologist hypothesizes that our ancestors were able to survive because we are capable of 'ignoring' death every once in a while, which protects us from that ever-present fear of death. The joy of life which we feel when we enjoy our free time is an interesting matter evolutionarily speaking, for a flowering offspring.