Working Hard Often Paired With Playing Hard

New research from Canada supports a correlation between a motivation to seek accomplishment and an attraction to leisure.

Queen’s University biology professor Dr. Lonnie Aarssen investigated the maxim “work hard, play hard,” a saying that has been traced back to at least 1827.

“I’ve been interested for quite a while in two motivations that people seem to display — one I call legacy drive and one I call leisure drive,” said Aarssen.

Yet, despite its status as a standard in Western society, a statistical link between the two motives has never been quantified.

Aarssen, along with undergraduate student Laura Crimi, conducted a survey of over 1,400 undergraduate students at Queen’s. Participants were asked to identify their age, gender, religious affiliation, and cultural background. They were then asked a series of questions to determine their attraction to religion, parenthood, accomplishment or fame, and recreation.

While some degree of correlation was seen between most of the factors listed, there was a particularly strong correlation between attraction to both legacy and leisure activities. That is, those inclined to “work hard” tend also to “play hard.”

The results also suggest three distinct groupings of individuals based on their strongest motivational factors.

One group consisted of relatively apathetic types; those who displayed relatively weak attraction to parenthood, religion, work, and leisure. Another group distinguished themselves through high attraction to both religion and parenthood with moderate attraction to accomplishment and leisure.

A final group, the highly motivated “go-getters,” were highly attracted to parenthood as well as to accomplishment and leisure.

Aarssen suggests that the “work hard, play hard” motivation could serve an evolutionary purpose in humans, by presenting a means to divert our attention from our own mortality.

“We, unlike any other animals, are aware and concerned about our own self-impermanence,” Aarssen said. That is, we are aware that we have a limited time on this earth.

“Legacy drive and leisure drive have potential to explain our ability to buffer this anxiety. Between these two drives, our ancestors were able to distract from their own self-impermanence, allowing them to cope with the anxiety and thus minimize its potential negative impact on reproductive success.”

The study is available online in the Open Psychology Journal.

Source: Queen’s University