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If It’s Not Fun, Why Do It? A Few Pointed Answers

I'm just sayin'

Don’t get me wrong: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream is delicious–nobody’s saying it isn’t. It’s also ridiculously unhealthy and will kill you if you eat enough of it, but I’m sure that when Mssrs. Cohen and Greenfield started their ice cream shop up, killing people was the furthest thing from their minds. I even believe that the company is, or at least has been, a beacon of responsible corporate citizenship–honestly I haven’t looked at it in great detail since the Unilever takeover a decade or so ago, so I’m not sure whether that’s still the plan or if it’s just the brand strategy.

But notwithstanding delicious ice cream and the good will of the founders, I have always hated the slogan Ben & Jerry’s uses sometimes: “If It’s Not Fun, Why Do It?”

Here’s why:

  • Because the kids need to eat
  • Because long-term happiness is more important than short-term pleasure
  • Because you’ll be glad you did, even though it was difficult at the time
  • Because you have a cavity
  • Because tequila isn’t good for dogs
  • Because it will clear the air
  • Because you promised
  • Because if you do it enough, it will really pay off
  • Because it will help you do fun stuff in the future
  • Because they can use your help
  • Because the cat box isn’t going to clean itself
  • Because integrity is more important (and more satisfying) than fun

I could go on like this all day, but they’re telling me it’s time for my meds. Let me just mention, though, that I’m very much in favor of making things you’ve decided to do fun–it’s practically essential. I’m just not in favor of deciding what’s worth doing based on whether or not it seems easy and pleasant. There’s more to life, right?



  1. Carmen  •  Jun 16, 2011 @12:13 pm

    Love this quick, but to the heart-of-the-matter post. I teach at a public school and the new fad in education is “make it fun for the kids.” But, what will that teach them? Don’t do your taxes when you grow up, because it’s not fun? This new trend worries me.
    It used to be that hard-work had a better reputation back in the day: Your toils of today will bring the spoils of tomorrow. We should all get back into that mindset. Your blog has given me motivation to do what I have to do today. I will probably come back to it daily to keep my motivation going.

  2. Luc  •  Jun 16, 2011 @1:05 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Carmen. I think you’re right about teaching, and I think a lot of us have gotten in the mindset of expecting everything to be pleasurable. I suspect that there are ways to alter our mindsets to make things more and more attractive–I’ve been successful with doing this in things like seeing the dentist and washing the dishes, sometimes. Still, I’m with you that we’re not well-served by a dependency on pleasure to get things done. Any thoughts on what works for students in terms of being motivated through less-than-fun activities?

  3. Carmen  •  Jun 29, 2011 @12:00 am

    Took me a while to get back! I sure need to work on my sense of responsibility.
    Thanks for the prompt reply. You do practice what you preach! 🙂

    I’m giving some thought to your question. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I use a combination of bribery (not good), fear (even worse), and competition (so, so). I haven’t reached that point where I can get them to do the work because it’s good for them, a.k.a. intrinsic motivation (much better).

    I usually try to engage the parents in their homework. If the kids see that their parents care about “school stuff,” they will too.

    I’ve had strange occurrences of apparent self-motivation, though, such as the time a little girl brought back the entire homework page copied on her notebook. Mom wouldn’t do the daily assignment with her. But then again, I think it was fear… Her sister had been retained that year.

    Perhaps, you could shed some light on better ways to get them “intrinsically motivated?”

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