Lessons From Lego On Engagement, Achievement and Re-Building

Life is like lego. Frustrating yet enjoyable, fulfilling yet sometimes downright painful (especially when you kneel on the knobbly little blighter). But it can teach us about engagement, achievement and re-building.

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Today my usually mellow five year old daughter got frustrated with her lego spaceship and smashed it up. Tears flowed. “Now I'm going have to start all over again,” she wailed. After suggesting that getting angry wasn't the best way to respond as it didn't make anything better, but worse actually, I asked her if she'd had fun building it?

"Yes," she beamed. So I asked her which was more important? The fact that she'd enjoyed each moment putting it together or what it looked like when she'd nearly finished it? “Building it was best,”she said and skipped happily back to build a new creation, having learned from her mistake that pushing down too hard on the bricks could make the whole structure collapse. She would try not to do that next time.

Life is a bit like lego. Frustrating yet enjoyable, fulfilling yet sometimes downright painful (especially when you kneel on the knobbly little blighter).But it can also teach us quite a bit about engagement, achievement and what we get from re-building.

What I mean is - most of the fun in life comes not from the actual achievement (which, while worthwhile is generally a temporary feeling of satisfaction, according to the hedonic-treadmill which says that we constantly want more after that initial glow of satisfaction wears off) but the actual process of building; using our imaginations, finding the right pieces and joining the bricks together; i.e. the time we spend engaging in the action is more enjoyable than what we end up with; the achievement.

So which activities engage you the most? Think about stuff you do now and enjoy so much that you lose track of time; where you are captured by the moment of doing and are completely and utterly engaged.

Now cast your mind back to when you were 10. What did you LOVE to do back then? Rolling down grassy hills? Playing barefoot hide-and-seek on freshly cut grass? Reading under your favourite tree? Dancing? Roller-skating? Den-building? Tree-climbing? Remember being so engrossed and engaged in what you were doing that minutes turned into hours and it'd soon be time for tea? Losing yourself in those magical moments of childhood bliss.

Engagement is considered to be one of the pillars of well-being. Achievement is too, so both are important to our well-being, yet it's the former which we tend to place lower down our list of priorities. Perhaps that's because we deem most activities which engage us to be part of our leisure time?

Engagement is equated with play. Whereas achievement is associated with work. And yet, if we play our cards right we can find engagement in our work too (and continue that engagement when we clock-off and down-tools and play). Even mundane tasks can be engaging if we set ourselves mini-challenges within those tasks.It's just a case of paying more attention to our actions and making our daily activities, whether at work or at play, engaging.

The realisation that doing is at least as important as achieving also let's us off the hook if we mess things up. Because we can simply begin again, and get another opportunity to enjoy the doing, only this time with the knowledge of how not to do things, so we'll do what we did better.

Pointing that out to my daughter helped stemmed the flow of frustrated tears and may even make her think about how she responds to frustrating events in the future. That said, she is only five (quick, duck... here comes another onslaught of broken lego pieces). She'll learn :-) Have you?

Cheryl Rickman is author of The Flourish Handbook and creator of The 90 Day Flourish Challenge*.

*Psychologies magazine Life Labs members can claim £20 discount off The Flourish Challenge with the coupon code LIFELABS

You can follow Cheryl on Twitter @TheFlourishers

Cheryl Rickman

Flourisher, Ghostwriter, WellBeing Ambassador & Author of The Flourish Handbook, -

Aiming to make the world a little less frowny and a lot more appreciative, positive & resilient


Go to the profile of Martha Roberts
over 7 years ago
Love this analogy, Cheryl. My seven-year-old Lego-loving son and I went to a Lego art exhibition in New York recently and at first he found it inspiring but soon he was saying, 'I want to leave! This is painful! I'll NEVER have all the right pieces to do things like this!' We had to have a conversation about how everything we do starts with a small step - fortunately, the artist had said as much in a short film in the exhibition, where he said, 'It all starts with a single brick' and it goes from there. It's so easy to forget about the journey, the joys and tribulations (but the intrinsic growing experience of) the learning process, in our rush to 'get there'.
Go to the profile of Suzy Walker
over 7 years ago
I think it is time to start buying legos again for my child and perhaps my inner-child. Great post Cheryl and thanks for reminding us all that life is like legos.
Go to the profile of Sara Abul
over 7 years ago
It is also important to remember that like being a child with lego you don't always have to follow the instructions. Let that be the same for life you can have as much fun being creative and building your life the way you want to rather than following the instructions.