How to Make Going to Work Feel Like Going to Disney World

ferris wheelOut the door he flew on this beautiful and bright spring morning, running at a full gallop as only a 4-year-old boy can achieve. Arms waving wildly, with smiles dancing across his face, little Ralphie could hardly wait to share the most amazing news: “I’m going to Disney World! And Daddy bought me headphones!”

The fact he’s never been to Disney World hardly matters. He has a vision of an adventure and has been up since 5 a.m. getting ready for it. While his father busily packed the car, his mother stuck her head out the front door to assess the progress, only to be met with Ralph’s own exacting expectations: “Get dressed now, Mommy!”

As a career counselor, I would love to bottle this enthusiasm so I could share it with individuals. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could create work environments where our employees were as engaged as a 4-year-old headed to Disney World for the first time? Perhaps we can’t for every day, but couldn’t we start with some days or even one day?

Perhaps we can—if we keep a few simple “Ralphisms” in our mind:

  1. We can bring to work a vision of a better world: one that welcomes everyone. If Walt Disney could build a kingdom around a rodent, we can use our imagination to embrace characters of all varieties, too. Pick a person at work today to make his or her world a little better. Bring someone a cup of coffee. Bring a flower from a garden or the store. Small gestures can have large consequences.
  2. Consciously undertake a new activity. We all start life with more openness to adventure (check out any 4-year-old). Gradually over time, however, we generally move toward more rigidity in our thinking and action. What if we looked forward to a few new adventures and reconnected with our original openness? By the way, when was the last time you hopped on a roller-coaster? Last week? Then up the ante and work on a new “bucket list.” Years into retirement and too fragile for a roller-coaster? Learn a new game, try a new recipe, or make a new friend.
  3. Smile! When I see Ralph running toward me with his happy heart, mine is lifted, too. When you are talking on the phone, try smiling. When you see someone coming toward you, think of Ralph and smile. If the person asks you why you’re happy, tell him or her you’re imaging what life is like when you are 4 and on the way to Disney World for the first time.

To review briefly: (1) Welcome characters, (2) cultivate openness, and (3) smile!

I am reminded of the great career theorist, John Krumboltz, author of the user-friendly book that I often recommend to people who solicit my help: Luck Is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career. John sums up his advice this way (and I paraphrase from his address to the 2012 annual meeting of the National Career Development Association): Find work that needs doing. Don’t be afraid to fail. Try to have a little fun with it.

Little 4-year-old Ralph doesn’t require this advice. His attitude toward life readily and naturally embraces this wisdom and, hopefully, will be reinforced with the positive encouragement of his family and friends.

Regrettably, our educational and vocational systems have historically failed in reinforcing this wisdom. Consequently, we find ourselves needing to be reminded of what we already knew before we were even in kindergarten: There is indeed much to be done in our world. We can (and must) overcome our fear of failure. Finally and most importantly, we all need to have a little more fun with it all.

Thanks, Ralph. We all need more of you in our lives.

© Copyright 2014 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by David Harris, MS, MTS, LAPC, Career Counseling Topic Expert Contributor

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • brock

    April 21st, 2014 at 10:24 AM

    If going to work felt like going to Disney, then you can be certain that I would NEVER hit the snooze button again!

  • magt

    April 21st, 2014 at 1:06 PM


  • Roman

    April 21st, 2014 at 4:48 PM

    It’s all a state of mind.
    You think that work is cr** then guess what? It will be.
    You make work into a Disney World like experience then that is what it can become for you.
    You won’t be able to change everyone, so those are the ones who don’t get to use the Fast Pass lane.
    You can only change you and the way you feel… but if it can work at Disney, the hot Florida swampland that it once was, then this could actually have a chance of catching on anywhere.

  • Fred

    April 22nd, 2014 at 3:34 AM

    There is a reason that work is work and play is play.
    I don’t necessarily think that work is supposed tyo be all fun and games but I do get what you are saying, that we could make it a little more enjoyable on most days if we could simply frame it a different way and look at it from a different perspective.
    When I am a little down or let’s say the kids want me to stay home on a day that they don’t have to go to school, I will think about all of the blessings that my job does bring. It provides us food, a home, clothing, trips, all of the things that we wouldn’t have without that job. Those are the things that actually make me stop and be a little more thankful for ahaving a job and one that on most days isn’t that bad.

  • Theodore T

    April 22nd, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Seriously I think that our boss does what he can so that we feel miserable at work. He never has anything great to say about our job performance,a nd it can’t be that we are terrible at what we do all the time. He brings most of us so far down that maybe we don’t care as much anymore as we should, but he plays a big part of that.

  • vickie

    April 23rd, 2014 at 7:03 AM

    If you look at your job as if it is a chore then this is what it will become for you. I know, I lived like that for a while, wondering why I couldn’t be one of those stay at home moms whose husbands worked hard to make that lifestyle possible for them. But I had to learn that this was not the life that we were economically cut out for, that I had to also earn an income to help make ends meet and that was that. So I could either go into work determined to make a difference in my own life and that of someone else or I could pout for eight or more hours a day for having to be there. I think that you can guess what I chose, because I was determined to make the best of it and the lives of my family better too. That hugely worked for me and of course there are still those mornings when I would prefer to stay in the bed, but you get up, put your fete on the ground, and move forward. That’s what you have to do to succeed.


    April 24th, 2014 at 3:40 AM

    my problem is that it is a lot harder to be as excited about something as an adult than it was as a kid

  • martin

    April 26th, 2014 at 12:53 PM

    Sometimes all I need is a good little pep talk to myself and that helps. No, I am not a Pollyanna but hey, sometimes you do what you have to do and a little psyching yourself up never hurt anyone.

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