Saturday Sage: A Playful Life Is a Better Life

When you were a kid you knew how to play. Recess was your favorite subject. You could draw anything, try anything, be anyone. 

Now you’re an adult. Your playful spirit shriveled. What the heck happened? You don’t dare get caught being playful. It’s against all rules of productivity and time management.

Time management offends creativity.

Playful life: Time management offends creativity. Image of a cat hissing.

You haven’t played in ages.

The distance between work and play continues expanding.

Could it be that adults are good at keeping play out of sight and off the grid? What if work and play happened simultaneously? That’s not only a possibility but could be a pathway to a better life.

Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of “The National Institute for Play”, states, “Not only does having a playful atmosphere attract young talent, but experts say play at work can boost creativity and productivity in people of all ages.”

John Cleese, in his video, “Creativity and Management” tells of the sculptor, who when asked how he sculpts an elephant says, “take a large block of marble and simply chisel away all the pieces that don’t look like an elephant.”

If you want to be playful, chisel away the things that keep you from playing. Too busy, too tired, too embarrassed, too uncomfortable, too… the list goes on and on.

Sir Ken Robinson says, “Play in all its forms isn’t some frivolous waste of time that should be put to one side if there are more important things to do. Play has deeply important roles in the development of intellectual skills, in social skills, in developing empathy, in stretching our imaginations and exploring our creativity.”

A playful life has room for destinations unknown.

In the 1930s, if Ruth Wakefield had not been in her zone of experimental playfulness, we would not be enjoying chocolate chip cookies today. She added broken chocolate bar pieces into her cookie batter thinking that they would melt. Instead, the classic dessert was born.

Why don’t you play?

When you’re obsessed with doing things right, you won’t even try. You claim you don’t have time. You don’t want to make a fool of yourself. You don’t want to look like a beginner.

Are you so filled with vanity that you will sacrifice play to look like the best or the smartest? A dose of humility will make your life better.

Why you should play?

Play exposes things you fear. At the same time, you overcome your fears. 

One successful attempt at being playful gives you the confidence to go again and again and again.  What you dreaded becomes your comfort zone. 

You will be more creative, more productive, and you will face uncertainty as an opportunity, rather than avoiding it.  

Lessons learned in play transfer to all of life. 

A playful life is a better life:

You become attractive.

Risk takers with a willingness to try are people others want to hang out with. Great satisfaction comes when you realize that others think highly of you and it is noticeable when they say, “Do you have a minute?” People will care what you think. You become a people magnet.  When you play you give others permission to play.

You awaken curiosity.

Take off your eye patch. A patient, after eye surgery, yearns for that moment when the doctor removes the eye patch. You see better than ever before.  Curiosity helps you see new things. 

The playful activities you choose guide you to new ideas, new thought, new experiences and yes, even new companions. The more you experience curiosity moments, negativities in your life evaporate.

‘New’ sneaks up on you.

Exploration is an exciting act of finding ‘new’. 

Ask anyone who enjoys play how they discovered something new. They are likely to say, “Well, I was with a friend. . .I was scrolling through YouTube channels. . . I saw people playing together and they were having fun.”

Most everyone is surprised when they’re playful. And joy in realizing you are gaining new skills is a motivation machine.

A kid shooting hoops in their driveway gains new confidence. And when two or three kids join, all of a sudden skill levels go up.  

There are two ways to become a playful human – either by yourself or with someone.

Dance with Joy.

The author, Anne Lamott says, “Always wear shoes you can dance in.”

First attempts are novice and silly. But great dancers overcome awkwardness, sore feet, and the embarrassment of public clumsiness. As skills improve, they grow eager to continue. 

Eagerness is all about enthusiasm – looking forward to something that at one point in your journey was not even a consideration. But now your life is better because you were willing to try. This is known as a victory!

Practice playfulness:

Practice one:

Go to a stranger at the coffee shop or market and ask, “If money or time is not an issue, what could you do today that you would consider playful?

Practice two:

Sing with the radio when you drive to work. (Give it your all. Just keep the windows up.)

Practice three:

Schedule a 20-minute meeting with play. Go ahead, write “Play” on your calendar. When the meeting comes due, play. Your playdate is all the more important if you struggle to know what to do during your meeting with play.

How could you be playful today?

Still curious:

Playful Mischief: A Story of Deception

Playful Mischief and Lighthearted Fun is Seriously Worthwhile

This post is a collaboration between Dan Rockwell and Stan Endicott.

Note: I relax my 300-word limit on weekends.