Do you ever feel like you want to get MORE out of life? What’s the secret? Do you know HOW to enjoy life, work and play?
When was the last time you watched kids play? If you have children, you’ve probably recently observed how they interact with each other. If you don’t have kids at home, find a niece, nephew or friend and check out the way they play.
It’s intense, right?
Kids go back and forth in dialogue. They pretend. They let their imaginations run wild. One minute they’re a spaceman on the moon, the next they’re a lion in the jungle. They pretend, they try on different rolls, they test theories and put on different identities.
Play among kids is absolutely critical to the way they learn and grow. It teaches kids how to enjoy life, become grownups and how to interact socially with their peers. They aren’t simply going “la la la” or acting laissez-faire about it. They’re engaged. They’re experimenting. They’re exploring and engaging in risks and adventures. Play is all about development and discovery.
When we think of play as adults, we might feel baffled. What does it even mean to “play” as adults?
Many people don’t think of their relationships as environments for play, either. Relationships are about feelings and emotions—there’s no room for risk or trial and error there, right?
Perhaps when you hear “play” you think of a vacation, sunning on the beach with an umbrella drink in your hand. You may think of play as an escape. You may think of play as recreation-only.
But guess what? Intense, engaged, experimental, growth-focused play doesn’t end when we’re kids. Adults benefit just as much from play. In ALL areas of our lives—work, relationships, home and during recreation.
Even the word recreation means to be growth-focused. Recreation means to re-create oneself. If we want to learn and develop, we need to test the waters, experiment and use every experience as a platform for growth. If we want to get MORE out of life, we need to have more fun! We need to play!
Think about the last time you played a game. Maybe it was a trivia night at a local hangout or perhaps your extended family plays board games whenever they get together. Maybe you play sports on a local rec league or even play a musical instrument or engage in a creative endeavor.
Play stimulates us. Play makes us feel more alive, more engaged and more vibrant.
When we play, we’re actually experimenting. Reframing activities (and yes, even work) as play takes the pressure off. It gives us permission to use trial and error to see what will work in each situation and what doesn’t work so well. When we “play” whether we’re at our jobs, in our relationships or doing tasks around the house, we instantly inject a sense of engagement and adventure into our lives. We feel like we’re getting the most out of life.
I know, if you aren’t used to playing as an adult it may seem a little frivolous or silly at first, but studies are showing play is critical to developing emotional intelligence. Play is a vital part of being growth-focused and living an abundant life.
Businesses and corporations have discovered the importance of play. Many forward-thinking companies now incorporate retreats and team building exercises (a.k.a. play) into their training and professional-development process. Play helps us build connections, interact positively with our peers and grow as a team (as well as individuals).
None of us knows what’s to come in our future. None of us can see what life will throw our way. When we view life as a playground and a game, it allows us to roll with the punches. We get up, dust ourselves off and try again—it’s only play, after all, right?
I like to find ways to incorporate play into almost anything. I set a timer to see how quickly I can achieve a task. I test new methods for attacking work and view it as an experiment or a challenge rather than drudgery. Heck, I’ve even been known to make a game out of cleaning the house! (“How quickly can I get this toilet scrubbed? What if I use my left hand instead of my right to dust? Put on music and have a dance party with my vacuum? Yes!”)
You see, exploring and adventure leads us to discovery. When we get up, move, dance, laugh, challenge ourselves, we’re forming new connections and experiencing new realizations.
Whether you’re at a networking event for work or a meet-and-greet for singles, chances are you get a little nervous. We want to make a great impression. We want to click with other people. We want them to think highly of us and to like us.
What if you viewed it as a game instead?
What if you take the pressure off at your next conference and flipped it? See how many DIFFERENT people you talk to. See how many business cards you collect. How many people will you click with if you’re being your true, genuine self?
Or what about your next blind date? So you aren’t sure about the person. View it as a chance to see how YOU interact with different people. What will you learn about the other person? Can you discover commonalities? Are you willing to speak up when there are differences?
Take the pressure off and view it like a kid on the playground.
If something doesn’t go well, use a different approach. Go down the slide headfirst, get into superman (or woman) position on the swings! Mix it up! Challenge yourself. Forget being self-conscious! It’s just play after all.
Play is a critical part of growth and enjoying life. As adults, if we’ve lost this whole aspect of play, our lives become stagnant, boring and unstimulating. We disengage. We zone out to soft addictions. Even our vacations aren’t true times of recreation because we’re not using them as an environment for rejuvenation and re-creation!
When we incorporate more play and adventure in our lives we see a difference in our energy levels. Play engages the younger part of us that’s more self-nourishing and focused on discovery. We’ll find ourselves wanting more from life, living with more vibrancy and more energy. We’ll feel renewed and nourished.
So go out there and get spontaneous! View the world as a chance to experiment and engage. Use play to re-learn how to enjoy life again, like when we were children. See what works and what doesn’t. Take the pressure off, jump in and go for it!
For more on how to enjoy life, how to engage deeply and live a vibrant, spectacular life, please visit The Wright Foundation. Join us for a Foundations Weekend Training, where you can learn ways to grow, engage and incorporate more playful fun into your life!
Dr. Judith Wright is a media favorite, sought-after inspirational speaker, respected leader, peerless educator, bestselling author, & world-class coach.
She is a co-founder of The Wright Foundation and the Wright Graduate University.
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The Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential is a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Foundation performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.