"When was the last time you played?" I asked my client, Heather, a 41-year-old working mom with two kids and a very busy schedule.
"What do you mean? Like, with my kids?" she responded.
"No, just for yourself. What does it really feel like for you to play?" Silence. Then she sighed.
The reactions I get when I ask about play far exceed reactions to any other four-letter word I’ve dropped during a coaching call.
I usually get one of these:
The blank stare:
I know they heard me, but it’s like I suddenly switched to a foreign language because it’s just pure confusion.
The eye roller:
This is when I usually hear something along the lines of, “I’ve got shit to do. Play isn’t going to help me. What I really need is to do something productive."
The stare of disgust:
I’m pretty sure they just want to punch me in the face with the idea of adding one more thing to the to-do list.
The light up:
Like a puppy dog. It's a beautiful combination of relief, excitement and thrill for the permission to run free.
See yourself in any of these?
What I find so interesting is the strong visceral reaction I regularly receive when I talk about play. Most of us are deprived of play. And yearning to feel the energy of play in our lives. Try to bury that yearning and a strong reaction to play makes a lot of sense.
Why the yearning?
Because you're meant to play.
Including play in your life will help you operate at your optimum state.
Humans more so than any other animal on the planet are meant to play from infancy into old age.
While play has huge benefits of helping us be more creative and problem solve in new ways, the heart of play is really living with the feeling of joy and freedom.
It is time to reconnect with what it feels like to play.
If you’re suddenly feeling dead in your tracks about what play feels like that’s okay... you never lose your deep connection to play (unless you're a sociopath, but we won't go there).
We’re meant to live with the current of joy flowing through our lives and play is one of the major vehicles to joy that we don’t lose as we grow up.
What do you find joy in doing?
What feels like freedom to you?
Asking yourself these questions is how you can start to play with play. Dance in your kitchen, hike in the woods, tell a stupid joke -- whatever you do -- point your compass toward the feeling of joy and freedom.
You may not know what your form of play is right now, and that’s totally okay. Don’t take it too seriously, this can be your first game to play with it and find enjoyment in the discovery. The rewards of this game will be profound in immeasurable ways.