“True play that comes from our own inner needs and desires is the only path to finding lasting joy and satisfaction in our work. In the long run, work doesnot work without play.” - Stuart Brown, M.D.
Recently I spoke with a group of corporate professionals and asked about whether or not they play at work.
A hand raised.
A gentleman in the front row explained that he regularly played soccer during lunch, but he found it stressful (I was intrigued...).
"I feel pressure," he said, "because I need to win. If I don't win, I lose. If we lose, I go back to my desk feeling worse than when I started. Is that play?"
Maybe. But, maybe not.
To many the idea of play is confusing.
A round of golf could feel like incredible free play to one and more like work another. Same with organizing a party or exploring a new trail.
The difference is knowing YOUR play.
We all have play styles as unique to us as our personalities.
Your play could be a team sport, travel, drawing, writing, throwing a party, or baking bread.
The key to uncovering your play style and reconnecting to play in your life is the feeling.
It's all about the feeling you experience when you’re engaged in your play. We don't live for the doing - we live for the feeling.
If you feel enjoyment, enthusiasm, freedom, nurtured, liberated, or happy while doing this activity then you’re aligned with play.
Feeling stress, anxiety, attachment to an outcome, pressured for time, self-conscious, or numb are not the feeling states of play.
Sometimes we actually confuse activities for play because they can look like play to others, but if the feeling is rooted in stress it's not play.
You'll also notice that play has these properties, as described by Dr. Stuart Brown in "Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul":
Here's a quick exercise to dial into your play:
Think of a time – without judgment (because it might surprise you) – when the above components and feelings where present. You can go all the way back to childhood if you don’t have any recent memories.
What were you doing?
What did it feel like to do this activity?
Dr. Brown has discovered that "play personalities" generally fall into these eight categories:
This is someone who loves practical jokes, telling jokes or being silly.
This is someone who likes to move, either through dance, running, playing soccer, or doing yoga.
This is someone who finds travel or new experiences their favorite form of play.
This is someone who loves rules in the game and wants to win. Think a good chess match that you want to keep playing. The challenge with the Competitor is how far you take the game. If it goes beyond “fun and games” and into stress, anger, or resentment, you’ve left play and gone into an unhealthy attachment to the outcome.
The director loves planning and executing. Planning and hosting parties are their thing.
Collectors love their toys and to tinker with them. Think car collectors, audioheads, or art collectors. We've all see this form of play go beyond play too, like cat collectors. If there is an anxiety around not expanding the collection it's no longer play and more likely an addiction.
The joy for the artist/creator is in making things, from painting to baking, or stained glass.
For the storyteller imagination is the key, from telling a written story to performing one on stage.
Which one(s) do you identify with most?
Now think of a really EASY way that you could add more of that type of play into your life. Example: If you connect to storytelling. Buy a new writing journal and write one single page a day. This could be poetry, a fiction novel - anything - but start by telling a story.
There is always an easy way to add your form of play into your life.
It's our job to allow ourselves the time and space to connect to the pure enjoyment of our play in our lives.