During my presentations when I discuss the benefits of play in adults, a comment that I often hear is, “Gary, I don’t know how to play.” If this sounds like you, play close attention because I’m going to give you a tip that will help start to unlock your play-drive.
The challenge most adults are facing is that it’s not that they don’t know how to play, it’s that they forgot how to play. When we were kids we had no problem playing. In fact, everything we did involved some sort of play. Then, as we got older we put play in the backseat and prioritized adult things like work and paying bills. This resulted in decreased creativity and increased stress. Can you relate? The truth is, humans are wired for play. A wise person once said, “Adults are just kids who atrophied.” Play doesn’t have to be complicated. It is doing something that brings you joy just for the sake of doing it. This requires a little intentional practice. Committing to a playful practice may seem like a waste of time. However, those who rebel against the status quo of adulthood find that it brings out their real selves, and the superpowers that may have been dormant.
This reminds me of the scene in the 1991 movie Hook, where grown-up Peter Pan sits down to eat dinner with the Lost Boys. To Peter’s surprise there is no “actual” food on the table. The Lost Boys are pretending to eat imaginary food which frustrates Peter because he is hungry. The scene escalates when one of the Lost Boys, Rufio, begins insulting Peter. Peter counters with non playful insults, which makes the Lost Boys laugh at him. Eventually, Peter lets go and allows himself to play. He gets so lost in the game that he forgets there is no real food on the table and mimes throwing imaginary food at Rufio. To Peter’s amazement, the food actually appears and hits Rufio in the face. This turns into a food fight which climaxes with a now frustrated Rufio throwing a coconut at Peter. Peter taps into his adolescent self and instinctively swings his sword around and slices the coconut in two before it hits him.
Now back to you. What is something that you used to do when you were younger that brought you joy? For me, it was building things out of LEGOs. Take a moment to go back in time and think about when you used to do that joyful activity. I bet just the thought of it makes you feel good, doesn’t it?
Now the next step, is making space for it in the present. It doesn’t need to take a long time, it can be as short as five minutes. Sometimes, I build something small with LEGOs during a work break. Schedule it in your calendar and bring awareness to how you feel before and after. My play mentor, Gwen Gordon, calls this “following your compass of joy”. Following your compass of joy will guide you back to that childlike spirt of play and perhaps bring out a superpower you forgot you had.
Feel free to leave a comment and let me know what you are committing to do that will bring you joy.