Free play, the unstructured play of children, unlocks within the ability to co-create a new reality through interactive creations with the environment. To play doesn’t just mean to create a fantasy world, like we did as children, where we could play and swim and soar, in our minds to our hearts content. To play, for adults, also means approaching all of your creations with a sense of curiosity and freedom; allowing your creation to flow from your fingertips.
Take the rules of meditation – sit up straight, breathe deeply, clear your mind – sometimes you get bound up in the rules and you end up feeling inadequate, unable to do the meditation, if you cannot meet every rule with perfection. What is you could bring a sense of playfulness to meditation? What if you set aside the rules and decided there is no way to do it wrong? Would meditation feel easier to do? Might you feel less stressed about meditation? Is is possible that you could be more relaxed, without the rules?
Bringing a sense of playfulness has many benefits, including that it increases creativity and innovation. Creating a playful culture at work also increases employee engagement; motivation, and retention. Because of this, I am working on a course for business leaders; to teach them how to supercharge their business by adding a culture of play. But play isn’t just for business. Adults who adopt childlike play and wonder will find that almost all areas of their life are improved.
What makes a sense of playfulness? Below are four concepts offered for your consideration:
- You have a willingness to let go of expected outcomes and just let it flow
- You trust in your ability to try, and try again
- You have an openness to the input of others
- You set aside rules and structure and allow yourself to play at it
A Willingness to Let Go of Expected Outcomes: For those who fear being seen as inadequate, letting go seems to be impossible. For some, the idea of relaxing control brings deeply held fears to the surface. There are methods to release those fears, but that would comprise a whole class rather than a blog. For now, we can just play at this. Find something easy, something that doesn’t really matter; and let go of expected outcomes. Maybe it is meditation, or maybe it is cooking, maybe it’s dancing. Pick something easy, and dive in without setting up expectations of outcomes. What is the worst that can happen?
The Ability to Try, and to Try Again: When you let go of outcomes, you are no longer vested in the end result; you are now creating for the sake of creating. This is the sweet spot; where your creativity can be unleashed. Who cares if it isn’t right? What could you learn from the attempt that produced a result you didn’t like? What if you applied that learning to your next attempt? To try, and try, and try again is not failure, it is simply learning the steps involved in creating what you wish to create. Thomas Edison so famously stated, “I have not failed 10,000 times, I have successfully found 10,000 ways to build a light bulb that will not work”
An Openness to the Input of Others: When observing a child at play, you will note that for the most part, they can seamlessly integrate another child who drops by into their fantasy world. The children will co-create, each offering observations and suggestions, exponentially building the fantasy together. This beautiful act of co-creation stands as a model of our interactions as adults. What if you could accept, and play with, the suggestions of others for your creations? What if you could set aside ownership of the idea and use the suggestions of others playfully, just to see what possibilities became present? How could co-creation enhance the outcome of your creation?
Set Aside Rules and Structure: The rules of most games, and life, serve a purpose, to keep things organized and to control the flow. And yet, children seem to have the most fun when they are playing free, letting their imaginations run. I am not suggesting we let go of all rules; I am suggesting that a subtlety softened approach to rules may benefit you. If you colored outside the lines, would you die? If you meditated while laying down instead of sitting upright, would it be a failed attempt? If you cooked without measuring, would the world come to an end? Adding playfulness and flexibility to little areas of your life allows you to expand through trial and error, with no expectations of perfection.
What if you could apply these four simple, yet profound concepts to all areas of your life? How could your relationship be affected? Would you find within a deeper ability to take risks in your work life? Could your career be enhanced? Is it possible that your spiritual growth could skyrocket?
What other areas of your life could be improved if you brought a sense of play to it?