Learn to Play Again

When was the last time you found yourself fully immersed in fun? Or remember a time when the hours flew by and the world around you disappeared?

Do countless examples come flying in, or like most, are you left with memories of a daily routine running on repeat in your mind?

Whether it was playing with toys as children, or playing a game as an individual or part of a team, there was a time in our lives when playing was not only expected… it was encouraged! So what happened?

Sure, we grew up, but what really happened?

This week I want to explore our relationship with play, and look through the lens of incorporating more fun and enjoyment into our lives – not on special occasions, but rather as often as possible.

Ready to play?

While thinking about this topic, I found myself going back to a conversation I had with a colleague several years ago. During the conversation, he asked, “do you remember how to have fun?

This question took me off guard and really hit me…

In my mind it wasn’t about whether something was fun or not… Sure, I knew how to have fun in my adult life.  However, for me, it was really about whether or not I remembered how to play.

Did I remember then, and do I remember now?

Since moving to the DC Metro area in 2010, it quickly became a race to reach certain goals… whether it was hitting an arbitrary salary amount or moving up a corporate ladder or progressing on a career path, there was always the next external milestone to hit. It’s not that I didn’t have time to play, I just didn’t think about it. There were other things on my mind.

I’m not saying I shouldn’t have had those goals back then, or shouldn’t still have some of those goals today.

What I am saying is that throughout much of that time, I never prioritized play – not nearly enough. So much so, that when asked the question, I ended up speechless.  I had truly forgotten…

Anyone else feeling the same way?

So how can we remain focused on our goals and dreams and give ourselves the time and permission to play again?

Ditch the Business Suit for a T-shirt and Shorts and GO PLAY!

How can we rekindle our sense of play, and in so doing, reawaken a bit of the child we used to be?

As I watch my small children play each day, there are two things that stand out.

First, the world around them melts away and they enter their flow.

And second, they are filled with so much energy and channel that energy entirely into what they are doing… so much so that when they are done playing, they are completely spent and ready to crash – nothing left in the tank.

How often are we living life this way? Or are we chugging along during our day waiting for the clock to hit the proverbial 5 o’clock while crushing coffee after coffee to give us enough of an energy boost to get through?

What if there was another possibility? A chance to refuel and not care about the clock? In my mind, that possibility exists, and it is play.

So how do we incorporate play into our already busy lives?

Give yourself permission

I know this sounds like a throw away piece of advice, but there really is no other place to start.

I realize that I blow so many opportunities to be fully immersed in play with my kids because the achiever in me is thinking about what I’m not getting done or what else I could be doing… such as mowing the lawn or laying down mulch or fixing something around the house. All of that thinking keeps me from being fully present, and we must be fully present if we can properly play.

So give yourself permission to put all the adult responsibilities aside and be a bit of a kid again. I promise, all the adult stuff will be waiting for you when you are done.

Schedule the time

As mentioned above, there are always chores to do, e-mails to reply to, or other to-dos that can get in the way of making time for ourselves to play. Therefore, be intentional and schedule time in the evening or on weekends (or any other point in the day / week that works for you) for play.

We put all the doing-type things on our calendars, so why not block off some time for the being stuff too?

Decide what 2-3 recreational activities fire you up and make you smile

What gets you excited and feeling like a kid again? Is it golf, pick up basketball, hiking, pool time fun or something as simple as playing with LEGOs with your kiddos?

Whatever lights you up and allows you to completely disconnect with the world around you while having a smile plastered don your face, DO THOSE THINGS!

Get rid of the distractions

How many times are you finally getting around to having fun when your phone goes off and compels you to check it?

Don’t let the vibration or ding from a smartphone or some other device take you out of being in your moment. I know it can be tough to disconnect. We live in a day and age when it is extremely difficult to not be connected.

However I caution all of us that it is because of this constant connection that we end up struggling to connect with those around us, or even connect with ourselves.

So when it’s time to play, disconnect as much as possible and don’t let yourself get knocked out of the flow of what you are doing.  Don’t let the fear of missing out cause you to miss out.

Include others in the fun

Making time for play is also an opportunity to create memorable experiences with those you want to spend time with.

Whether your significant other, kids, friends, neighbors, etc., expand your play time to those around you. Give them the opportunity to remember what it feels like to be a kid again and tap into that energy that we all used to feel as kids on a daily basis.

Take the time to reflect on your play time

Alright team – here is the advanced step… the extra set in the gym.

Once you are done with your play time, take the time to reflect, and don’t take these moments for granted.

Think through what made your experience so much fun and invoked your sense of play.

The more you can see what makes play time fun, the more likely you can find opportunities to incorporate moments of play and fun in your daily life.

Maybe it is sneaking in a sense of competition among coworkers – gamifying some of the mundane tasks of the day. Or maybe you can actually gather some colleagues during a lunch hour and play a game of basketball or a card game.

Whatever you find that works in your life will make the dull times more interesting and build a better culture and energy for those around you as well.  Most of us spend the majority of our days at work – why not find ways to have fun while there?

Building a Life of Play

We were all put on this Earth to enjoy life. Regardless of what we do on a daily basis, we have the daily opportunity to make the most of what we’ve been given, work towards our goals and dreams **AND** have a great time along the way.

Start to take a step back every once in a while and ask yourself the question – how can this dull / slow time in my life be more fun? How can I turn it into a time to play?

The best athletes never lose their passion and love around the fun of the game they play – make sure you never lose yours.

Discussion Question: What can you start to do this week to create more opportunities for play in your life?

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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