Is this PLAY? Why or why not? Leave a comment.
Now that we are clear on the more "scholarly" definitions of PLAY, we can begin to notice what is play and what is not in our own lives.
No matter how much we read-talk-learn about play, we don't have a true understanding without experiencing play. And the fun part comes in discovering that we all have a different internal sense of play, much like our preferences for food or sexual mates.
So let's experiment. I'll show you an image and you say whether or not your "play radar" (play-dar?) lights up.
Is this PLAY? Why or why not? Leave a comment!
Drum roll please... It's #6, the final piece to the Play puzzle!
In recent posts, I shared that play is Voluntary, Purposeless, Present Moment, Fun, and Not Self-Consciousness. Those all are fantastic traits, but I saved my favorite for last.
Quality #6: Play is UNCERTAIN.
When you play, you never know what is going to happen! Imagine kids using pillows and cushions to make shapes on the floor.
It's not difficult to envision a knock-down, drag-out pillow fight naturally evolving. (Even better, this spontaneous giggle-fest occurred with a group of adults in one of my classes recently.)
When you become ok with not knowing what’s going to happen, the space expands for something new to get created.
Yet, accepting uncertainty and relinquishing control can be challenging - even when our brains understand logically that we have little to no control over anything anyways. Perceived security lies in not having to improvise; what if we look stupid or waste money or get hurt? There is nothing right or wrong about the desire for certainty.
In each moment, we get to choose - the predictable vs. the unknown - the old standby vs. the new menu item - the agreeable smile vs. the potential disagreement.
Today, find 3 ways to choose uncertainty. What would your day be like if you stretched yourself to be hungry for uncertainty, improvisation, spontaneous creations?
We have established play as Voluntary, Purposeless, Present Moment, and Fun.
Quality #5: Play is NOT SELF-CONSCIOUS.
When we play, the mask naturally comes off! We become so engaged in the innate pleasures of play that we stop worrying about what we look like or what others think of us.
Not only is this release of anxiety thoroughly relaxing, it also allows for more creativity and productivity. When people get vulnerable, they connect. A team vibe grows organically; everybody starts contributing because it becomes okay to make mistakes.
One of my favorite parts about facilitating play events is that adults arrive as acquaintances or even strangers, and by the end, they inevitably are arranging lunch dates and work collaborations. Just like kids on the playground, right?!
Today, notice when you are feeling most self-conscious, or shaping your actions based on wanting to look good (or avoid looking bad). We all exist in that mode at some level if we look close enough. Simply see what you see, without making yourself or others wrong.
Be your own experiment! You can choose to shake things up and act differently than you normally would and see what happens - or not - either way is a-okay.
Previous posts revealed that play is Voluntary, Purposeless, and Present Moment. And now the one you've been waiting for...
Quality #4: Play is FUN!
We innately enjoy play; it just plain feels good. And when it's over, we want to do it again! This fact in itself reinforces that we are made to play - it's a critical piece of the biological puzzle, a survival tool.
Of course, each person's definition of enjoyment is different (which relates to each of us having deeply-ingrained passions that lead to unique purposes, but that's a different post). For some, an image of a roller coaster elicits glee, and for others, ambivalence or even heart palpitations.
Today, drop all the self-improvement rituals and personal growth mumbo-jumbo. Instead, do something that is fun. No other reasons are needed; it brings you pleasure and that is that.
Everybody... hands up! Waaahhoooooooooo!! See, that wasn't so bad, was it?
So far, we've established that for play to be play, it must be voluntary and it must be purposeless.
Numero tres is simple: Play is PRESENT MOMENT.
My favorite part about this quality is that it happens naturally! In many religious and spiritual practices, a lot of effort is exerted in corralling awareness back to the present. In no way am I saying this is a bad thing. And... play engages us in the present effortlessly.
Play is meditation in action. What if we used a smidgeon of our meditation or prayer time to be playful, to return to our playground roots? As the younger human animals whoosh down the slide, they are not second-guessing the outfit they chose to wear or wondering what's for dinner. Past and future do not exist.
Today, allow yourself to become 100% engrossed in something, if even for a few minutes. For ideas, think about what you were doing the last time you were having fun and lost track of time. It could be as simple as doodling on a work file, or belting out a show tune in the car. Notice how you feel afterward, without judgment.
This six-part series explores a new way to understand PLAY, using Dr. Stuart Brown's definition as a framework. He identifies six key qualities to define play. The first quality that sets play apart is that it must be voluntary. (See last post.)
Quality #2? Play is PURPOSELESS.
Play is not practical. It's not trying to achieve something. Instead, we play for the pure sake of playing.
When is the last time you did something without having a reason or a desired outcome?
The paradox is that although we are not focused on attaining results, we tend to feel quite energized and accomplished after a solid session of play. Remember those crazy games you made up with your childhood friends - the ones that would last hours, or even an entire summer, because you kept adding rules and scenarios to prolong the fun? It wasn't about winning. In fact, kids naturally concoct "handicaps" of sorts to level the playing field so that everyone can keep playing and having fun.
Today, challenge yourself to do something playful for no other reason than to experience play. I'd love to hear what you came up with!
Most of us relate to play as an activity, like rollerskating, drawing, or card games. True, and... a greater meaning exists in the wide world of PLAY.
My favorite definition of play comes from Dr. Stuart Brown, who has been researching play for almost 25 years. He uses six key qualities to define play. This six-part series explores a new way to understand PLAY, using Dr. Brown's definition as a framework.
Let's start with one.
For play to be play, it must be VOLUNTARY.
If someone locked the doors and chained you to your chair, you probably wouldn't be feeling so playful (sexual innuendo aside).
The moment you feel put on the spot or are participating out of obligation, you no longer are playing.
Consider this concept of voluntary in the bigger context. What would the world look like if we allowed everybody else to be who they are, without trying to change them? Or what if we acknowledged we are the sole creators of our lives, and took ownership over our past, present, and future choices?
Ok, back to the fun stuff.
Today, institute this idea of voluntary in your world. Choose to do something purely because you want to do it, not because you have to do it. For bonus points, choose something that puts a little pep in your step. Ideas include walking across the parking lot like a chicken, scheduling a friend date, or going to bed a half hour earlier to read a juicy novel.
Volunteer to yourself today!