behavior · creativity · play · psychology · work

How Play Makes You A Better Adult

I Watch them watch them play the game Then I w...
Adults at play. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Happy Friday. The weather is turning beautiful in many places around the U.S., with lots of sun. In fact one school in Washington gave kids the day off so they could go out and play. Some places get snow days, the principal figured, so why not a sun day? Perfect reasoning to me.

Unfortunately a lot of adults don’t take these opportunities to go out and play, thinking it’s a “waste” of their time. But, as I constantly argue on this blog, play is vital for healthy grown-ups too.

Erika Andersen explores the intersection between work and play for grown-ups, and how play makes us better grown-ups.

Sadly, by the time most of us reach our teens, play has been replaced as our primary learning mode by competition, memorization, practice and recitation – otherwise known as “sports” and “school.”  And we come to think of play as something we do when there’s nothing more urgent to be done – as time stolen from more critical things. However, the elements that make play such a great way to learn when we’re kids still work for us when we’re adults.  The happiest and most creative adults I know regularly bring play into their lives as a way to stretch, evolve, innovate and – this is important – enjoy.  Here’s a great example – two guys named Jay Silver and Eric Rosenbaum have created a kit called MaKey MaKey, that allows you to control any electronic device using household objects.

…When you play, you’re making up the world.  You’re saying, “Let’s imagine that…”  or “Why don’t we…?”  or “What if….?” And that’s where freshness, learning and innovation live.

Full article at: How Play Can Make You a Better Grown-up | Forbes

Andersen offers up some ideas on how to be more playful as a grown-up, although as she points out the whole point of being playful is to think outside the box, so just think of these as starting places:

Be the littlest kid.  You know how when kids play, the littler kids usually follow the older kids’ lead?  When you play with actual kids, let them call the shots, rather than you, adult-like, defining the play.  You’ll get drawn into wonderful worlds you would never have considered.

Declare a no win-zone.  Occasionally, when trying someone new, agree with yourself that the goal isn’t to ‘get good at it’ or ‘be better at this than so-and-so’ – but rather ‘to look like a fool’ or ‘have as much fun as possible.’ Remember what Bettelheim says about play including “the absence of any goals outside the activity itself.”

Lose the watch.  Little kids have no sense of time.  When they’re engrossed in something, hours could pass and they’d never know it. Try moving all your time-based commitments out of a day (or at least part of a day), and give yourself permission to do whatever you want for as long as you want.  Get fascinated about your choices.

Bring play to work.  Sometime during the next week, approach a work problem through the rules of play, that is “characterized by freedom from all but personally imposed rules (which are changed at will).”  Start thinking about it by asking “What if we didn’t have any constraints – how would we think about this?”  If you really get into that “play” mindset, you just might come up with a crazy notion that contains the germ of greatness.