Man is most nearly himself when he achieves the seriousness of a child at play.
Misce stultitiam consiliis brevem; dulce est desipere in loco.
(Mix a little foolishness with your prudence: it’s good to be silly at the right moment.) -Horace
Don’t ever let your mind keep you from having a good time. -Jason Mraz
A sense of playfulness is the best defense against taking yourself too seriously.
-Peter Kai Chang
I think entrepreneurship is our natural state -a big adult word that boils down to something much more obvious like playfulness. -Richard Branson
Playfulness is more important than play. According to SteveGross, Executive Director – and Chief Playmaker – of The Life is good Playmakers, “We all know that it is critical for kids of all ages to play. And we know that play can take many forms. But there’s a deeper idea about the importance for kids to learn how to be playful – and how that spirit should permeate their development.”
The same goes for adults.
One of the surest techniques for being playful is to not keep score. As soon as you start keeping score or comparing one person’s performance to another, playfulness goes away and self-esteem is at stake. Stress and striving start, and unhappiness looms with the prospect of falling short, losing, or failing.
In 10 Ways to MakeYour Life More Playful, Melissa Kirk, says, “When we lose ourselves in play, whether creating a make-believe world, throwing a ball between friends, frolicking with our dog, or watching silly YouTube videos, we allow ourselves to get out of the linear, problem-solution, adult mindset. We’re activating a part of our brains that we don’t use much in the grown-up world: the one that doesn’t care about deadlines or mortgages or how much we weigh, the one that doesn’t care how we look to others.”
Bernie Dekoven, author of The Well Played Game, observes, “Even though I rigorously claim that ‘the playful path is the shortest road to happiness,’ it often happens that we don’t choose to be playful. We could, but we don’t. Maybe we’re not happy enough. Maybe some perverse part of ourselves is having more fun being miserable. But even the best of us, even the most professionally playful of us, forget to be playful. And even though we have the choice and we know we have the choice, we simply can’t get ourselves to play. We can’t act playfully, or feel playful or be playful.
“Sure, we can play the same kinds of games we played when we were children, but experiencing those same games, as adults, weaving them into the context of what we have since learned and experienced and dreamed, the games become something else, we become something more. We care for each other differently. We appreciate each other differently. We play with each other differently.
“For many reasons, it can take us years, decades before we can allow ourselves embrace fun and silliness the way we once did when we were children. And when we finally make it back, we discover that we are different, and it is different; and yet it welcomes us, embraces us as powerfully, as naturally, as meaningfully as it did when we last understood its place in our lives – more meaningfully, because we are adults, and we must, not because, but in spite of it all, choose to have fun, to be silly.”
Techniques to Facilitate Play Behavior
1. List three times or periods in your life during each week when you are free from responsibility.
2. Go back to your own childhood and think about the kind of play you enjoyed at that time.
3. Pay attention to your dreams and daydreams about play. For one month keep a journal record of your dreams. Pay attention to the ones that are particularly free, spontaneous, and joyful.
4. Plan to spend at least two hours each week watching children play. Do this for one month. Do you find yourself smiling inside as you watch them? What kinds of activities are they experiencing?
5. Plan to play with children during the week. If you have your own children, make a special effort to play with them ”just for the fun of it.” Did you laugh out loud during your play with them?
6. List three friends who are most playful and fun to be with. Think about how you could plan to spend more time with these people.
7. Think about the kind of environment or setting that you need for play. Do you need to be outside your home? Do you need to be wearing special “play” clothes? Is there a special room in your home where you feel most free and spontaneous?
8. Lock the bathroom door and look at yourself in the mirror. Try to think serious and then humorous thoughts. Smile at yourself in the mirror for two minutes.
9. Practice laughing with a friend. If necessary, have that friend tickle you. Tell each other jokes. go to a silly movie, Make a tape of yourself laughing and plan to play it back in privacy when you are feeling most depressed.