With so many important responsibilities in life, it is easy to be very serious, all too often. I know that I tend towards the serious a lot of the time because I get so immersed in my work. It’s not that I am unhappy—I am actually very happy—but I generally approach life in a very serious manner. If you are anything like me, you probably can use some tips and techniques to bring more silliness, fun and playtime into your life.
What’s so important about play anyway? Well, as adults we are so well trained to get things done and somehow along our development we were told that play and work are two distinct entities. You can’t do one while doing the other. We were trained that to be smart and successful, your need to be focused and earnest. Because we want to be good adults, dependable for our families and responsible to others, we work hard and prove our worth. Well, it is grand that we are responsible adults, but when we exclude play in our repertoire, life can indeed be dull—to paraphrase the saying. Adding playfulness and full out playtime to your life gives you greater variety and more joy. And you can still be serious about things you need to be serious about, even while embracing fun.
One of my favorite ways to bring more fun into life is to go on a class trip. Well, not actually a school trip, but something like it. Do you remember how you felt when you went on class trips as a kid? You might have found those trips exciting, scary or fun, but they were definitely a way to introduce you to new things. There is no reason why you can’t do the same as an adult. Where do you want to go for your field trip? Museums, parks, zoos, amusement parks, arcades are all great ideas. Libraries and bookstores are also great. Check out a section of books that you don’t usually look at like the children section or the crafts section.
Go to play and nothing more. No need to set great expectations. Just hold on to the perspective that you will try something and see if it is fun. If not, on to the next! You can try this by yourself, or with others. Maybe you can even find someone who is excellent at playing. There are huge differences from person to person so seek out someone who has a natural tendency to have fun and enjoy playing.
Another great way to invite play into your life is to go to a toy store. Remember that great scene in the movie Big where Tom Hanks goes to FAO Schwarz and plays on the huge piano? Talk about embracing childhood! Go to a toy store (unfortunately the FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue in NYC has closed) and embrace your kid-ness while you check out all the different toys, old and new, that are available. What were your favorite toys? Are they still available? Don’t be inhibited—run around the store like a kid and check everything out!
Now that you are thinking more like a kid, what kinds of games and activities did you used to love? I loved jacks—actually I still have my set of super balls and jacks that I occasionally bring out to play. Hopscotch is another fun one to play—just grab some chalk and find some concrete to draw your board. Think some more about how you played as a kid. Jump rope and hula-hoop can be fun. Maybe you loved stargazing. There are really cool apps available for stargazing that help you to identify what’s up above at night. Or did you enjoy arts and crafts? Pull together some materials and give it a whirl. The key thing is to not edit yourself and try out anything and everything you suspect you might enjoy. This is about being silly and playful so don’t beat yourself up if it turns out you no longer love to weave baskets like you used to. Just move on to the next activity and keep playing.
And though these are all wonderful ways to bring more playtime into your life, I also strongly suggest that you ease up a bit, even during times when you need to be serious—like at work. There is no reason why you can’t bring play to your work. In fact, being playful often leads to greater creativity and problem solving. You can be serious about your work while using a playful style.
For instance, if you have a repetitive task that you need to get done at your desk, why not create a mini game for yourself to see how much more fun you can have while getting your project done errorless. And if you are working with a team, there are many playful ways to work together, even if the topic is heavy and important. Bring it up to your team and brainstorm together how you can accomplish the task at hand with greater fun and play. Your team will be rewarded with greater productivity while having a fun time.
Fun is a very underrated activity. For many people, play is relegated to the weekends only and even then, getting chores done can overrule having fun. So you must consciously decide that you are going to play. Put it in your schedule just like any other important goal for your life. And if you approach whatever you are doing with a playful mindset, you will get better and better at allowing fun to permeate all aspects of your life.