Play is under-rated in our society. When I was pursuing an education degree, my teacher referred to play as children’s sacred work.
Unfortunately, as we age taking opportunity to play can seem silly, frivolous, or unproductive. At the other extreme, play sometimes gets associated with deadly serious organized sports. Neither approach seems appealing.
However, some of the most creative people on the planet regard their work as play. Sir Alexander Fleming who discovered penicillin described his work as “playing with microbes”.
The definition of play is any activity where the reward is in the doing of it. It includes a sense of spontaneity, personal (vs. extrinsic) reward, when the ‘player’ is neither ill nor stressed.
Companies like Google and Netflix have discovered that encouraging playfulness and a free flow of ideas benefits both the employee and the company. Providing a canteen with free food where people can meet and bounce ideas off each other, or removing administrative burdens from their ‘creatives’, and allowing daydreaming can pay off in innovation.
Recently I asked a colleague who was feeling stressed over a challenge that I regarded as potentially creative, what she could do to make it fun. She was deeply shocked.
“Fun?” she exclaimed. “That never occurred to me!”
I challenge you this week to either take time to play at anything you might find fun (with no thought of making it productive!) or to take some activity you are already doing, and ask yourself what you could do to make it more fun.
And let me know how you do!
May we pursue our paths, remembering to play and have fun along the way,