The Importance of Play in Adulthood
“Act your age.”
For most of us, our life is all about compliance. We had to live by a certain set of expectations. We get hardened, cold, and so disconnected from our playful selves.
There was no room to be curious.
When was the last time you genuinely enjoyed what you were doing? When did you stop playing?
Adulting can be pretty demanding, but remember—no one gets to tell you how you should enjoy your life. We’re all entitled to express ourselves freely, relax our intensity, increase curiosity, and pivot quickly when things don’t work for us. These are all by-products of play.
Steve Rix, an employee engagement expert and author of Play Saves the Day, helps us discover our personal playful path to transformation. He is on a mission to be a prophet of play to help the global mental health pandemic.
Breaking False Narratives
Play isn’t productive.
This is so wrong. Many still don’t understand that curious, engaged, and emotionally safe people are highly productive human beings. These are people who didn’t stop playing.
On the contrary, those who are overly compliant, disengaged, and emotionally void just tend to get by.
So no, play isn’t unproductive. It’s actually a balanced practice that gets you more things done. When the culture is more relaxed and playful, it’s easier to get into the work.
Play is our training wheels for adulthood.
This narrative has been so ingrained in society. We’re taught that in adulthood, we leave childish things behind.
“It’s for little kids.”
“It’s for those who don’t have responsibilities.”
There’s a difference between being immature and being playful. When we’re in that space where we can let our hair down, we can be totally who we are. That way, we can tap into our maximum potential.
Admit it, you want to get shit done, but you also want to have fun.
Play is the world of the ultra-elite.
This is another misplaced idea of play. All along, we’ve thought that play is the opportunity we get if we’ve worked hard enough to give ourselves a little reward.
The opposite of play is not work—it’s resistance.
Many succeed not because they love and enjoy what they’re doing but simply because they’re so good at it.
The essence of play is any activity that makes you feel fully present and emotionally connected. It gives you a sense of imagination. It really has no purpose except the joy of whatever you’re doing.
Play and Safety
Today, in business, people are not equipped to be humans. You are equipped with a checklist of things to do. And if you can’t comply, you get replaced.
In this kind of setup, you get in trouble for playing.
It’s our generation that suffers most from this culture. We want connectivity, but it’s hard to achieve that when there’s no space for emotional empathy in the workplace.
We can’t play if we don’t feel safe.
Unless you know there is no threat, your nervous system will not allow you to get into that state of play because we’re taught to be hypervigilant and always be on guard. This overrides our natural capacity to play.
When we stop playing, we start competing.
The workplace has become a performance place, and unless you’re hungry enough to win at all costs, you will lose. This whole paradigm just pits people against each other. Work has become a deeply immersed sense of competition instead of collaboration.
It’s no longer play when we’re attached to the outcome.
We stop being present and fully immersed in the experience just for the sheer enjoyment of it and instead try our best to be the winner. We become super analytical.
You don’t have to fit inside a box and perform at a certain level. Play is there to liberate people and get them to enjoy life.
“I deserve to have fun.”
Life doesn’t have to be so serious. You don’t always have to be adaptive. Proactively participate and experience your life.
Remember how your face lit up whenever your friends said, “Let’s play!”? You can, and you should be that friend to yourself. Detach from what others think of you and do life your way.
It’s not that you don’t know how to play anymore. Think of play as a muscle—if you don’t use it, you lose it. So you have to engage with it consistently.
Steve can help you exactly with that! Every dollar from your purchase of his new book Play Saves the Day goes to Seize the Awkward, a mental health awareness campaign designed to help those in need. Catch us next week for another fun and playful Coachable episode!