How much do you get to play?
“Creativity isn’t a place we go or something we do; it is a way of life. It is who we are meant to be. We are creators.” – Jacob Nordby
Life can get heavy and serious pretty quickly. There’s no time to play. We must get the work done first. Take care of our responsibilities. When we flick on the news we tell ourselves that play is a luxury. Inappropriate when so many serious things are happening around us.
But what we feel much of the heaviness and seriousness, BECAUSE we have left our spirit of play on the sidelines of life? And what if inviting more play into our daily rhythms, is actually a way to change the world from the inside out?
Playfulness encourages the unique essence of a person to grow and flourish. It opens the door. And allows you to hold the serious assumptions and expectations of the world around you with a lightness of step and a playfulness in perspective.
This is at the heart of gentle rebellion.Where we play with the ordinary, expected, and assumed right way to do things. And ask instead, ‘what if I was to do what I shouldn’t?’
We open up the door to deep relationships and connections with other people. When we play together, we transform together. We grow.
You’ve experienced it. A time of deep connection with someone or a group of people. Laughing together, creating together, playing games, letting your imaginations run wild, joking, and enjoying the power of being.
This is the foundation of the deep and serious stuff. A life of depth and a life of play are one and the same. They are not mutually exclusive.
What better example to look to than a comedian. Those brave souls in our culture who stand on stage and make us laugh. They understand that play and deep seriousness come together. They know that the best way to get into and explore the serious stuff and the big questions in life, is through play. Playfulness with ideas, with boundaries, with assumptions, and with the status quo.
When The Guard is Down
It’s through play that the best art is created. Music. Scientific discovery. Breakthroughs happen in those moments when the guard is down, when the clock is off, and the expectations are left at the door. We hear stories like that all the time.
You might have similar stories. It’s why we might have an epiphany that solves the big work problem when playing with the kids before they go to bed. This, after weeks of meetings where we’ve been trying and failing to come up with creative solutions. When we stop trying to think, our unconscious minds connect dots. And by giving ourselves over to play, we can experience magical creative revelations and epiphanies about the right way forwards.
What is Blocking Your Play?
Jacob Nordby says in Blessed are the Weird, that “if we don’t feel a sense of purpose, it is because we are having a life experience of someone else’s creations.” Play is not consumption. It’s not being entertained or performed to. It’s not the work hard, play hard, approach of working during the week so you can just drink yourself into oblivion at the weekend. Play is about giving yourself to imagination, creation, and dreaming. And this is increasingly hard to do in the modern world, where we can be spoon fed ‘content’, ‘entertainment’, and information, to keep us from ever truly playing.
There are other factors that turn us against our playful spirit:
Messages Growing Up
We get chipped away at over time by people who have lost their ability to play. “Be realistic”, “choose a more sensible option”, “don’t stand out”, “don’t get above your station”, “how ridiculous does that person over there look!”, “those clothes make you look silly”.
Most kids couldn’t care less about what people think of what they wear. They go with their gut and allow their imagination to lead the way. Until they become self-conscious and internalise the drip feed of judgements they hear in the world around them.
Eventually we conform and perpetuate. We fit in by looking, acting, and thinking like everyone else, and in the process, we learn how to make judgements of others. And the cycle continues.
There’s a part of you that just wants to let go, see what happens, and give yourself over to play. But the ego doesn’t like questions it doesn’t know the answer to. It plays it safe and searches for answers, justifications, and reasons for play. It’s the part that is up for fun, but only in a managed, orderly way. It wants to follow a system or process towards a specific outcome. Like the kid who poops over the game when they arrive, by telling the other kids, ‘don’t do it like that, that’s stupid. You need to do it like this, otherwise it doesn’t make sense.’
Newsflash, Ego…play doesn’t have to make sense. It doesn’t need a learning objective, or a productivity outcome. It doesn’t need a purpose. Play IS the purpose. Play is life.
The biggest block to play is ourselves. We allow the inner mind chatter to convince us that we can’t play. It tells you that you don’t have the time, energy, money to play. Or you’re not fun enough, creative enough, confident enough for a life of playfulness. This is rubbish.
In this episode we look at this in more depth. And consider some routes into playfulness as a part of our daily rhythm and flow. I unpack 7 ideas:
- Do Nothing
- Change Your Face
- Say What You’re Thinking
- Personify the Nail Clipper
- Stop Watching the Kids
- Be Reckless
- Do What You Shouldn’t
The Spirit of Play
We don’t need to do the things we did when we were kids. Nostalgia carries its own weird risks to our creative imaginations. But we can rediscover the spirit of play.
It’s the heart and soul of how we engaged with the world that goes missing when we grow up. It gets sucked out of us by those subtle judgements and conversations that mould us. These are the comments, expectations, and stories, which put us on a trajectory towards breaking point.
For some, this might manifest some kind of ‘midlife crisis’. For others it might be complete transition. In either case, the truth can’t be kept down any longer. A midlife crisis usually ends when the voice of conformity overpowers the dissatisfied inner rebel again. Once they’ve got their reckless playing ‘out of the system’. Order can be restored.
The true crisis is a life spent pushing down the spirit of play. Suppressing that playful soul and sacrificing it to the belief that you’ve got to do what everyone else does and fit in.
When we encourage others to play, we give them (and us) permission to be who we are in all our weird uniqueness.
Over to You
What are you going to play today? I’d love to read your response in the comments below.
Listen to The Gentle Rebel (Extended Play) Private Podcast:
If you like this topic and want to hear more of my (more personal) thoughts and reflections, you can subscribe to the bonus podcast right now, through Patreon