Play builds the kind of free-and-easy, try-it-out, do-it-yourself character that (y)our future needs. Robert L. Hymes Jr
Jump into the paddling pool and splash like your socks are on fire. Learn to skimboard. Hire a soft-top car. Throw a Captain Underpants party and wear your pants on the outside. Go on; bust out your inner child and play.
Lost you already? Is your first thought when someone says paddling pool of the mess you’ll have to clean up? The juggle of kids and professional lives is even more of a stretch than usual over the holidays and ‘playing’ may not be top of mind or to-do list.
But in the spirit of #40DaysOfMum, why not use your summer as a time for playful experimentation and self-discovery so that you can gain a different perspective on your career (and, who knows, maybe even your life)?
What’s play got to do with it? In the profound words of my eldest, ‘lots actually’. And here’s why.
Play makes us feel alive.
If, like many of my clients, you are reading this because ultimately you want to a more meaningful career and greater fulfilment, then a critical first step is to do more of what makes you feel alive. It could be galloping across the sand, riding pillion along the Amalfi coast or baking up a storm. It doesn’t need to be career-related but the thought of it must put a huge spring in your step.
Research shows that happiness leads to success, not the other way around.
And play is fun. It makes us feel happier. So, rather than getting caught in the ‘I’ll be happy when…’ trap, let happiness lead the way.
Play is a tremendous way to learn. Watch your children. See how a toddler discovers their world as they build sandcastles and splash in fountains. In the first five years of a child’s life their brain develops more and faster than at any other time. And it is almost exclusively through play. They observe, experiment and problem-solve with no agenda.
Turns out, play is productive.
As the much-attributed saying goes ‘if you always do what you have always done, you will get what you’ve always got’. So this summer do things a little differently. If you approach your life with childlike curiosity, you never know what surprises might lie in store. You may even understand a little more about your children’s worlds to boot.
You may say this talk of play is fanciful. You're busy and anything not on the to-do list feels like a ‘waste of time’. But it is exactly the ‘go go go’ that reduces our ability to think creatively and generate ideas. Not to mention leading to stress, burnout and being a joy thief.
‘The only way to do great work is to love what you do,’ or so said Steve Jobs. Whether it is the only way to do great work, it must surely be the most enjoyable.
So, learning more about what makes us tick is one of the most valuable things we can ever do. It could also be the critical first step to unlocking your path to loving what you do.
Start a playlist.
Ready to join this summer of experimentation and play full out? Get a notebook. Better still, go and buy yourself a lovely piece of new stationery and put together your list of things you’d love to do this summer.
It might be as simple as reading a book or going to a festival, taking your children on an adventure, attending a course on stand-up comedy, climbing a mountain. It doesn’t matter.
What matters is that you write the list without censoring yourself or thinking about what is possible. And that everything you include feels exciting, fun and playful.
In the meantime, there is no better way to make sure something happens than to go public with it. So why not share your playlist with us. It might inspire you - and us!