Wanna Play?

by Liisa Kyle, Ph.D. on 03/03/2016

image via commons.wikimedia.org

Every morning, my Labrador prances into the kitchen with his favorite toy in his mouth. He pounces up and down, wiggles his butt and wags his tail. Without words, he is very clearly communicating, “Dude! It’s playtime!”

To what extent do YOU play? A surprising number of DaVincis don’t play very much at all. We are juggling so many projects, ideas, and life demands that we don’t allow ourselves much, if any, playtime. If that sounds like you, please read on.

Play is important. It’s fun. It gives us energy. It sparks ideas. It enhances creativity. It gives us joy.  Every young mammal plays. It’s part of being alive. Of interacting with others. Of learning new behaviors.

What happens among people, however, is that many of us are told, at some point to “grow up”. To “get serious”. To “stop playing around”.  Most of us bow to societal pressure. Some of us impose restrictions on ourselves — limiting our playtime or doling it out it a miserly fashion, perhaps as a reward for certain achievements.  At some point, many of us just don’t play any more.

How about you?

First, what do you consider “play”. What’s fun for you? What are your favorite ways to play?  My client Janet loves to dance.  Hank adores computer games. James likes flying kites. Kim enjoys surfing.  I get a kick out of playing hide and seek with my dogs.

Take a moment to create your personalized “Play List”:  What are your favorite ways to play? What’s fun for you? Make a list.

Now: go thought your list and, beside each item, write down the last time you did it.

Review your list. Consider the patterns you see. Would you benefit from more play in your life?

If you start to balk — if you’re reaction is along the line of, “I can’t possibly” or “I have too much to do” or “I’ll play when I’m retired” — consider the benefits of regular play.

1. Play gives you energy.

If you feel sluggish or stressed out or or otherwise “icky”, odds are you need more play in your life. Once you give yourself the gift of regular playtime, you will have more energy to tackle your personal and professional responsibilities.

2. Play gives you ideas.

If you are stuck or slogging through a project, some playtime can create a shift in perspective to get you moving or spark a fresh approach.

3. Play enhances your creativity.

The more you play, the more innovative you can be.

4. Play improves your relationships.

Play makes you happy. When you are happier, your personal and professional interactions are more positive. You are easier to be with.

5.  Play is an antidote for procrastination.

If you are avoiding doing something, it’s because you’ve made the task into something onerous or Very Important or otherwise terrifying. No wonder you are hesitating to being. To the extent you can shift your attitude to “Okay let me just play around with this a bit,” you can nudge yourself into moving forward. Play lets you take action from a more positive, less fearful place.

6.  Play is an antidote for perfectionism.

If you tend to be hard on yourself — if you tend to set high expectations of yourself and others — you know the pain of perfectionism. You sit down expecting to make “something excellent”. This sets up a dynamic so that whatever you are trying to create is being judged at its very genesis. This is crazy-making. It’s impossible to simultaneously generate new thoughts — and keep them coming — if you are jumping all over them, judging them as soon as they emerge.

A different approach is to compartmentalize. First, allow yourself some playtime to generate — without judgment. Go ahead and slap one some paint, jot down that first draft. Just get it out there. Play around with whatever tickles your fancy. Enjoy your creativity!  Have fun with it. Then, when the generation phases concludes, revisit your project to assess and hone as needed.


Whether or not you believe in the value and benefits of play, why not give it a try? Try to add some playtime to your week this week. See what happens.


Activity: This week, make a point of playing every day. If this is a challenge for you, commit to play at least five minutes every day.

Bonus Activity: If there is something on your ‘play list’ you haven’t done for a while, make a point of doing it this week.


Now let’s say, it’s a week from today and, somehow you didn’t play. At all.  For whatever reason, you didn’t give yourself even five minutes of playtime.

What interfered?  What stopped you?

Take a moment and answer honestly.

Maybe life intervened.  Perhaps you had way too much going on. Hmm. I’d like to challenge you on that. Surely there were ways to inject some play into the tasks at hand. Certainly you could give yourself five minutes to play a bit of Wii Golf or a round of backgammon or to try doing a cartwheel in the backyard.

Maybe it’s guilt?  Do you need permission to play?  Do you feel that you haven’t yet ‘earned’ your playtime? Allow me to help:  Because you’ve read this far, you have absolutely earned at least five minutes of play every day for the next week (and beyond).

Let’s try the activity again:


Activity: This week, make a point of playing every day. If this is a challenge for you, commit to play at least five minutes every day.

Bonus Activity: Play at least five minutes a day, every day, for the next year.  See what happens.


change cover wee

Check out my workbook: YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE:  A Workbook to Become the Person You Want to Be. Available here: http://bit.ly/ChangeYourLifeWorkbook




Want to re-publish this article? Go for it – just include the author’s name, a link to this original post and the following text blurb:

Are you struggling with too many talents, skills, ideas? You may have The DaVinci Dilemma™! Find tools, fun quizzes, coaching, inspiration and solutions for multi-talented people at http://www.davincidilemma.com/ .

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