For years our playful, child-like bits have been beaten out of most of us. But what if it turns out that those bits are, in fact, the most important?
The world has told us that our playfulness was a waste of time, a signal of weakness (or laziness or absentmindedness), and downright foolish.
Productivity, on the other hand, signifies value. We continually ask what will this thing or person do for me, produce or achieve.
If you think this way, you’re not alone. As human beings, we have long-lost the emphasis on being, choosing to focus instead, on doing.
This hunger to check boxes and do more has seeped into every facet of our lives including academia, our work places, and even our families.
This has left us not just less playful, but with a skewed relationship with purpose!
We’ve sacrificed quality for quantity. Most unfortunately, many of us have willfully surrendered our pursuit of an authentic purpose in the hopes that somehow simply doing more will fill the gap.
This is because along the way, many of us have lost sight of the true meaning of having an authentic purpose.
Our purpose is our “why.” It’s our reason for being.
Purpose (along with a full 7-8 hours of sleep!), helps get us out of bed every morning. It’s pretty important.
However, even for those that believe they are living a purpose-driven life, what most have forgotten is that play is essential to fulfilling that purpose! Can you imagine if you abandoned your playful, curious nature forever? You may be having a sobering moment of realization that you’re dangerously close to that path already.
But play is far more critical to our ability to function and remain productive than we have realized.
To start with, play encourages abstract thought and improves our ability to imagine. It releases endorphins and helps us envision other perspectives — hello empathy!
Even more powerfully, recent research has shown that play helps build connections of neurons in the pre-frontal cortex — what I call “the boss” because it’s the decision making part of our brains.
When we don’t experience enough play, we become stressed, depressed, over-serious, and are more likely to fall into the boobie-trap of doing “something” just so we don’t feel like a failure at the end of the day.
And all of this causes us to stray from our purpose.
You can think of your pre-frontal cortex (PFC) as a gas tank — with only so much gasoline inside. One way you can help to make that gas go further is by playingand experiencing joy — it’s like transforming your PFC from a gas-guzzler into a highly efficient hybrid!
So maybe those Foosball tables at Google headquarters aren’t so crazy. They know that the PFC is important to maintain because it helps us control our emotions andimpulses, and thereby enables us to maintain focus. The healthier our PFC, the more we are able to stay aligned with our purpose without emotional impulsesleading us astray.
So are you ready to get in some “play time” this week? Here are some ideas:
- Plan time to have a game night with your family or friends! You can even make it an e-game night by using apps like Zoom, HouseParty, Whatsapp, or Skype. Connection matters!
- Joke around with your partner — or even strangers. It might feel like contrivedat first, and they may roll their eyes, but creating a culture of playfulness and friendship in your romantic AND platonic relationships allows them to be strengthened.
- Play with your pet! If you don’t have one, this is a perfect time to convince your spouse! Not only is it important for your furry friend to feel TLC, but playing with our animals is a perfect reminder of playfulness. Our pets experience life in the moment — and are not concerned about long-term box-checking.
- -Crank up your favourite song and move your body freely! Your PFC deserves it. Your body deserves it. YOU deserve it.