On Becoming a Playful Person
Having engaged in play with thousands of adults for the past sixteen years in various roles, ranging from Agile coach, trainer and keynote speaker to executive and personal coach, I am convinced that play is the most effective, efficient and enjoyable way to bring about positive change.
True Love for True Play
From leading live sing-alongs of “Heads Shoulders Knees and Toes” at conference keynotes held at places like Churchill College, Cambridge and the Ministry of Justice to facilitating organisational change in large corporates and running play adventure experiences, I have repeatedly witnessed and experienced firsthand the phenomenon of true play. True play, to paraphrase Play Expert Dr Stuart Brown, is fair play, safe play and being a good sport. True play enables people to re-open their hearts and minds to learn and grow where previously they may have existed as zombies shuffling to the beat of 9-to-5. True play reinvigorates the mind, body and spirit like no other tool, technique or framework I have come across in all my years of zombification, first as a working adult and in the past 4 years as a working parent.
Following the Footsteps of Kindred Spirits
So imagine my delight when I recently stumbled upon Gretchen Rubin’s concept of a “happiness project” (the reason I missed her book the first time around was because I was too busy playing with a number of my own happiness experiments all involving play of course!).
According to Gretchen, each person’s happiness project will be unique. The first step to defining your happiness project is to answer the following 3 questions:
1. What makes you feel good?
Because of the nature of my job as an organisational change agent and working in a number of highly toxic environments (thus inducing a feeling of being perpetually discombobulated), play became my goto coping mechanism. I learned very early on that if I can’t laugh at myself, then I’ve missed the biggest joke of all. Over the years, I have developed key survival skills such as making light of the intolerable to bring hope (even for but a moment) where previously there was only corporate darkness and despair.
2. What makes you feel bad?
Being surrounded by wasted lives – untapped human potential in others and myself (of course!). This became a top priority when I became a parent because I discovered that in spite of all the playing I’d done in my professional capacity with adults, I knew nothing about true play when it came to working with real play experts such as my own newborn. What I needed was to learn and grow more, faster than I’d ever done since being a child myself.
3. What feels right?
Play has been a lifelong passion for me because it’s synonymous with continuous learning and personal growth powered by love and kindness for others beginning with love and kindness for oneself. Formalising my passion for play, from play science and play philosophy to play culture, makes becoming a play researcher an obvious next step.
My Happiness Play Project
My happiness project is based on research answers to the following questions:
- Is it possible to become a more playful person?
- What is play anyway?
- How can I become a more playful adult?
- How can I become a more playful parent?
I’ve decided to adopt a personal approach to my research because, like Gretchen’s happiness project (how to make herself happier), I believe that change begins with myself and if I can figure out how to become a more playful adult and parent, then it’s highly likely that other people may find the research useful too since our common denominator is as human beings.
I invite you to join me on what is sure to be a playful adventure – challenging and changing the way we live by becoming our best playful selves. For you. For me. For humanity.
By the way, did I mention that risky play is a key ingredient to true play? Play at your peril to live long and prosper. Happy 2018!