Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Power of Play

I came across some interesting research notes this past summer. 

Now, don’t yawn yet.  I know the word “research” comes packed with stuffy connotations.  But the reading I’ve been doing lately has affected my thoughts in so many ways and on so many different levels that I can’t help but share.

Quick background – I participated in a study group at the university where I used to teach. We read a book called Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel Pink. It’s pop science in the Gladwell tradition—lots of vignettes and examples that make the science fast paced and reader-friendly. I thought it would be helpful to read the book for two reasons, to learn how to better motivate students and to learn how to better motivate myself.    

But I got a whole lot more than that.

Sure, the stuff on autonomous motivation was helpful. And I liked the idea of getting away from the rewards/punishments idea (extrinsic motivation) since it doesn’t always work for me.  But then I found a section on creativity, turning our work into play whenever possible, and finding ways to stay engaged with our work. Does that sound fun to you? Sure did to me. I’d like to make my job feel more like play. 

Citing noted psychology professor Mihayl Csikszentmihalyi, “once we realize that the boundaries
between work and play are artificial, we can take matters in hand and begin the difficult task of making life more livable.”  For inspiration on how to play, the same source (I won’t spell his name twice!) suggests we look at the children around us, who are engaged with the “work” of childhood, exploring their environment and learning boundaries through play. At some point, we forget how to do this effectively. We shut down some of that natural curiosity in an effort to earn grades, earn adult approval, and become socialized.  But we lose something in the process, something we all need to recover.

I’m still figuring out how to best incorporate more play into my work and leisure life. I think the answers are as unique as we all are.  Still, maybe we could learn from each other today. I think the easier task is to identify more ways to play.  What activities do you miss that you used to really enjoy as a kid?  Maybe the lesson there is—don’t wait for your kids to ask you to color or play on the swing. You can still pursue those activities now, or pursue them in a way that appeals to you as you’ve aged. For instance, bungee jumping might be your new swing. Watercolor lessons might be your new brand of coloring. A few revamped strategies might bring you a new level of fulfillment and engagement, a new energy that will spill over into the rest of your life. 

Because once we can identify more ways to play in our leisure time, I think it will follow that we’ll start to see ways to play at work. After all, more play in general will make us more creative, so the answers are there and just waiting to be discovered by our new and improved thinking skills. Can you make your work more social by starting an online group interested in the same facets of the job as you? Can you subscribe to a publication in a career that complements yours to see what kinds of researching they’re doing in a related field? Can you make a movie about your work? Mentor someone? Find a mentor? Take a professional detour? The goals don’t have to immediate. You just have to mine your field for the things that inspired you to go in that direction in the first place. 

Just think how much fun you could be having….

***Back to leisure time… if you had a free afternoon and weren’t allowed to catch up on laundry or work, in fact you had a mandate that you had to play, what would you do?  Do you already have a dedicated play activity that keeps you energized?  Share with me today and I’ll send a random poster a copy of my holiday Desire story from last Christmas-- His Pregnant Secretary


Barbara Tobey said...

I play computer games. I really would like for the three feral kittens that I feed to relax and play with me.

girlfromwva said...

i would play a game on my phone. maybe blow bubbles or fly my kite with the dog OR color in my book.

Pam Hamblin said...

I don't know if you have heard about it but up here and in some other states kids and parent's have been doing painted rocks. They paint them, hide them, then kids or us adults go looking for them. Once you find one you take a picture of it and post it on face book! You can take it and re- hide it or keep it. There's even groups that have gotten together to make painted rocks. They spend the night before hiding them in a huge walking park. The next day parent's bring the little one's and hunt for them. Sometime's it's not just painted rocks but other small toys. When it isn't really hot or in the case lately raining I look. My husband surprised me one day by finding one! We still have it but it too, will find a park soon for someone else to find. My play time is the computer games and chatting to people in face book!

dstoutholcomb said...

perhaps I'd go back to papercrafting.


Fedora said...

I love the chance to take ballet class when I can. For at home, I love playing with calligraphy or crochet :)

Kimberlyindy said...

I have taken up painting classes before and I just recently bought a calligraphy set. I want to teach myself how to do that again and perhaps paint some of my favorite quotes.

Laney4 said...

I would want to do something with others - play with my husband (or even GO to a play with my husband or just go for a drive together), go geocaching/hiking with my sister/her husband (but they live too far away to be able to do this just any day), play competitive badminton (although badminton is usually played in the evenings), or just have a girlfriend over for a chat/drink.

Anonymous said...

Everyone needs a SMALL break. Could be just a game of Candyland with the kids.

Vera Wilson
snoopysnop1 at yahoo dot com

Mary Preston said...

I'd be knitting or doing my crochet. Very relaxing and my kind of play.

Cecilia Rodriguez said...

This is why I enjoy being an Aunt. It gives me a reason to play and have fun.

Joanne Rock said...

Kimberly, I can't imagine developing the skill for calligraphy, but I love seeing it... so pretty! I have a friend who paints beautiful quotes in calligraphy around the ceiling borders of her home and it's so lovely and inspiring to see.

Vera, I like the bright colors of Candyland! My sons used to have a video game version where you could color candyscapes on the computer screen and I thought it was so fun :-)

Joanne Rock said...

*** winner*** +Barbara Tobey I've got a prize for you! All you need to do is message me at with a mailing address and I will ship this your way asap! Thank you all so much for visiting with me!