Play is what allows us to attain a higher level of existence, new levels of mastery, imagination, and culture. When we play right, all areas of our lives go better. When we ignore play we start having problems.
My personal motto is, “If it isn’t fun, I don’t want to do it. And when it isn’t, how can I make it fun?” Try that and let me know how it impacts your life. With my view of the importance, if not necessity or getting naked (emotionally) on occasion with the proper precautions, I also believe that incorporating and actually being purposeful about play in your life can help.
Playfulness, for me, is a mind-set and intention of having fun in a way that is not at the expense of others or even as a self-deprecating way of putting yourself or others in a negative light. Comedians, who often have tragic pasts, use humor about others and themselves as a way to get laughs but often hide their true tragic or hurtful existence in many cases.
My hope for you is to find ways to have fun and be lighthearted when life hands you circumstances that may be challenging. This does not mean to make light of tragedy or hurts, but eventually when time has passed and you have shined the light on the emotional scars from such an event, you might be able to smile or laugh at the paradox of living a human life.
Life is not always funny, but eventually acceptance comes from finding vitality from living with a joie de vivre (joy of living), an exuberant enjoyment of life.
A Client’s Story
Some years ago, I was referred a top-level executive in the financial services, a female who was a vice president with international duties from a major U.S. corporation. She had received what is called a 360-degree assessment from her staff and those who report to her, which is a tool that is anonymous but useful to receive honest feedback about your leadership style, teamwork, and perceptions of your effectiveness and personality too.
My client read the summaries and shared with me that many of her team reports have stated she got good results but seemed “reserved, calculating, unfriendly, and stern.” She said she was not surprised, but she wanted to change that view and asked for coaching to assist.
In my history taking of her past, I learned she was an above average student, went to prestigious schools, and was also a concert pianist from a young age.
But when speaking of the music skills, she became emotional and said, “I was good, but I never enjoyed it.”
She had been forced to practice and perform by her parents, who sought for her to express her skill, but they were very demanding and stern in the process.
I asked what else about her early childhood or adolescence could she remember that was joyful, outside of her academics and music.
There was a long pause and a sigh. She finally said, “I don’t remember having much fun or playing with other kids. I was busy with my schoolwork, music lessons, and practice, and I felt disconnected.” As I allowed her to sit with that thought, she sighed and paused again. “Wow! That’s sad, isn’t it?”
I asked, “What was fun for her today? How had she found ways to experience and express joy?”
She then responded, “I experience joy from my leadership role and the creative outcomes, and I enjoy going to art showings and other activities with a few friends or someone whom I am dating.”
I silently thought, “This woman needs to find a way to have childlike fun, laughter, and unplanned, spontaneous enjoyment.”But as a coach, I did not tell her that. I just explored my thinking with a request. I then asked her “what experiences have you had around children, either in the past or present time.?”
She had no children of her own; nor did she have any pets. She reported that “my five-year-old niece sometimes comes over with my sister, and I really enjoy watching her.“
I then asked “what do you like about that?” and she said “my niece just has fun with nothing and anything. She makes up stories to act out. She plays with My Little Pony and other children’s toys. But she also makes friends quickly with other kids when we got to the park or the zoo.”
That’s when I had a creative idea, which often happens in coaching once intuition kicks in. I asked, “Would you would consider an odd request?”
And she, of course, trusting me, said, “Well, it depends.”
I asked, “would you be willing to go to a nearby park and observe the children for at least an hour? Just sit on the bench and have a book or a lunch, and just observe and notice how kids play and interact with joyful exuberance. Would you do that?”(Truthfully I had no idea what I sought or what might happen, but I felt it was worth the experiment.)
She agreed, and the next week, our session was one of a great breakthrough. She came on the call, and after some pleasantries to settle in, I asked, “How did the experiment in the park go?”
There was a pause and then a giggle. And then she said, “You are not going to believe what happened.”
Intrigued, I asked, “Please say more.”
After an hour of watching and observing, she felt a strange urge to get on one of the swings and just swing. When she did that, the nearby kids chuckled, and some came to push her, as an adult would do to a kid. Laughing and swinging, she was having no sense of being a proper adult. She was being childlike and freely playing. She then went to the park on another day over her lunch break, and some of the same kids greeted her. She said she had a sense of belonging and feeling accepted in a way she never had.
The end result of this story is that the playful personality carried over to work. She began being warmer to her staff, asking about their families, looking at photos of their kids or grandkids, and showing a newfound appreciation of the lessons from children in playfulness. She told me that opened her up to a willingness to be childlike at times, but not childish.
Months later, her staff gave her feedback about how much more fun she was. Even though she was still the boss, she was more respected. And she was promoted to a job in Asia as a result, which she had always wanted.
Where can you ‘lighten up”?
And how can you learn to have more fun and be more playful while still taking your life and work and loving seriously?
(c) 2018-2019 Dr. Pat Williams. All rights reserved
Pat is a Master Certified Coach (International Coach Federation) and a Board Certified Coach (Center for Credentialing and Education). He has been a licensed psychologist since 1980, and began executive coaching in 1990 with Hewlett Packard, IBM, Kodak and other companies along the front range of Colorado.
He is a member of PHI BETA KAPPA and CUM LAUDE graduate of Kansas University in 1972. He completed his masters in Humanistic Psychology in 1975 (University of West Georgia) and doctorate in Transpersonal Psychology in 1977, (University of Northern Colorado) His dissertation was Transpersonal Psychology and the Evolution of Consciousness.
Pat joined Coach U in 1996, closed his 16-year therapy practice and six months later and became a full time coach. Pat was a senior trainer with Coach U from 1997-1998.
He then started his own coach training school, the Institute for Life Coach Training (ILCT) which specializes in training those with a human services orientation. ILCT has trained over 3,500 helping professionals and has opened offices in Korea, Turkey, Italy, China, and the UK.
Pat is department chair of the Coaching Psychology program at the International University of Professional Studies, and has taught graduate coaching classes at Colorado State University and Denver University, Fielding University, Loyola University, City University of London and many others. He was also a curriculum consultant for the Coaching Certificate program at Fielding International University.
Pat is a past board member of the International Coach Federation (ICF), and co-chaired the ICF regulatory committee. He is past president of ACTO, the Association of Coach Training Organizations and an honorary VP of the Association of Coaching Psychology and a Founding member of Harvard University’s Institute of Coaching.
Pat was also honored in 2008 as the educator of the year for the New England Educational Institute.