Making space for play.
If you’re reading this blog, then you’re someone who cares about personal growth.
The harder we try to “just be,” the harder the work feels.
This is actually quite common. Artists, dancers, actors, and athletes all work on their mindsets to calm their nervous system and relax their bodies. It’s the only way that they can get themselves to perform at their highest level.
The less tension they carry in their bodies, the easier it is to act with grace and spontaneity.
I’ve talked in the past about the book The Inner Game of Tennis, and I highly recommend it for this topic. Timothy Gallway wrote if back in 1974 to help people with tennis, but many of the lessons are still relevant to work and performance issues today.
If you’re familiar with Taoism, or the work of Jon Kabat Zinn and mindfulness, then all of this will sound familiar.
The practice is to create more space in our minds, by not crowding them with thoughts.
This is where play comes in.
Playfulness and Seriousness.
One of the things that I had to learn about myself over time is just how seriously I tend to take myself. I can be pretty hard on myself when I make a mistake, which has led me to avoid some exciting new challenges.
About twelve years ago, I left my career as a teacher and begun a process of leaning into this work.
The past decade has been a lot of learning.
In the past, I noticed that when I was learning something new, I tended to thrash around instead of relaxing and trusting myself.
Whatever self-trust I have now has been hard won.
When clients come to me to work on their confidence, presence, or clarity of message, they find an understanding heart.
Your struggle is my struggle. Whatever you’re working on, is probably something that I need to work on.
And lately, I’ve begun to recognize that maybe the word “work” isn’t even right. Maybe what we need is more playfulness.
When we’re being playful, we are not being intellectual, meaning that we are in our bodies rather than in our minds.
Playfulness and fear rarely exist in one’s body at the same time, and fear is the major cause of tension in the body.
Invite more playfulness into your work life, and see what happens.
What if you couldn’t get it wrong?
Boy, that’s the question of the day, isn’t it?
I was watching our new puppy play with our older dog the other day and marveling at how beautiful and pure their energy was.
They were taking turns being either submissive or aggressive, high status and low status. Nothing was too serious. Nothing was at stake, and yet they were throwing their whole bodies into the play.
How often do we play like this in our own lives?
Often, when we play, there are winners and losers, and for some, the stakes can feel high.
What if the stakes were low?
What if there were no “getting it wrong.”
Taking a risk.
What’s one playful thing that you could do for yourself today?
What’s one silly thing that might make you giggle or might serve no purpose at all?
- Try out for a play?
- Join an improv group?
- Take up juggling?
- Join a drum circle?
- Dress up like someone from the 19th century and go out to dinner?
Whatever it is, lean into the playfulness of it. There’s no outcome. There’s nothing to achieve.
Just have fun.
Maybe in that space, we can loosen up just a little.
I’d forgotten that it was possible to take the work seriously, without taking myself seriously in the work.
(As the great Russian director, Stanislavsky, once said, “Love the art in yourself, not yourself in the art.”)\
Embarrassment and self-trust.
The way that comedians learn to be more confident on stage is by going back up on stage time and time again, even after they bomb.
They are looking for the moment when they can fail without embarrassment.
Most of us are doing everything we can to avoid that kind of thing.
What if we all could see that kind of experience in a more playful light?
What if you were able to take yourself less seriously?
I imagine that we would all feel a little more free in our bodies.
Dare to be free.
Make the space and take the time to explore what feels playful to you.
Dare to be ridiculous (just a little).
You might find that you can access a lightness and a kind of freedom within that not only helps you to feel more like yourself, but helps those around you to feel lighter as well.
Note: this isn’t the same as self-deprecating humor. Look for the kinds of play that don’t tear you or anyone else down.
Remember, there are no winners or losers in pure play. The goal is to find the silliness and the lightness within us.
Once you discover that sense of play, you might find a kind of freedom within that allows you to move with more calm, self-confidence, and self-trust.
All we have to lose is the belief that we have something to lose.
Seth’s corner: Allow me to connect you to my friend Drew Rand, PhD, who has started his own business in helping organizations and leaders assess their talent and better understand their motivations and how they work together. Drew is exceptional at listening and understanding how leaders want to work together, and he excels in helping them see a path to more productive collaboration. Check out his website by clicking the link here.