Have you ever come to a solution right after you stopped thinking about it? Walked out of a planning meeting where no one seemed to have the answer and BOOM.. you are on the elevator and it comes to you? That is because the mind works best without the weight of external pressure. Many times the answer is there, but can’t be revealed until we stop, and play.
I believe we can build and rebuild our strengths in play at any age, but we need to start by removing the stigma of play as unproductive or frivolous. Play is a place where we conquer our fears and open ourselves up to our full potential. Play can change our social interactions, our physical and mental health, our innovative and creative potential, our drive to take risks, fall, and get up again.
Play answers the question, “What do we do when no one has the answer?”
The creative confidence to develop solutions to insurmountable issues comes from confidence, motivation, trust, and innovation. Watch children turn trees into tree houses, and puddles into oceans, jump from rock to rock, miss a step, and get back up.
Now consider what you experience when someone loves the work they do. What do you feel like in their space? What do you see, hear, and say after encountering people who love and are good at what they do? They are “in play” physically, cognitively, and emotionally; they are invested. What if we could build or rebuild the place where we are most open to learning, least self-conscious, and our most authentic self?
We are only brushing the surface of some of our most difficult societal challenges because we try to overcome them without exploring our full potential. Play gives us perspective and experience. However, play is hard work for many people, as they have to climb over a mountain of guilt, judgment, shame, and long-held beliefs about productivity and the seriousness of work to even imagine it as a driver for change. What if we changed the way we think about play.
What if we said that play is the catalyst to igniting and developing the “soft skills” that drive innovation, productivity, and passion, and focused on developing and growing them?
Play can be the catalyst for conversations that might never have happened, revealing others’ strengths, fears, abilities, and concerns that might never have been discovered otherwise. Play allows us to unravel prejudice, bias, expectation, judgment, and self-consciousness. It creates a reduced physiological stress response and an openness to authentic conversation. But it cannot do that without the foundations of trust, respect, connection, and belonging; that’s where rebuilding happens.
Play disrupts our standardized way of looking at the world — it invites us to change without shaming.