Remember when you were a kid, you could make up a game and play it for hours? Remember how flexible you were? If another kid came up to you and launched a new game, you jumped right in, figuring it out…improvising.
Today I was watching two young boys play on the sidewalk. Suddenly one said, “I’m shutting myself off,” and as a robot, his expression went blank, his limbs froze, he powered down, just like that. The other boy transitioned smoothly into this new game. He began trying to figure out how to turn his friend back on – looking for the power button. He alternated between this and trying to distract his “robot” friend with jabs and faces. Why do we stop doing this? How much more fun and satisfying would your day be if you had this attitude? Are you ready for an experiment….Are you ready to play?
Walking through your day with an attitude of play is more than just fun, it helps us cope with change. It makes change easier. Aspects of our lives are moving and shifting around us each and every day. And while we are built to adapt to just about anything, we are also wired to be a bit resistant to change.
If we lived a few thousand years ago and knew we could survive, get food, sustain ourselves, right where we were currently living, and I said to you, “Hey, let’s move. Let’s go about 200 miles north. There might be more food there. It might be beautiful and even better than this life,” the natural reaction would be cynical resistance. You know you can survive here, but there in a new place, you might actually die. You might not find food. There could be predators. The thing is, we don’t live in that kind of world today. Most of us do not face life or death in our daily lives. We don’t need to live in survival mode (although for some of us, survival mode continues to be a tired, useless pattern), our environments have changed, but the brains we carry around are still the same. We have brains wired for caution.
It’s normal to feel a bit apprehensive when faced with the variations of life. To cope with this, to move forward, to flow, we have to learn how to “become comfortable with being uncomfortable” (as a friend shared recently.) We have to notice resistance and move forward anyway. And what better way to loosen up when faced with the stress of our day to day lives than to have an attitude of play?
Walking through life like you are ready to play requires you to be really present and on the lookout for fun. You could even say it’s all in how you look at it. Looking through the lens of play. When you’re a kid, invitations come in all forms and you dive at the opportunities when you see them. When you’re a kid this is how you have fun and this is how you learn. What changed?
What would it take for you to embody a more playful attitude? When was the last time you put on some music and sang and danced with yourself? How about watching funny clips on Youtube? Try to do a cartwheel. Take off your shoes and socks and walk in the grass/mud/sand. Make funny faces in the mirror. Leave a sweet and kind note in a public place for a stranger to find. Drive/walk to work a new way and look around for discoveries. As you walk through your day, consider strange but fun things such as, ‘If you had a can of spray paint in your favorite color, and you had permission, what would you spray for all to see?’
I encourage you to use your imagination. Can you think of a little game you can entice someone into? Or some other way to play? Like when you were young and invitations to play came in many packages. Look around and notice who’s asking you to play. Are you ready to say yes to the next invitation you receive?