Why You Need to Stop Working and Get Back to Play

You don’t need a reason to play. Just play!

You don’t have to play because it helps to relieve stress, prevent burnout or opens up your creative gateways. Just play!

Playing isn’t just about having fun, it is a necessary part of the fabric of an energized life. That is, a life worth falling in love with.

Like a partner dancing, playing starts with an invitation. “Shall we dance?” “Shall we play?” The difference however is, you already have your play partner, you.

But no one can make you play. Someone can only invite you to play.

Of course, it works best when you invite yourself! When you give yourself permission to play.

When you open up to the possibility that it is okay to explore just for the sake of exploration. To improvise and not worry about getting it “right.” Or to discard the need to look good and just make a complete fool of yourself.

What is play?

There are two forms of play – active play and passive play.

The passive forms of play can be considered mere leisure and amusements. These are things like watching television, drinking or just goofing around. They require no effort, movement, skill or creativity.

In fact, most passive forms of play are often nothing more than an anesthetic. They dull the senses and reduce your awareness and creative engagement.

On the other hand, active play requires movement, awareness and creative engagement. Think about how involved you have to be while playing sports, dancing, playing a game of chess, video games, or just a simple game of hide and seek.

Active play energizes and leaves you feeling more alive.

Why adults need active play?

According to Friedrich Nietzsche, play is the highest form of human activity.

In fact, in his three-step metamorphosis of the human spirit, Nietzsche described how the human psyche started out as a camel because of the heavy burden of cultural obligations and responsibilities.

This camel then transformed into a lion, which represents our rebellion against obedience to authority; the “holy nea” as he called it, or the rebellion of the psyche.

The final phase of this metamorphosis, the highest level of humanity, is represented by a playing child – innocent and creative (the “holy yea.”)

If Nietzsche was right, then obviously we all need to get back in touch with the playful child within each of us; the “holy yea!”

Unfortunately, most of us don’t play anymore.

As adults, we’ve forgotten that without play, life becomes tedious and stressful. Our relationships become unsatisfying and our work grinding and unfulfilling. We get pent up with negative emotions, which lead to outbursts of anger and mood swings.

Without play, we lose our sense of humor and therefore experience difficulties when making deep connections with others.

Not playing makes us lose access to our most creative self. In fact, it is often during our playtime, when the mind isn’t preoccupied with the problems of daily living, that we discover the answers to some of our most pressing challenges.

Play is an integral source of energy. To neglect it is to neglect one of our most fundamental needs as a human being.

Play allows us to relate better with others. It makes us more productive at work. And most importantly, it helps to deepen the intimate bonds of our relationships.

As I wrote in my new book, Energize Your Life:

Scientists have discovered that the same regions of the brain — the nucleus accumbens, amygdala, and frontal cortex which are responsible for pleasure, motivation and positive emotions, are also the areas of the brain that regulate play.

What does this tell us?

It tells us that at our core, the drive to play is as important to humans as food and sex are. It’s how we learn. In fact, optimal brain development depends on healthy play experiences in early life. And as we grow older, playing helps to nourish social learning, enhance creative problem-solving skills and provide a healthy dose of positive emotions.

So, what is it that you like to do that makes your heart sing? Do you make time for it on a regular (weekly) basis?

What’s your active play activity?

What is that thing that you always lose yourself when doing it?

For me, it is tennis, Latin dance, roller-dancing at Venice Beach, or rollerblading shirtless along a bike path from Venice Beach to Pacific Palisades on a hot Southern California summer day, while listening to my favorite playlist.

These are things I could do for hours and never seem to get tired. In fact, they energize me.

Remember the old phrase, “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (or Jill a dull girl)?” Well, I’m afraid it really is the truth.

Play energizes us and makes us feel alive.

Most importantly, it’s through our active play that we are able to access our “joy moments.” These are the moments that bring a smile to our faces even years later when we think about them.

Whatever it is you need to find it and make time for it on a regular basis. Otherwise, you’ll wake up one day filled with regret that your life has, thus far, only been about responsibilities and obligations.

Unfortunately, responsibility and obligation don’t often lead to joy. And joy, my friends, is the fuel for love.

So to truly live, is to play.

If you want to truly energize your life and live with purpose, passion and play, it is important to give yourself permission to play, very often.

Allow yourself to be a kid again and find simple opportunities on a daily basis to steal little “play moments.”

But most importantly, find that thing that you love to do, that makes your heart sing and do it regularly.

It will make you feel more alive!

So stop working and get back to play!

For six other questions that will hopefully bring greater clarity and insights on how to live, love and leave a personal legacy, get a copy of my free e-book, 7 Questions (to ask yourself) to Help you Fuel Your Life with Purpose, Passion & Play.

Until next time, may the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows.

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QUESTION: How do you prevent the obligations and responsibilities in your life from stealing your joy? Leave a comment below.

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