Playfulness And Personal Transformation

in Crafting a Legacy, Cultivating Clarity


“There is no question that a playfully light attitude is characteristic of creative individuals.” ~ Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi

Sometimes life can seem like a little too much, can’t it? Maybe it’s a big unexpected bill that comes your way or a loved one who suddenly becomes very ill. Perhaps it’s getting the news that you’ll be laid-off from work or discovering that your child is using drugs or waking up and feeling the dread of another day.

I was grappling with this thought this morning after dropping my wife off at work because our other vehicle decided to quit the night before. While driving home and entertaining the thought of “life feeling like it’s too much” I witnessed a dad skipping with his daughter while waiting for the bus to come.

The image brought tears to my eyes and I wanted to go and kiss the guy. It was a beautiful and powerful image for me. There was a dad fully engaged with his daughter; he was choosing to give her his undivided attention by skipping with her on their driveway. He was willing to look foolish in order to play with his daughter and fill her life, and his, with joy.

Maybe that’s part of the problem – we take life way too seriously. Yes, shit happens, this is true. Trust me, I know. However, what if like the dad skipping with his daughter, we became more playful in our approach to living life?

If we wholeheartedly embraced a more playful attitude in our relationships and work, how might this ignite the fires of creativity and courage when dealing with the difficult circumstances that come our way?

In his New York Times bestselling book, A Whole New Mind, Daniel Pink explores how playfulness is a key ingredient in nurturing our brains ability to work as an integrated whole.

Most of us know that our brain consists of two hemispheres – the left and right hemispheres. The left hemisphere predominately handles logic, sequence, analysis and grasps the fine details while the right hemisphere takes care of synthesis, emotional expression, context and the big picture.

Chris McManus, in his book Right Hand Left Hand, states: “However tempting it is to talk of right and left hemispheres in isolation, they are actually two half-brains, designed to work together as a smooth, single, integrated whole in one entire, complete brain.”

Our mission, according to Pink, is to cultivate the fertile soil that can grow and develop our single, integrated whole and complete brain. In an age of abundance, overwhelm, and a seeking for meaning and connection, harnessing our ability to give context to the circumstances in our lives may be of great benefit.

To move beyond feeling trapped and isolated in the details of our lives (having enough money to pay the bills, scheduling your work and family calendars, deciding what to make for supper, how to ignite the passion in your marriage, what school to attend, what career path to pursue) requires a paradigm shift in our thinking and living.

To that end, Daniel Pink argues that playfulness is one of the six senses that will help us stand out in business, live lives of deep fulfillment, cultivate meaningful relationships and nurture our overall well-being.

Three Ways to Harness Play:

Cultivate Curiosity: To be curious is to be playful because it calls you to move beyond feeling trapped in the details of your life. Curiosity, by its definition, desires knowledge and understanding. In our blog post on Archetypes we discussed how stepping into someone else’s shoes could open your eyes to seeing your circumstance through a new perspective. Cultivating curiosity, therefore, can help you to facilitate breakthrough results in your relationships, your work, your health and your time.

Play Games: Get outside and play with your kids or with your friends. Play soccer, football, road hockey, basketball, baseball, capture-the-flag, kick-the-can. Get out there together and just do it. If it’s raining or the middle of winter, play a board game together or have fun playing video games. Pink contends that playing games can help people to learn how to think deeply about  complex systems where everything interacts with everything else and one key decision can impact the greater whole.

Choose Laughter: Laughter is good medicine. Pink states that laughter causes people to be more creative and productive.  Remember from the blog post on doing less that we are far more effective when we are calm and relaxed versus feeling anxious and stressed. Neuroscientist Robert Provine, in his book, Laughter: A Scientific Investigation, talks about the aerobic benefits of laughter. Laughter activates the cardiovascular system, increases a persons heart rate, pumps more blood to internal organs and boosts the immune system.

Today’s Unitas Project:

  • Explore your own ways to cultivate a more playful approach to living life. How might you integrate play, curiosity and laughter into your marriage, your relationship with your kids, and at work or school?
  • The gifts of life are all around us, however, we need to open our eyes and ears and heart in order to see, hear and feel them.

Until next time…

Be You. Be Unitas.


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