* I wrote this article several years ago and this approach has made an incredible difference in my business ever since!
I was staring into the faces of the two colleagues who had become dear friends after spending the last several days together. I was bemoaning to them (through the tears streaming down my face),
“I’m so frustrated with how I manage my time and that parts of my work feel like such a chore! I know I’m making a significant difference – but I’m frustrated that I’m working so hard and exerting so much effort. I feel like I’ve gotten off track with my integrity.”
That was when they encouraged me to allow myself to really embrace my playful and creative nature. Sure, I love to use my creativity and I’m passionate about encouraging others to access their creativity.
My mind recalled countless playful experiences from my past
My mind flashed back to all the past fun and exciting gatherings that I had created for my friends and husband. I have so many memories of these creative times---hosting a “Bring Your Best Dressed Spud Halloween Party,” where friends dressed up potatoes and we handed out prizes for the best dressed spud.
This party left all of us rolling on the floor amongst our peals and howls of laughter. And the countless “artist retreats” that my husband and I would go on, renting forest service cabins in the beautiful mountains.
He would write new songs with his guitar. I would work on my illustrations for my greeting card designs (one of my former occupations before discovering my life’s true calling of running a coaching business).
And then there was the full moon rafting trip late one summer where we rafted down the river in the company of good friends and the larger-than-life harvest moon.
Okay, yes it’s obvious to anyone who knows me well that I clearly have a creative and playful side. “But come on,” I thought, “There’s a difference between play and work, they’re pretty much on opposite ends of the spectrum.”
In his book, Free Play, Stephen Nachmanovitch writes about the sheer joy of playing. He describes play as a state of mind where we focus on the process - the sheer joy of play, and not the destination or end result. He encourages us to recognize that the act of play in and of itself is the destination. When we play we have nothing to gain and nothing to lose because we have no expectations.
Remember a time when life proceeded at a slower pace?
Is this why, when we were younger, our days seemed to stretch out endlessly before us, as opposed to our lives as adults, where we rush frenetically through the day, and each year rushes by faster and faster, like a runaway train beyond our control? Is it because we’re so focused on the end result and getting somewhere that we’re not even truly present in the task at hand?
How many of us rush around like the rabbit character in the Winnie the Pooh books? Rabbit was always in such a hurry to be somewhere, that he would sign his letters, Back Soon, Rabbit. So Pooh always called him Back-Soon-Rabbit.
I realized that coaching with my clients always feels like pure joy to me. I love listening to them and connecting with them.
Often, after I finish my coaching days, I’ll sit in my living room on my couch looking out at the mountains, feeling the energy and joy of my connections from the day. But the details of my work, that was another thing entirely. Ugh!
After talking to my colleagues, I found myself filled with inspiration and confidence. After all, I had nothing to lose with this “playful work” concept.
Set an intention to play and have fun at work
Before I began working I would say out loud, “Okay, I’m setting the intention to play, have fun and be creative today at work. I trust that this can be a fun process. I set the intention to notice when my work isn’t fun and then to ask myself in the moment how I can change what I’m doing to make it more fun and playful.”
Believe it or not, crazy things starting happening! It was amazing. While working on an outline for a speaking engagement proposal I noticed my left brain kicking in, and the taskmaster in me saying that I needed to do more research and think more about my proposal before sending it off.
Because I had set the intention in advance to notice when I didn’t feel like I was playing or having fun, I was aware that my neck began to tighten in the moment. After noticing the tension in my body I told myself,
“Well, I feel like I’ve done enough writing on this proposal. This no longer feels fun and playful, and my sense is that I don’t need a huge amount of detail in my proposal. It’s good enough as it is.” And with that I hit the send button on my computer. A few hours later I received an email congratulating me on securing the speaking engagement. I just laughed. Was it really possible for work to be this easy and playful?
I started applying this approach into other aspects of my business. When it came to selecting a guest for my upcoming radio show I decided to allow my mind to be quiet and to see what kind of fun and playful inspiration came to me.
Normally my radio show has focused on the practical sides of managing money, but I knew in an instant that I wanted to talk about how the way we approach life on an internal level affects the external income we create. I had an instant insight about who I would invite to interview on my show. The radio interview was not only exciting and fun, but I received lots of positive feedback from listeners.
I’m starting to notice if I’m integrating the spirit of play into my work. It’s been a lot more fulfilling, and results have been occurring with greater ease and fulfillment. It has been an incredible experience. I feel like a modern day alchemist who once had a stack of straw that has now been turned into a pile of gold.
Steps to Take Now!
Where could you benefit from setting the intention to integrate a more playful spirit with how you manage your time in your business and your life? Where are you currently feeling stress and tension in your work or life? Is it around your finances? Building your business? Getting work projects completed on time without feeling too stressed or freaked out? Running errands?
Wherever it is, clearly identify it. And then before starting that particular activity, state your intention out loud to be playful and have fun.
Notice when the activity no longer feels playful in the moment and then ask yourself what you can do to make it playful. And remember, lighten up and have fun. The true spirit of play is about the process and not the end result
What’s it like for you? Do you have a lot of tension, stress and overwhelm during your workday? Or have you stumbled on something that really helps you have more fun and create effective results in your business and life? I’d love to hear from you about YOUR experiences!
Leslie Cunningham specializes in working with women entrepreneurs who experience fear and self-doubt in their ability to consistently make more money in their business. The end result that women achieve through following Leslie's advice and expertise is that they are able to permanently get off the emotional financial roller coaster ride and break into six-figures and beyond. http://impactandprofits.com/