Most of us have fond memories of playing at the playground when we were kids. There was the swing, the slide, the seesaw and playing in the sand. And most important the other kids. Once you felt safe, you let go. Before you knew it, it was time to go home. Some days you didn’t want to leave.

As you let go, you forgot about time. You learned, experimented and developed social skills, and still were able to experience a sense of freedom. You weren’t concerned with what you had to do “afterwards.” In fact you didn’t even think about “afterwards.” You were in the moment. Nothing else mattered.

For some of us that playground might have looked different. It could have been the park or the street in front of our house. There was always a game that you could play that was played before by other kids. While my focus was primarily on sports, I remember a few games that perhaps you played; kick the can, hide-and-seek and hopscotch. If there wasn’t a game that you liked, you would use your imagination and make one up, including the rituals that went along with it. Sometimes you engaged in games and activities just with yourself inside your home. You were in your own world, with your own set of rules. I remember my stamp collection and the “all-star” baseball game that I made up.

Each game had its own set of rules and rituals. Then one day you grew up and the game got more serious. In this new game, there was a new set of rules that put more emphasis and importance on results, rather than on fun and play.

We believed that because of the demands of this new game that we didn’t have time for play. It actually works the other way. If you make time for play, you’ll get better results in the bigger game of life because you’ll struggle less and be more fun to be around. If you can be excited about one aspect of your life, that enthusiasm will spread to your whole life. You can integrate play into your life now. Some of it is engaging in activities that you enjoy and some of it is making a shift in attitude. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to make this shift.

Shakespeare wrote in As you Like It.
“All the world's a stage. And all the men and women merely players;
 They have their exits and their entrances,
 And one man in his time plays many parts.”

Each of us has already played many parts in our life and I’m sure we’ll play many more. Each role has its unique set of rules, language, rituals and costumes. I’ve played lawyer, musician, father, husband and athlete and now I’m playing the role of “youthful” wise elder.

Let’s look at some of the shifts and practices that you can integrate into your life. The first shift begins with the word “play.” For example. I “play” tennis. I “play” the piano. What are some of the things that you do or have done that begin with the word “play.” If you have participated in any form of theatre, you have played a role. When you go out and dress up in a certain way, your costume helps you get into the spirit of the evening.

Let’s take it one step further. Caroline Casey, Making the Gods Work for You, refers to a high Japanese dialect that prefaces a verb with the words “played at.” Imagine the shift that this practice would make in your experience of everyday reality. If you are a nurse, you would say, “I’m playing at nursing.” If you are a doctor you would say, “I’m playing at being a doctor.” Nurse and doctor were games that some of us might have played as kids. A father would say, “I’m playing at fathering.” A teacher would say, “I’m playing at teaching.” Right now, I’m playing at writing. What are you currently playing at?

Let me share with you a practice that my friend Samia, who is a social worker, integrates into her life. She prefaces what is next on her agenda with the words, “I get to.” I remember how excited I was when I got to make my first court appearance as a young lawyer. By integrating this practice into our daily life, it’s easier to experience life as a gift and blessing, rather than a “have to” or burden.

A playful attitude benefits us in ways that perhaps we hadn’t previously considered. When I did some research for this article I was intrigued by this statement:

“ Many of our greatest thinkers locate their
capacity for original and profound thought
in their imaginative abilities, first developed
through creative play in early childhood.”

– Sharna Olfman
Psychology Professor
Point Park University

You have the potential to transform your everyday experience of life into a “magical playground.” It begins with making a choice. Choose to make what you normally do in life, more fun. At one time in your life you knew how to do that. You can start doing it again. There’s no better time than now.

You know I love to hear from you. Let me know what you discover. Feel free to share this article with those in your circle.

Journey ON


Author's Bio: 

Mark Susnow, is an executive-life coach and recognized thought leader who inspires others to believe in themselves. He is passionate about life being an exciting journey of discovery. His enthusiastic and inspiring keynotes on change, leadership and connection thoroughly convey this message to his audiences. A former trial attorney and musician for 30 years, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. In his former career he was covered by The New York Times, Rolling Stone Magazine, Boston Globe and The San Francisco Chronicle.

He is the author of Dancing on the River: Navigating Life’s Changes. Most recently he has written Discover the Leader Within.