Children Play. Do You?

I’ve been thinking about playing.  And playing about thinking. (Hah!) 

Most of what we do in our oh-so-adult lives is purposeful, agenda-driven, and really (sometimes even really, really) serious.

I won’t argue that, for the most part, the serious stuff truly does need to get done… some of it in a very timely fashion.  In fact, some of it is so urgent, it might even need to be done instead of reading these very words.  If that’s the case, please go do what you need to do.  But then come back and read this, because it’s important.  It’s about your health.

It’s about your life

It’s about your health, both physical and emotional.  It’s also about satisfaction, happiness, joy, glee, and living a life worth living.  Your life.


When my clients are struggling to do this-or-that project by such-and-such time while also doing x and y and maybe even z… when the to-do lists are piled on top of each other (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively), it’s time to take a “time out.”

Of course, their coaching sessions offer them a “time out”, a weekly “walk” in the fresh air, where they can take time away from working hard to venture out into the wilderness that is their lives, to notice the natural course they are following and paths they can choose to take. It’s the equivalent of stepping way back in order to discover the big picture.  What are their priorities and how are they addressed?

But they also get to step back and look at how they are “holding” themselves as they do this work.  Are they struggling, heads-down, hunkered over their work?  Or are they coming to their work in joyful anticipation?  (Oooh, is that really possible???)

The possibility of joy

Obviously, I’m going to tell you “Yes. It is possible.”

Yes. It is possible.  I dare say, it is not only possible, it is the way it is meant to be.

Let me explain.  I believe we doubt that joy is our innate way of being because, unfortunately, we also have the innate ability to get amazingly confused by life’s many interesting and perturbing experiences.  And so we sometimes – perhaps most times – forget that we can be joyful, even in the midst of hard times, difficult or tedious work, people or systems against which we are compelled to struggle, an unfair and often harsh world, and ill health.  Yes, even ill health!

So what is there to do?  Well, one of the easiest ways I know of finding joy is through play.

A little primer on play

When children play – when they’re really playing – you can tell. Sometimes, when they’re really concentrating, there is silence and quiet. But often, they’re talking and giggling and laughing and their whole bodies are running or dancing or wiggling.  In either case, they are in some other world.

They are in that other world of playful exploration, construction, physical development, curiosity, and relating.  Notice that it is not the struggling world of exploration, construction, physical development, curiosity, and relating.  Nor is it the obligatory world of exploration (e.g., schooling), physical development (e.g., mandatory calisthenics, dieting), curiosity (e.g., term papers), and relating (e.g., families, group rivalries).

If you’re reading this, more likely than not you have the capacity and freedom to make choices that brought you to where you are today and can take you to where you want to be… to the relationships you have, to the body you have, to how you interface with the world,  to the work for which you are paid, and so on.

Bringing a measure of play to the parts of your life where it is missing has the capacity to shift your sense of participation in your world from “I have to” (as in, “I have to go to work, write this paper, go to this meeting…”) to “I get to” (as in, “Hey! I get to discover some interesting facets of my work, stretch myself in writing this paper, observe the fascinating human interactions in that meeting…).

I’ll say that again, without the parenthetical parts: Bringing a measure of play to the parts of your life where it is missing has the capacity to shift your sense of participation in your world from “I have to” to “I get to.”

This is very important

Children play.  Do you?

As always, I appreciate your comments, whether made privately or posted on the site. Contact me, also, if you would like to talk about any of this.


-Steve Reiter
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