Find Your Play

Over five years ago I attended a women’s surf camp in Mexico where I met my now dear friend, Kendra. It’s her birthday this month and over cake, we were reminiscing about the comedy surrounding the trip. Neither of us graduated from the camp with a Laird Hamilton medal, but we did find one thing true: wiping out while riding waves is pure bliss. We spent the week together with tears streaming down our faces as we laughed at ourselves. We both realized how fun the sport was, especially if you’re not good at it. Getting pounded by surf as we paddled out and tried to talk, caused us to drink most of Sayulita bay. I went into the trip wanting to sharpen my skills but soon realized that the best surfer is truly the one having the most fun.

When I ask my clients, “Are there any activities in which you now participate that cause you to lose track of time?” most have to stop and think about it. If the individual is looking to fill their leisure time, brainstorm new ways to get motivated around exercise, or simply longing to lighten up, I try to appeal to their sense of fun. But it isn’t always easy to find.

What happens to our play on our way to becoming adults?

We are designed to find fulfillment and creative growth through play, but we so often say that we don’t have any time for it. We have been taught that the most successful person is the one with the most money, prestige, strength, speed or power. But yet, the happiest person is often the one having the best time.

Dr. Stuart Brown, author of Play, believes that play is a force that allows us to both discover our most essential selves and enlarge our world. In taking your play history; he advises some questions to ask yourself:

What have been the impediments to play in my life?

Do I give myself permission to be a beginner?

How can I nourish my mode of play and be with people who nourish it too?

Play is more than a frivolous pastime. It is an opportunity to expand and learn. It is a chance to be fully present and whole.

So where to start? In my coaching practice if someone is struggling, I have the individual recollect what he or she liked to do as a child. If you thought of the activity as play when you were nine, you’ll probably find some pleasure in it now.

I also encourage my clients to suspend judgment and simply write down anything that naturally causes them to pause or which catches their interest. This is vital, as play is unique to your spirit. What feels like a thrill to someone else, may not resonate with you at all, even if the activities seem enjoyable in theory.

Do you gravitate towards reading certain books in the bookstore? Is the local ski shop a place you tend to wander? Do you find yourself constantly gawking at motorcycles parked on the street? Is your iPod tuned up with loads of jazz music? Do you dream of sailing? Is The Food Network a show you relish in watching? Are there things you enjoy collecting? In the privacy of your apt., are you often dancing about? Do you feel energized when you go for a swim?

People committed to happiness evaluate life by the quality of their experience. While destinations are worthy, in the big picture they are simply an excuse to have a delicious journey.

Take some time out this month to pursue your own sport, play games, sing or dance. Do something nonrational. Rejoice, and be not afraid. If you manage to find your joy, you will feel its pleasure, know its beauty and likely return for more.