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Ask the Life Coach

Learning How to Play Again

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Dear Coach,

In your last column, you challenged the writer to live a life full of passion, purpose, and play. I’m very good at the “purpose” part. I’m driven, goal oriented, somewhat of a perfectionist, and have enjoyed professional success. On the other hand, play has always been a challenge for me.

How do I add more playtime to my life?


Not a Player

Dear Not a Player,

Let’s start with a good definition of play from Jeff Harry, positive play coach and founder of Rediscover Your Play. Jeff says, “One way to think about play is an action you do that brings you a significant amount of joy without offering a specific result.” If you’re wanting to learn more about play, Jeff is a great resource.

But, right now, get started by making a list of the ways you played as a child. What activities did you enjoy? 

Now think of how can you translate these activities into “grown-up versions” in order to enhance your fun quotient. For instance: Climbing trees to rock climbing; Play-Doh to making bread or working with clay; playing with dolls to volunteering at a day care; making mud pies to gardening or baking.

Perhaps what you loved needs no translation; biking, skating, swimming, sleepovers, reading, playing team sports, painting.

If you decide to take up one of your favorite childhood activities, keep it to yourself for a while. Do it just for your own pleasure, not because you want to post something new on social media or win the approval of a friend.

If you’re still struggling with the idea of play, consider a study published in the “Journal of Personal and Individual Differences” to help you identify your playful personal traits. Consider what traits describe your favorite way to play:

1. Other-directed - Enjoys playing with others.

2. Lighthearted - Likes to improvise.

3. Intellectual - Delighted with wordplay and problem-solving.

4. Whimsical - Likes to do unusual things.

Just a couple more tips, then I’ll let you get to the “playground.”

- Block out time for play. Yes, put play on your calendar!

- Do something for yourself that’s in the moment. Take a bubble bath, watch a favorite sitcom, walk on the beach.

- Create a play drawer filled with fun things to stimulate your playfulness. Jacks, rocks, marbles, shells, colorful markers, yarn.

- Call a friend and make a play date.

I hope you find something in these suggestions that will help you rediscover your inner child. Know that he/she is there somewhere; you just need to get back in touch. 

Now, go have some fun!


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