Discover why ‘play’ is more than just a childhood pastime and how it can reignite your joy and self-worth not just as an entrepreneur, but in every aspect of your life. Discover the power of play.
It is play, not properness, that is the central artery, the core, the brain stem of creative life.Clarissa Pinkola Estés
…No play, no creative life. Be good, no creative life.
Hard Work and No Play
I had a consulting call with an Austin-based entrepreneur this week who is on track to cross the 8-figure revenue mark in her enterprise this year. She is bubbly, fun, and super smart. When she speaks, her hands fly around her blonde bob, like planets orbiting the sun.
Her energy is infectious, her dreams are enormous.
Monica has built an incredible team of talent around her. She has an engaging leadership style, manages to delegate well, and ensures everyone is empowered to make autonomous decisions.
As I listened to her speak, I was profoundly curious as to why she was seeking coaching. After all, she appeared to be fulfilled, successful, and well on her way to achieving everything she desired.
About eleven minutes into our conversation, she took a breath. I looked at her, smiled, and said with compassion, “And yet?”
Monica dropped her gaze and remained quiet for nearly 20 seconds or so.
“Sorry,” she barely whispered.
She cleared her throat and kept her eyes on her desk.
“Take all the time you need,” I said.
Monica looked up with tears in her eyes. “And yet,” she said, “I am completely miserable.”
As soon as her awful secret was out, she exhaled, dropped her shoulders, and began to cry.
“Ironic as hell, isn’t it?” she said. “I mean, how crazy is it that I have created everything I ever wanted, and yet, I’ve never felt as sad and hollow as I do right now.”
I leaned forward toward my computer. “Monica, it’s not crazy at all,” I said. “I’m curious, when was the last time you played?” (The power of play is highly underrated.)
“Played? What do you mean?”
“Did something just for fun. Approached something like a child would approach playing. No preconceived notions. No agenda. Just good old-fashioned play.”
Monica sat back in her chair and stared at the ceiling in her office. “Hmmmmmm,” she said. “Well, I run with a friend three times a week in the park. Does that count?”
“Oh, okay,” she said. “Let me think.”
Over the course of several minutes, she offered play options such as going to cocktail parties, going shopping, and working from a neighborhood cafe she loved. While all of those things are certainly fun, they are not play. The power of play is often overlooked, if you need ideas on how to start, find some here.
Monica asked, “Why am I not playing? I mean, that’s weird, right?”
I explained that she had simply believed the cultural lie that hard-charging entrepreneurs don’t have time to play. That play is frivolous and childlike. And certainly, exploring and expressing one’s creativity is sheer nonsense. Something for people who like crafts or people who have retired. Many people today don’t understand the power of play.
But there was something more. Something deeper—a mind construct that was even more destructive.
“Monica, tell me about what achievement means to you,” I said. “And, can you identify what motivates you, drives you?”
After several minutes of talking, she landed on it. “Well, that’s just what good girls do, right?” she said. “We excel.”
We locked eyes. I could feel my own tears starting. I waited. I saw decades of her life play through her mind in a flash. She was reliving choice after choice, decision after decision.
Understanding the ramifications of one, very limiting belief that had shaped her entire adult life: Good girls work hard and do not play (because we do not have feelings of worth without it).
What would it be like if we let the power of play fill us up with worth?
The Power of Play
What is your relationship to play? Take about ten minutes right now and write in your journal your honest assessment of play and what you do for fun.
Start by asking yourself these 3 questions:
- When was the last time you truly played?
- What are your beliefs about the power of play?
- How does thinking about playing make you feel?
Do you feel a shudder or a bristling when the word “play” is even brought to your attention? Does hard work feel “natural” while play feels foreign?
And a biggie: Do you believe that you must earn or prove your worth to the world?
When you took your first breath, you arrived in the world as a person with worth. It’s as much an inherent part of you as the color of your eyes, the genes in your DNA. We don’t earn our brown hair or our flat feet. It comes with the human package. Just like the power of play.
Similarly, we do not earn our worth. Nor is there anything we can ever do to lose it.
This excerpt from Mary Oliver’s poem, “Wild Geese,” says it as beautifully as it can be said:
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
And how do we figure out what “the soft animal” of our body loves?
Playing is the birthplace of our joy, our connection to our own heart and soul, and to our creativity. Playing opens our focus and eases us out of survival and across The Threshold into the portal of delicious exploring. The power of play runs deep.
Playing reinforces what our soul has known all along: That we are worthy just as we are, with no efforting or striving or achieving required. That is the power of play.