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Why Adults Need to Play (Especially If You’re an Entrepreneur)
Editor's note: This is a guest post by Nailah Blades.
When's the last time you played? I'm talking full-on, delightfully silly, fun on fun on fun PLAY.
For most of us, it was probably sometime when we were kids. Maybe when we were teens, if we’re lucky.
Somewhere along the way, we probably started to relegate playtime to the province of little kids. But as human beings we need to play, no matter our age. It enables us to create, innovate, imagine, solve problems, learn from mistakes, be resilient, curious, and open. It also allows us to be better humans, gives glimpses of our better selves, and reminds us of how happy we can be.
That means we need the chance to chase down that feeling of intense living. We need to feel that wonderful lightness of BEING, especially as entrepreneurs.
Why Do Adults Need to Play?
Leisure researchers (Yes, that's a thing!) have found that play and leisure time is especially hard for high achievers. Our world is focused on success markers like finances, job titles, and degrees. None of that leaves an awful lot of room for play.
Even entrepreneurs who start their businesses to create more freedom often get caught up in the cycle of overwork and burnout. They — and we — begin to believe anything not traditionally “productive” is a waste of time. But adults need play. It allows us to push outside our comfort zone, flex our curiosity muscles, increase the part of the brain responsible for creativity and innovation, practice taking risk, and reach a state of flow.
How to Inject More Play into Your Life
Think like a kid. The things we loved as kids can give us valuable insights into what would light us up as adults. When I was little, you could pretty much always find me climbing things and getting dirty. As an adult, hiking was and is a no-brainer. Think back to the times when you felt most at peace, when you were lost in flow, and felt free. What were you doing? More importantly, how can you start incorporating those things into your life now?
Create space for play. If you’re like most people, you schedule your important tasks first: deadlines, appointments, conference calls, work trips, etc. Everything else falls into the spaces between those responsibilities. What you’re often left with is a calendar filled with things other people need you to do. What would happen if you changed your process and started with scheduling the things you want to do first? In order to infuse more fun and play into our lives, we need to schedule it like we would any other obligation. And then we need to protect that time fiercely. Time expands to fill the space allotted. If we’re not scheduling any time for play, it’s just not going to happen.
Take a hike. I'm a big proponent of using adventure, particularly outdoor adventure, to tap into who we are at our core and to fuel more colorful and productive lives. I’m not the only one. Cognitive neuroscientist, David Strayer, has been studying what he calls the “three-day effect.” Strayer and his colleagues tested 28 backpackers’ problem-solving abilities before and after going on Outward Bound trips. The researchers found their creative thinking and problem solving increased by 47%.
Strayer believes the results are due to the frontal cortex, which is the executive taskmaster of our brains. Day-to-day life with its emails, texts, tasks, deadlines, chores, appointments, and lists all have a way of frying this part of our brains. Giving our brains three days in the wild is just enough time to to get them to unwind from our regular lives. Better yet, Strayer saw that when the frontal cortex is freed up, other parts of the brain begin to take over, like those associated with sensory perception, empathy, and productive day-dreaming. Pretty cool, right?
Now, not everyone has the energy or the desire to go on a backpacking trip every time they need a refresh. But you can still gain the benefits of the three-day effect at home. Maybe it's taking a walk around the block at lunch, going on a bike ride with your family, or just shutting off your phone and reading a book on your porch.
Making time for play may seem frivolous, especially when there is so much important work to be done. But you need activities that ask nothing of you and only fill you with joy. You should lose yourself in living and experience your life fully and unabashedly — it helps you rest and regain energy lost to grueling deadlines and work projects.
Play is one way to not only fully experience our world but also replenish our energy stores. The more time you allow yourself to play, the sharper your mind will be and the more ready you’ll be to take on the important things you need to get done as an entrepreneur.
Do yourself, your business, and the world a favor. Go out and play today. (Tweet this.)