I can hear the words now, “Enjoy it while you can.” The unsolicited advice adults share so freely with kids, as if adulthood marks a dark entrance into true responsibility. And just like that, fun has reached its expiration date. But what if we’re perpetuating a myth, one that favors obligation over joy, placing importance on routine versus exploration, and fueling the idea that play is for children only. But in reality, play can happen at any life stage.
The average person spends one third of their lifetime at work, according to information out of Gettysburg College, and this doesn’t include the additional tasks we absolutely need to complete or the growing list of to-dos. This signals to me that we need to approach play with more conscious awareness. Play is a choice, a voluntary decision to provoke fun, throwing responsibility to the side, and saying yes to innovation and spontaneity.
Here are a few ways to rebel against tradition and revive that juvenile part of you that’s eager to play:
- Connect with your Inner Child: Your inner child is an expression of your childlike self, the one that exists within, and may need the gentlest of nudges to engage the world with excited energy. Think about things you loved doing as a child, activities that made you smile from ear to ear or endlessly captivated your interest. What made you giddy? When we return to an earlier time in our play history, we give ourselves permission to observe what fun feels like as an adult.
- Dare to Wonder: These three words immediately unleash expansiveness, freeing curiosity to take center stage. Curiosity invites our logical mind to take a backseat, focusing our attention on a desire to learn versus needing to know. This minor shift broadens our perspective, making room for imagination and innovation. We’re more apt to ask questions, see beauty in what previously seemed ordinary, and find joy and meaning in everyday interactions. Let your innocence lead the way and stimulate the opportunity for new discoveries.
- Ditch the Judgments: It’s easy to get caught in a perception that all eyes are on you, especially when you’re trying something new or engaging in an activity that provokes some level of fear. Often times, this skewed observation is born out of experienced criticism and we’re now worried of what others might think. So, we hide in the shadows, anxiously wishing we had the courage to try.
This comes at a cost. It’s the bucket list that hasn’t been started or a simple “next time,” yet time continues to come and go. What price have you paid? I encourage you to take a risk and do the thing. I can guarantee that you’ll find more than just a moment of fun, you’ll find your power and the strength to bravely step into new situations like no one’s watching.
- Process, not Outcome: We live in a culture where outcomes are incentivized. Value is placed on the final product, so it’s no wonder we overly focus on the end game and undervalue the in-between; those necessary steps that get us from start to finish.
Play, on the other hand, has zero limits. There are no boundaries for how to be or do, no performance reviews, or time constraints. It’s inviting, giving rein to maneuver in whatever way makes sense to the individual. Put simply, you get to show up exactly as you are. When we authentically immerse ourselves in the process, we mindfully redirect our attention to the in-between. Within this space, creativity flourishes and each moment, is met with gratitude.
The idea that play is just for kids no longer needs adult validation. In a world where responsibility is significantly valued, let’s rebel in favor of fun and re-discover the beauty of play.
Christina Trujillo Sieren, is an author, speaker, and mom of two. Christina is a licensed psychotherapist with a private practice specializing in high-risk adolescents and families. She is the Founder and Lead Coach of Unapparent Parenting, INC., where she provides coaching to parents of teens. Christina supports parents to question mainstream parenting concepts and embrace the messiest of moments, daring parents to re-define their most authentic parenting blueprint from the inside out. Christina is the author of Parenting Teen Girls: A Positive Parenting Approach to Raising Health, Independent Daughters. For more information and to connect with Christina, visit www.christinasieren.com.