Play is one of the more undervalued activities we can undertake as an adult, yet it is one that differentiates many of the worlds top performers from the rest of us. Playtime could be considered to be the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. When you are intrinsically motivated and enjoy what you’re doing you might considering it playing. It’s fun.
Play is an activitiy which can promote dramatic shifts in learning. When you are exploring the boundaries of your understanding through play it becomes ok to try and fail, to do thing that might be crazy. Stretching yourself often enough results in leaps in your skills.
With physical skills the benefits of play are particularly well appreciated. We go to the playground and become ever more confident with our balance, strength and co-ordination. These basics translate into other physical skills with bikes and skateboards, and those of us who continue to play like this through into adulthood can reach a professional level.
For mental skills the idea of play is a lot more varied. It could include anything from board games, to trivia nights to personal challenges to building something or just thinking.
Over the last 227 days I have been committed to writing code every day. Sometimes this is a chore and other times it is one of the highlights of my day. This daily goal of writing a little bit of code every days is my chance to play with software in a way that I don’t normally get to do with my job. I have been writing python code for this and as a result of all this play my depth of knowledge has increased dramatically. It’s code that I enjoy writing and as a result of that fun the positive emotions carry over to my work when I write code there.
Richard Feynman was one of the foremost physicists of the 20th century. He never stopped enjoying himself or having fun with the work he did. In the book Surely You’re Joking Mr. Feynman it was quite apparent just how much benefit he got in work and in life from being playful and curious with everything and everyone he interacted with.
I don’t believe you can be a top performer in your field unless you can find the joy and the play in what you do. As adults we easily lose sight of this aspect of life. Play is not only a chance to improve ourselves it is also part of the spice in our lives that can make it worth living at all.