Who says playing is just for kids?

Routines and Rituals

Five years ago, I dropped New Year’s Resolutions and adopted a Word of the Year (WOTY) instead. I wrote about my WOTY in 201520162017 and 2018.

For 2020, I’m all about “play.” If previous years are any indication, this word will inform my decisions and actions every day, and result in positive changes – big and small – by December.

You’re probably thinking, “’Play’ doesn’t seem like a good word!” Maybe because you think in 2020 you need to set bigger goals, try harder, achieve more. Maybe ambition isn’t your default setting so “play” feels like a dangerous invitation to goof off. Well, if you know me at all, then you know being serious enough has never been my challenge.

When I was a kid, my mom’s frequent reminder to me was, “You know you can’t get more than 100 on the test.” It was her way of telling me I had studied enough and I should go to sleep, that pushing myself more wasn’t going to offer me any additional benefit or gain. But to me, if it were possible to get more than 100 on the test, I was definitely going to figure out how to do it and I certainly couldn’t leave open the possibility of scoring less than 100. Anything less than 100 wasn’t perfect – and imperfection was unacceptable.

Perfection can stifle creativity, risk-taking and add unnecessary pressure, fear and stress. Play does just the opposite.

Play is a state of mind, rather than an activity.

To help me live “play” every day, I’m reading Stuart Brown’s Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul. Yes! That’s what I’m looking for with my word choice in 2020. . . imagination, freedom, exploration, creativity, adventure, doing something without a clear end in mind, approaching the world with the wonder and awe of a child, the openness to start something and see where it goes, to make up new rules. It’s gleeful exuberance, laughter, and magic. Brown actually calls play, “the purest expression of humanity.”

Because I’m implementing some big shifts in my business in 2020, it will, by definition, be a year of doing things differently, working differently, providing service differently, serving different types of people, offering new programs. It’s going to require a ton of creativity and doing things that I haven’t perfected yet. And that’s why play will be so important.

Life’s too short and it’s all too easy to get wrapped up in the weight and intensity of it, especially for me. This can be a challenge for those closest to me, including my team. So, my WOTY encourages me to bring more fun into each day – from games to dance breaks with a new “play” playlist that includes Cyndi Lauper and Prince. I also found a “Play Every Day” Journal with suggestions such as blow bubbles, catch fireflies and ask yourself, “How can I see things differently today?”

When we’re very little, play is our work. As we get older, we see play as a distraction, a waste of time or a reward we get only when our work is done – but it’s never done. When we stop playing, we stop developing.

Einstein told us that play is the highest form of research. In an unpredictable and changing world, play teaches us useful lessons and skills. I’ve got lots of research to do and lots to learn this year – so I’m off to play!

I know it’s nearly the end of February, so yes, I’m a little behind on sharing this article. But hey, we’re playing! Let’s make some new rules. What’s your WOTY for 2020?