Playful Living Starts with You

I must first be who I really am, then, do what I need to do, in order to have what I want.

Have you ever had the thought, I’ll be happy when… we move to a new home; when I get the position I’ve been interviewing for; when I finish my degree; when I get pregnant; when I marry….

It all starts with you right Now.

To create the life you want, take responsibility and bring a playful attitude into your relationship with Self, your relationship with the Other in your life, and your relationship with Nature. New or unexpected adventures can be a great start. Did you ever want to…

  • Join an art class
  • Re-create family dishes: the ones your mom or grandmother used to make?
  • Pick up a musical instrument and play!
  • Take dance lessons
  • Travel: how about being a tourist where you live?
  • [Your turn, what would you like to try?]

Slowing down and spending time in solitude offers each of us an opportunity to listen deeply and explore:

  • Daily journaling at a time and place of your choice, experiment with the best place and time for you to write—add images, drawings, paint, have fun with your journal, add color, stories, poetry, doodling.
  • Go on a retreat—there are a number of ways to retreat—you decide where and for how long. The important part here is that you make an intention to give this time to yourself, time to breathe and listen. (Art materials, journal, camera optional).
  • Listen to your dreams (both night and waking) and write them down in your journal. We all dream. Even if you don’t remember your night dreams, we all daydream. Watch for signposts along the way such as bumper stickers that can be your ”motto” for the day. When Hawk shows Herself pay attention. She may be calling you. What is She saying that might influence your way of seeing? Do you need a different perspective? Are you ready to take flight?
  • Go on a play date, a couple hours of play by yourself is key to discovery. Magic happens!

Playful mentors: Children and grandchildren

  • Want to play and create? Follow the lead of your children. Ask don’t tell. They know how to play and are great mentors for adults in how to be playful in all aspects of living.
  • Listen to your children’s night dreams, ask questions about their dreams, and find ways to help your children respond to their dreams through drawing, dream theater, and storytelling. Do they want to act out part of the dream? Can you help? What character in the dream are you to play?
  • Create dream journals together with images, stories, drawings—help the younger children to get started and then they can continue as they grow.
  •  In our high-tech, achievement-oriented culture, we need Free Play! [Imagination first!]

Our Relationships at Work:

  • The opposite of play is not work, its depression.” Play, Brown, S.
  • Serious work invites serious play. IDEO, for example,believes in the power of play. It is an essential part of their approach…”
  • Explore Six Archetypes We Live By: The Hero Within, by Carol Pearson; are you aware of the archetypes of the Innocent, Orphan, Wanderer,  Martyr, Wanderer, Magician? Each of these archetypal ‘personalities’ influence how we relate day to day with others while we work.
  • Explore Move to Greatness: Focusing the Four Essential Energies of a Whole and Balanced Leader; by Genny Whitelaw & Betsy Wetzig.
  • Are you often in Driver mode at work? Are you a Collaborator? Visionary? Organizer?
  • Play is the foundation of all meaningful work.

Nature’s playground is all around us:

  • Play outdoors every day.
  • Each place, animal, plant, rock, body of water, and mountain can speak to us when we listen and are eager to learn their language.
  • Synchronicities and sign posts show up unannounced. If we are ready, we notice “meaningful coincidences,” serendipity, and messages that bring meaning and playfulness to what otherwise would be unremarkable moments in our lives.
  • Consider carrying watercolors, a jug of water, and a small piece of watercolor paper; pencil and drawing paper, camera, and notepad for those moments when you want to record your visit.

Slow down, listen, and remember that self-trust is important as you create the life you want. Each of us can bring a playful attitude into all of our relationships. Be good to yourself, and that “goodness” will spill over into the lives of others you touch in your lifetime.

Dizik, A. Playing kitchen detective: Home cooks try to recreate family recipes; what did grandma put in her kugel? Wall Street Journal. Published February 23, 2012. Available from:

Pearson, C. (1998). Six archetypes we live by: The hero within. New York: Harper Collins.

Whitelaw, G., & Wetzig, B. (2008). Move to greatness: Focusing the four essential energies of a whole and balanced leader. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealy International.

Brown, S., Vaughan, C. (2010). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York: Avery.

Beam, Lisa Sonora. (2008). Creative Entrepreneur. Beverly, MA: Quarry Books. (my go-to visual journaling DIY book!)

Related articles:
Ways to Play: Self Love
The Value of Play
Play is the Key to Contentment

© Copyright 2012 All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Mary Alice Long, PhD

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

  • Leave a Comment
  • Donna b

    March 20th, 2012 at 3:35 PM

    I don’t know about the idea of a playful self, cause that just isn’t me. . . but I like the thought of trying out some new things to find some things that I enjoy. Maybe not dance lessons, no one would be the better for that! But maybe something like an art class, can’t wait to check something new out.

  • Rita p

    March 20th, 2012 at 5:15 PM

    Taking the time to enjoy life around you, that is the greatest lesson that any of us could stand to take away from life. We run form day to day and week to week by marking things off of our oersonal calendars without ever really taking the time to appreciate the here and now. It feels like it is a race to get to some proverbial finish line; yet look at all of the things in life that we are missing out on by running around like that! I don’t want to be the one who looks at her life years from now and has to wonder where it all went. I want to be able to truthfully say that I savored every single moment.

  • marcus

    March 21st, 2012 at 7:56 AM

    good article.I never thought about how everything around us can say something to us,to help us evolve and grow.I may not be able to do this all from day one but I shall make a beginning.Thank you.

  • T Thomas

    March 21st, 2012 at 11:07 AM

    Snowing here today so I decided to play. Put on a Spanish Guitar CD and pretended to be a Flamenco dancer, dancing around my cat in the living room, much to her confused amazement. She did not run away but watched in rapt fascination. I’m a terrible flamenco dancer but I laughed and had a joyful moment. It isn’t how well we do it but the joy and freedom of a playful moment connected to unbridled imagination. Then a poem came to me as they often do:
    The touch of imagination on skin as through a myriad of fancy make-believe I float on memories of
    Childish barefeeet cantering through the grass my neighing streed carrying a beautiful princess to a hedgerow palace.

    Button-eyed Poochie at the ready to execute my self-appointed royal commands.
    Nanny will be entertained as queen but Mummy must knock.
    Scones with cream and jam everyday and broccoli will be banned!

    The gold of childhood play is carried in the heart forever to be savoured during lazy moments with the summer sun warm on my back as I lie in the grass.

  • elli hammond

    March 21st, 2012 at 11:35 AM

    Don’t you realize that the time that you neglect to spend for yourself and your family, this is time that you never can get back? When you don’t take the time to enjoy all that is so precious in life, you will be saddened if in an instant it is all taken away. That is why I try to take time out of every day to sit with my kids, talk about our goals for the day and about the things that we appreciate. It can be big or it can be small, but no matter the conversation I hope they will look back on those little talks fondly one day. That is too precious to allow to go by without paying speciall attention to it.

  • Wendy

    March 22nd, 2012 at 6:16 AM

    What a great article and great comments. Live life to the fullest and with no regrets.

  • Mary Alice Long

    April 10th, 2012 at 3:49 PM

    Thank you all for your playful comments. Looks like many of you are going to try on some new playful ways–great! Each of us can create playful lives in our relationships by listening to what matters and taking playful action to improve ourselves, honor our dreams, create meaningful work, and birth anew through our individual decisions.

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