When last did you PLAY?

And by PLAY, I mean to just do something with no desired outcome, just because you could, just as you did as a child.

“As an entrepreneur, where do I have the time to play?” I can hear you ask. “I’ve got my start up to move forward, I lie awake at night, thinking, worrying, fretting, and calculating, with all things related to my entrepreneurial venture!”

However, now more than ever we need to take the time out to play.

Think of the time when we were children, when we just did things because you could. We flew kites or drew with coloured pencils on a piece of paper. We chased our friends, we laughed, we shouted, we play fought, we built sandcastles, puppets, we had imaginary friends, and we never wanted it to stop. It was a time when our energy levels and creativity were in abundance.

As we grow older the responsibility of life takes over, we become more serious, must be productive and we play much less. We stop or do fewer fun things because we can’t find the time to, or we’re too drained from running around doing the things that we, “should,” be doing.

When we were younger, besides it being fun, the act of play contributed to our development. Play fighting as a child taught us boundaries, imaginative play developed our use of imagination which is key for visualisation and brainstorming.

And as we grow older the importance of PLAYING is twofold.

One, it contributes to our wellbeing – it relaxes us, and releases the “feel-good,” hormones – endorphins, oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin, and it promotes relaxing and taking it “easy.”

Playing as an adult can be,
• Movement play – running, dancing, skipping, cycling, and swimming in the ocean, playing sport.
• Object play – putty, clay, Lego, Meccano, building something.
• Imaginative play – making up stories, creative writing, role playing, visualisation.
• Social play – with friends, touch rugby, rough and tumble, group hiking trips
• Celebratory and Ritual play – birthday parties, wedding receptions, festivals, dancing.
• Fun hobbies – painting, carpentry, model building, art classes
• Reading, time alone, quietness, watching movies, and walking.

The second reason playing is important, is because it creates a state of mind for creative inspiration.

When we are in a relaxed and our conscious mind relaxes, it allows our sub conscious to release and remind us of those relatable thoughts, conversations, things we’ve seen – heard – read – watched. Those “Aha,” and light bulb moments, which , if we take notice of them, can assist with moving us and our ventures forward.

Have you ever experienced sitting in an exam struggling with a question, or someone asking you a question, and try as you might, you can’t think of the answer? Yet sometime later while out walking, jogging, watching TV, reading, just about to fall asleep or just before waking up etc, the answer comes to mind? That is the moment when your conscious mind is relaxed, which the act of play promotes.

Besides the importance of our wellbeing, as entrepreneurs we’re always searching for those inspirational gems and there is a process for unearthing them.

In 1891 there was a German physicist, Hermann von Helmholtz who spoke about a thought process that he used when he was trying to solve a problem or make a connection or create something new.

He said that this process included 4 stages.
1. The Preparation stage – the stage where he studied, researched, explored, and acquired as much knowledge related to the topic. He would try and do it as uninterrupted as possible – with no specific timeframe.
2. The Incubation Stage – he felt that when he had prepared enough, he would consciously disconnect from it entirely. He would do something else like spend time with work colleagues or work on something else entirely. He believed that while he was doing this all the information, he’d acquired during the preparation stage would incubate.
3. The Illumination Stage – he then said that it was the moments when he was completely relaxed – walking in the fields and forests that the light bulb moments, the answers, the illumination came to him.
4. The Verification Stage – he would take these ideas, apply them, put them into practice, and see if they worked.

This process is backed up by the likes of Ludwig van Beethoven who used to walk for 5 hours every afternoon after having composed the full morning. Friedrich Nietzsche who was an outstanding walker who spent up to 8 hours a day in this activity in some periods of his life, and said that, “all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking.”

Charles Dickens, Thoreau, Hemmingway, Tchaikovsky, Virgina Wolf, and Tesla – to name a few were all keen walkers when seeking inspiration.

I believe that it’s not only walking which promotes creative inspiration but putting in the work and then relaxing enough for everything to brew together and rise to the surface. It’s the need for both work and play.

By adding more play to our busy lives, it promotes a sense of wellbeing so that we can guiltlessly relax and receive the creative inspiration we need to take US to the next level.

In the next article I’ll be chatting about creativity and how we can move our inspired ideas forward.

submitted by Gary Hirson
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Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author.