Executives rarely complain about having too much fun at work. It makes me wonder if we discount the value of enjoyment to job performance. In the next 60 seconds, we’ll explore the power of play in even the most serious of careers.
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There is power in play.
Play grants a survival advantage in the wild. When young animals engage in rough-and-tumble play-fighting, they are learning skills and social rules, improving motor control, and developing cognitive ability.
Humans also benefit from play throughout their entire life span, not just as children and adolescents. Adults who continue to explore and learn throughout life are less prone to dementia. In older adults, those who engage in the most cognitive activity (doing puzzles, reading, engaging in mentally challenging work) have a 63% lower chance of getting Alzheimer’s than the general population.
The people who stay sharp and interesting as they age are the ones who continue to play and work.
When we stop playing, we stop growing, and we begin dying.
Work vs. Play?
According to Stuart Brown, MD, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, the opposite of work is not play. Play and work are mutually supportive. Yet most of us have learned to be serious when it comes to our careers. We squelch our natural drive to have fun.
Play is not the enemy of work; in fact, neither can thrive without the other. We need the newness of play, the sense of flow, imagination, energy, and being in the moment. We also need the benefits of work: the economic stability it provides, and the sense of meaning and competence.
The quality that work and play have in common is creativity. In both, we are creating new relationships, developing skills, and making things happen.
Often, an overwhelming sense of responsibility and competitiveness can bury our inherent need for variety and challenge. If we deny our need to play, we will eventually fall to stress and burnout. Recognizing our biological need for play can transform work and life. This is often the doorway to work-life balance.
Play helps us deal with difficulties, handle challenges, and tolerate routines and emotions such as boredom or frustration. It provides a sense of expansiveness, promotes mastery, and is vital to the creative process.
If you are a CEO or other bona fide executive and work-life balance, play, or creativity are things that puzzle you, let’s connect.
SOLID coaching solves the puzzles of leadership and is tailored exclusively to every individual.
- Do you feel you have achieved work-life balance?
- Do you feel bored, frustrated, or burned out?
- How can you make play a part of your everyday life?
If you still aren’t sure play is really that important, see our recent post, “Why Executives Need Play.”