Do you remember when you were a little kid and you would play? Not to win a game, or to improve yourself, or to develop skills, but just for fun?
Maybe you didn’t have that experience as a kid. To be honest, I can’t remember play like that from my childhood.
If you did have that sense of play, do you still exercise it?
The concept of doing something “for the love of the game” has turned into “for the love of competing” or “for the love of the win.”
Everyone is too busy looking for what will give them the edge in competition, in business, in getting ahead, in getting to where we’re going next. We’re so intent on improving that we don’t play.
Take exercise for example. At one point, people might exercise by swimming, running, or lifting weights. Today, it often seems like everyone is training for a marathon, a triathlon, an iron-man, the cross-fit games.
When was the last time you did something without looking to perfect it or improve your skill?
There’s nothing wrong with competition or a race as a motivator, especially when it comes to exercise and fitness. “Whatever gets you moving” is my motto.
And having clear outcomes for improvement can help keep us motivated.
But it’s also possible to take it too far. The constant quest to improve or even “get it right,” or beat the competition — even if the competition is yourself — can backfire, sucking all enthusiasm and life out of activities we once enjoyed.
The irony is that when we don’t bring that sense of joy to what we do, we don’t improve.
A New Way to Get the Edge?
Here’s an idea I’m trying on right now:
What if play was the way to get the edge?
Pure, unadulterated play. Doing something just for the fun of it. With no agenda for improvement or for extracting lessons.
What if the way to get the edge was to be less strategic, less focused on what we could get from an activity, what it would do for us, or what we could learn from it?
What if releasing the grip on progress or results would actually help us reclaim the joy we once had from that activity?
If you’re anything like me, this may seem unfathomable, maybe even heretical. But maybe that’s what we need in these times. It certainly feels like something I need.
Take the Play Challenge
I invite you to join me in a challenge I gave myself.
Pick one activity that you do. Put aside any objectives or outcomes. Don’t record any lessons learned. For one day, do that activity for the pure joy of doing it.
Just for fun.
Remember what it’s like to be a kid. Or, maybe, discover for the first time.
Do it for the love of the game.
I’d love to hear how it goes for you and if it helps you find joy in something you once loved to do.
- For my fellow word geeks: notice the root of “unadulterated” is “adult.” There’s wisdom in that word: as adults, we over-complicate things, taking them away from their pure state. ↩