of play, possibility, and productivity

November 20, 2008

In the drive to be productive, it is easy to eliminate play from our routines. Certainly play is the opposite of productivity, right? Neil Fiore suggests the opposite in The Now Habit:

From studying the performance styles of achievers, I have learned how essential guilt-free play is to attaining quality work and minimizing procrastination. A firm commitment to guilt-free play will recharge your batteries, creating renewed motivation, creativity, and energy for all the other areas of your life.

Earlier today, I had a conversation with a friend who just returned from two months in Tuscany. He moved in with a family that own a small vineyard and helped them with the grape harvest. He had no access to email, and not even a pen and paper to jot down things he needed to remember to do. It was just him, the vines, and a breathtaking view every day.

As he described it, he has returned home with a renewed understanding of what it means to live in the moment. The worries and concerns of daily life took a break, and he found pleasure. He has a new sense of confidence and discovery as he moves into each day.

I know it might not be reasonable for you to jet away to Tuscany for two months. It certainly isn’t for me! But the play that Fiore describes captures some of what my friend experienced. To play is to temporarily let go of control and engage with possibility:

It is in playing that we build confidence in the reliability of our creativity and our excitement about discovery — the movement from not-knowing to knowing, from lack of control over problems to control and resolution of problems.

Play is a leap of faith, a step into an arena of unknowing. And as we create a way forward by making it up as we go, we remember that we can do the same in the “real world”. We can step into the next moment knowing that we don’t need to have control, but that we can form the way as we go. Play leads us into the world of possibility — a possibility that is a launching place for creating and producing what we haven’t yet imagined.

And by the way, if you don’t even know where to start…I always recommend a good solid reading of Dr. Seuss. He started with And to Think That I Saw it On Mulberry Street; maybe you could too.

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