Did you know that play has been shown to reduce stress levels and increase creativity in humans of all ages?
PLAY IS PART OF HUMAN NATURE
Early 20th century Dutch philosopher and cultural theorist Johan Huizinga wrote the 1938 book, Homo Ludens. The title roughly translates from the Latin as 'playing man.'
Now, the word 'ludens' refers to play, sport, and repetitive practice of all kinds.
Huizinga finds that 1) play is essential for human culture; and 2) it's done in earnest at a certain time, within a particular space.
THE PROBLEM: FEAR OF FAILURE
The thing is: most adults and teenagers have forgotten how to play.
We've become so accustomed to presenting a perfect performance in exchange for praise -- at all times, and at all costs -- that avoid taking chances to make mistakes.
And putting ourselves out there for potential failure is integral to play.
Peter Pan: 90'S KIDS, THIS ONE'S FOR YOU
Take the 'lost boy' theme of eternal childhood that occurs throughout literature and popular culture. For instance, for those of us that grew up during the 1990's remember the fantasy-adventure movie, Hook. Near the start of the film, the adult Peter Pan is thrust into the juvenile world of lost boys where play is literally demanded of him. However, Pan finds himself incapable of play. In fact, the once cocky lawyer is utterly out of his depth.
WHY DO ADULTS LOSE THE ABILITY TO PLAY?
The simplified answer is that society teaches us to adhere to rules and look to others for behavioral cues. This makes us care deeply about what others think.
It's partly a good thing. As social beings, we need to care somewhat about how our actions affect others -- but we learn this lesson at a cost.
WE LEARN TO FEAR FAILURE
Since play necessarily involves a willingness to fail, as adults we've learned to devalue the pure and simple process of play.
Every real-life interaction has come to involve the pursuit of perfection, sans free passes or do-overs. As a result, we don't TEACH OTHERS how to experience failure creatively.
LET'S TAKE BACK THE FREEDOM TO FAIL
You can curb your tendency to pitch for praise and embrace failure again.
1. Minimize fear of failure
Create the perfect THINKING SPACE by establishing a TRUE an environment of trust. In other words create a kindred "work-buddy" or "working group" environment where EVERYONE IS FREE to put there thoughts out there .... JUDGEMENT FREE.
2. Teach others to be the honey badger
Honey badgers are tough little buggers. They might be aptly described as the bad-ass weasels: They're fierce, independent, and absolutely fearless.
Teach others to be thick-skinned and care less about what people think …. Therein lies our freedom. We have to REMIND ourselves and others on a constant basis to embrace the inner HONEY BADGER.
3. Remember Newton's third law
Finally, just as Newton's third law states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, we can say this: For every 'Eureka,' there's an 'oops.' Likewise, for every major discovery, there are failed experiments and do-overs. It's that simple...
THE MORAL OF THE STORY
- Create the perfect space with no judgement;
- Become the ageless kid who pursues play earnestly and relentlessly in all things;
- Emulate the honey badger;
- Experiment with failure and explore the 'oops moments' until you get to Eureka.