Play is Training for the Real World

Play is Training for the Real World

What skills and attitudes are needed to live in the real world?

“If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” ~ Woody Allen

When you look at the two paths expressed in the image above, what would you say are the skills needed to travel the path above versus below? How do we need to be? What attitudes are necessary?

In considering the path below, I would guess one of the first skills or attitudes you thought of was flexibility. (I say this because when I ask my playshop participants the same question it seems to always be the first answer shared, not just by one person, but many, which I find personally interesting!). I would also guess that you might have thought of curiosity, imagination, creativity, intuition, adaptability, wonder, adventure, courage, trust, and openness… maybe more.

Now what about the path above? You could say that we need to be clear, consistent, logical, determined, resolute, directive, focused and good at planning.

When you look at these two lists of skills and attitudes, which would you say are the ones that we have traditionally prized more in our society? Yes, it is a bit of a rhetorical question, but it needed to be asked. We have traditionally praised and encouraged the latter. But why?

There are many reasons, and I have mentioned them in other blog posts so I will be brief in listing them here. We love to be in control. We love to know where we are going, and we value certainty and being right. Control, knowledge, certainty and being right. I would say that these attitudes would definitely keep us on the straight and narrow. We fear failure and uncertainty, and the judgment that may come with doing things wrong. We therefore work hard to maintain the status quo.

Fear of our power keeps us on the beaten path.

More deeply, it is the fear of owning how powerful we are that keeps us walking the linear path. It is easier to hide out and play small than explore our deeper riches and fully play with them in the world.

The moment we embrace our power, we must do something with it. We must venture off the beaten path and create our own course. Our power will not allow us to play small by walking the tried and tested. It will not allow us to hide in familiarity and conformity. It demands we stand out and step into the unknown. It demands we are true to our Self, which may mean ruffling the feathers of those around us who have known us to be anything but that.

A person who lives in alignment with her power serves her deeper purpose in life and will allow nothing to stop her. She knows it is her natural imperative, and that to not live in accordance with it is like a death. She must create her life versus living a life someone else created for her.

Living other people’s lives is what we do, though. We have a world full of people who construct our lives for us because they feel they know best. They do this because they have yet to realize how powerful they are. They have yet to feel and express the unbounded wealth of creative energy inside. If they did, they would immediately cease from controlling the lives of others so much. They would tell others what to do less, and spend more time being curious and supportive while walking by their side. They would follow their lead and trust their creative path. They would know that anything but this is a complete disservice to their learning and development, and of course, to the nurturing of their heart.

Play supports us to live from our creative power.

Since life is a bumpy unpredictable ride, and the navigational skills are as mentioned above, you can then conclude that play prepares us for living in this world, and from our creative power. After all, what does play teach? Imagination, curiosity, wonder, and all the other qualities listed above. (You could also say that play teaches us some of the skills needed to walk the straight and narrow such as focus and determination). Play sets us free to be ourselves and explore the limitless possibilities of this vast playground we call life, and the unlimited depth of our creative potential. It helps us create our life versus allowing life to happen to us. So why would we deny our children play?

We need to change our perspective on the value and importance of play.

We are “readying” our children sooner than ever in our myopic and ignorant attempt to prepare them for the illusionary linear path of living. Did you know that in the United States up to 50% of schools are either removing or reducing recess? We are raising our children to be little adults! One grade four school teacher said her job was to prepare her students to be “little workers.” Shocking, I know, but this is the world we live in and have lived in for a very long time.

The cost is the denial of our birthright to be wild and free, and to explore, get messy and make mistakes. We learn and grow more when things are messy, not when things are moving along in a predictable manner. In other words, we learn more by walking the path at the bottom of the picture, than at the top. We can’t possibly grow too much if things are all hunky dory! By training our children to walk the straight and narrow we are not only denying them the experience of their wild, free Self, but the capacity to learn how to cope in difficult times, and grow through messiness of life.

The cost is the potential to change the world for the better. Play prepares children to live on purpose. Living on purpose means creating a life that is a joyful and creative expression of the one’s soul, and that serves the world by moving it towards more conscious and harmonious living. Play indeed supports this for all the reasons mentioned thus far. It prepares the children of today to be the innovative thought leaders of tomorrow. And it is tomorrow’s creatives that will make the biggest difference on our planet. The ones who have the imagination to turn storms into power, and intuitive insight into ethical business ventures. Playing with dreams and imagination at four years old will birth heart-based leaders at twenty-four.

It begins with us.

We have not been prepared or supported to walk the creative, uncertain, bumpy path. And so we raise and educate our kids with prescriptive approaches to ensure measurable outcomes. We attempt to protect them out of our own fears from living from their inner truth, but in fact, cause them to live with greater fear. Our fears and limiting beliefs create the parameters of their metaphoric playground of life. Our fears and beliefs become their fears and beliefs.

Living to our potential is therefore essential not just so that we can live more fully, but so that we can support others to do the same. In inviting more potential out of ourselves, we automatically invite potential out of others. It therefore begins with us, and how willing we are to walk the path at the bottom of the image. It begins with us to look within and ask ourselves how much we are living true to our creative Self.

“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” ~ Peggy O’Mara

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Check out Vince’s book: Let the Fire Burn ~ Nurturing the Creative Spirit of Children, A Children’s Book for Adults

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