The Language of Play ~ Empowering Words for a Creative World

The Language of Play ~ Empowering Words for a Creative World

“As more humans awaken, the word work is going to disappear from our vocabulary, and perhaps a new word will be created to replace it.” ~ Eckhart Tolle, from The Power of Now.

Imagine you are having a team meeting to introduce a new project. Your team leader is in charge of instigating the project, and of course, she wants it to be successful. You and your team are sitting, listening, waiting for instructions on how to proceed.

Now imagine the first words that come out of her mouth are, “I want you to work on this project.” Her energy is serious, focused and professional.

What would be your initial feeling response? What expectations or images would run through your mind? How would her words and tone impact the room?

Now imagine the first words that come out of her mouth are, “I want you to play with this project.” And imagine her energy to be kind, open, light and playful.

What would be different this time in terms of your personal response, and the response from the room?

Here are some examples of how you may respond differently.

Work response > Play response:

  • Meeting an expectation governed by the team leader > Embracing a culture of collaboration, co-creation and shared responsibility
  • Unilateral leadership > Bilateral or shared leadership
  • Doing it the “right” way > Feeling free to scribble outside the lines
  • Fearing doing it the “wrong” way > Feeling safe to share ideas and get messy
  • Feeling heavy, tense and serious > Feeling fun, light and joyful
  • Outcome oriented, getting it done > Process oriented, enjoying the ride
  • Working within the status quo, or what’s always been done > Being creative and imaginative, and exploring the unknown

Work and Play are powerful words. Combined with your energy or tone, they create a distinct impact on levels of creativity, engagement, motivation and well-being.

Here are some other ways to consider and use Play:


  • Feedback: I want you to work on being more (assertive, intuitive, expressive) > I want you to play with being more…
  • Self-talk: I want to work on being more… > I want to play with being more…
  • Relationship: We need to work on our relationship > I want to play with our relationship


  • Striving: When we say Work on being more, it often feels like it is something to strive towards. It is out there to be reached.
  • Expressing: When we say Play with being more, it feels like this characteristic is already within us, and it is just about allowing it to be expressed.


  • Need: Work is often associated with the word Need, as shown in the Relationship example.
  • Want: Play uses more of the word Want. In play there is more freedom to choose. I need to work. I want to play!


  • Worksheets > Playsheets
  • Homework > Homeplay
  • Workshop > Playshop
  • Work session > Play session


  • Work together > Play together
  • Teamwork > Teamplay
  • Going to work > Going to play
  • Work week > Play week
  • Work it out > Play with it
  • In the works > In play
  • Work away > Play away
The Intention of Play

“If you look for Work, you can be sure you’ll find it.” ~Lynda Austin

The same is true for Play!

I’m not suggestion you completely abolish the word Work. What I am suggesting is to look for places where the word Play may invite a more positive, creative response.

When we say Work, we often unconsciously invite an intention that is infused with limitation, heaviness and jadedness. On some level, we expect things to be hard, boring, the status quo, etc because of all the associations and feelings that come with Work, and the social conditioning that life is meant to be hard. However, by using the Language of Play, we become conscious and intentional about the kind of experiences we want to have, and empower others to be creative and spirited in their decisions as well.

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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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