“We don’t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing”
That’s a quote from George Bernard Shaw the Irish dramatist, and what a quote it is!
It’s well used in the personal development space, and it’s not hard to see why – it flows nicely, the phrase has a ying yang balanced feel to it, and it very concisely makes a point that prods an emotional response.
It prods and stirs at an emotion we get when we think back to the old days, the days of our youth, the days when we could play with abandon. The days when we could play without inhibition, the days when we could play unburdened by responsibility.
The days when we could just play.
We look back to those days, because we *have* to look back, because that’s where we find those days, in the past. It’s not like that now for us though, is it?
Now, we’ve grown older, so playing is not on the agenda. We*have* the responsibilities, so we have to be serious and focus, we have to be sensible, we have to be ‘grown up’.
Really? Do we? Why?
Most people, clearly not everyone, but most people, don’t ask the ‘why’ question, they just accept it as one of those things, as just the way life is. It really doesn’t have to be like that though, there are other ways…
You might be thinking ‘Hang on! Hang on a minute! Are you suggesting that we should just forget responsibility and go and play on the swings?’
No, I’m not suggesting that. That would be silly. It *is* the way that some people choose to go, but they are doing a disservice to those around them when they do it, and they’re doing a disservice to themselves as well.
In fact, if you ‘play’ all the time, then it stops feeling like playing anyway, and then what do you have left if you’ve ignored responsibility along the way!
So, no, I’m certainly not suggesting an abandonment of responsibility! What I *am* saying, is that if we take that idea of responsibility, and turn it back onto ourselves, don’t we have a responsibility to allow ourselves to play? Don’t we owe it to ourselves to not only allow it, but actively schedule time slots specifically for playing?
Oh yes! Yes we do owe it to ourselves!
When we play, it’s a great way to tap into our real selves, to get away from the things that bother us, and if that means we mentally take ourselves back to childhood for a while, that’s no bad thing!
It allows us to refocus, to re-energise, to remind ourselves of what our real passions are, what makes us feel alive, and of course to look at Shaw’s words again, it helps to stop us grow old! (or at least stop growing old before our time!)
One theory in the self improvement field is that when we play, because we are tapping so much into our ’real’ selves, that we should use this as a process – once we reignite that feeling, and acknowledge it, we should then work out how we can make a living doing it!
That can be a revelation.
Of course a counter argument to that, is that as soon as we start making our pleasures into our work, then we ruin the pleasure, because the trials and tribulations that come with any career will make us turn away from the original passion.
Hmm, I don’t agree.
I do agree that the trials and tribulations will come, because to say otherwise would be fantasy. Oh yes, they come!
Here’s the thing – those trials and tribulations will come *whatever* we do! If that’s the case then, why not choose to face them on a path of our choosing, because if we do that, then deep down we will always know that we didn’t stop playing, that we are in line with our passions.
It makes a huge difference, it can transform a life from one where the idea of playing has been stored away in a box marked ‘youth’ to a life where the idea of playing is front and centre!
Of course, the idea of playing doesn’t have to be as grand as a fully fledged career, it could just be a case of doing more of what we enjoy as hobbies. Think of what you enjoy doing, that makes you smile, whether that’s a walk in the park, or going swimming.
If it’s been too long since you last did it, get out your schedule, and create a time slot for it! Then schedule another time slot, and another. The feelgood factor it creates is not just nostalgia, there is brain science behind it, to do with the chemical reactions triggered in our brain, and the health benefits that brings along.
A more in depth look at that brain science is for another time, but suffice to say – it’s good for us!
Get used to allowing yourself to play, whatever that means to you. It’s not something we should stop simply because we’ve grown older – I’d agree with Bernard Shaw, it’s the playing that *stops* us growing old!