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Posts Tagged ‘curiosity’

A version of this post first appeared here at Attorney at Work.

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We know that free-play is important to the development of children. But it’s also really important in the life of an adult. You may think that you don’t need to play, that you don’t have time to play, but there are good reasons to incorporate play into your life in order to be successful in life and in work.

What is play?

Brené Brown, researcher and author of Daring Greatly, describes play as anything that makes us lose track of time and self-consciousness. In other words, something that you experience as fun! Researcher Stuart Brown, MD (who is not related to Brené Brown), describes play as time spent without purpose. Unfortunately, I agree with Brené Brown, when she responds to this idea with “this sounds like the definition of an anxiety attack. I feel behind if I’m not using every last moment to be productive, whether that means working, cleaning the house or taking my son to baseball practice.” Agreed. I mean, I barely have time to do all the purposeful things I need to do. Why would I waste time doing something that has no purpose!? Because play is important.

  1. The importance of play.

Play itself – meaning the activity in which you are engaging – need not have a purpose in the sense that it is not directly related to your productivity, not related to getting things done, and not related to achieving your financial or career goals. But it does have a purpose: creating the space in your mind where ideas can be born, perspective can improve, and the self is nurtured. In other words, play refreshes your mind and body, increases energy and prevents burnout, triggers creativity and innovation, and helps you see problems in new ways. But that’s not all.

  1. Play is directly related to your success.

Research shows that “playing” relieves stress by triggering the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. As we know, success at work is highly dependent upon the quality of your work, not just the quantity. And the quality of work is dependent upon your well-being. So, ultimately, play is vitally important to your success, in life and in work.

  1. Wanna come out and play?

Play is different for everyone. It should be something that you enjoy such that you lose track of time. It could be an organized sport, like basketball or tennis. Maybe it’s brain-games like chess, crossword puzzles, or Sudoku. It could be a creative endeavor like painting, drawing, or scrapbooking; or performing arts such as an improv or dance class. Or maybe it’s something that gets you moving but is more meditative, such as snorkeling, yoga, or hiking. The possibilities are endless.

  1. Incorporate playfulness into your work.

Your work is serious, but that doesn’t mean that you need to be serious all the time, even in the office. When you hit a “glitch” in a matter or project, take some time out to “play” to reset your mind and come back with a fresh perspective on problem-solving. A small basketball hoop could help, or an air-hockey table in an extra conference room. Ask a colleague to join you, as playing with colleagues encourages teamwork and builds comradery.

  1. But what if it’s been so long since you played that you can’t remember what you like to do for fun?

Never fear. Even if you haven’t engaged in an activity simply for the fun of it in a really long time, most likely there was a time in your past when you played. Think back to that time – maybe it was when you were a kid – and make a list of all the things you enjoyed back then. Which still sound appealing to you? Coloring? There are lots of great adult coloring books available. Playing pretend? Maybe try an acting class, or go see a play. Playing with your family pet? Perhaps volunteer at a local animal shelter. Photography? Pull that camera out and get out in the world and take some photos. Playing board games? Organize a monthly game night with friends. LEGOs? There are some seriously awesome LEGO sets available. Get creative. Try something you liked in the past, or try something new.

In the words of George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” When was the last time you played? No matter how long ago, make today the next time you play!

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I have a seven-year-old daughter. And while she is quite joyful, she’s also has a “glass half empty” personality. She could play 8 hours all day with her friends having the best time EVER, yet when it’s time to go home, she forgets all of it and it’s suddenly to worst day of her life!

I’m helping her learn to focus on the good, to shift her perspective. I have experience with this shift because I had to learn it myself. I tell her that her life will be much better, more enjoyable, and much less difficult if she can learn to switch her perspective.

I had to listen to my own advice today. It rained today, for a total of about 30 minutes. That’s all the rain forecasted for the entire day, and the sun is coming out as I write. I went for a run today, which took me 23 minutes. My 23 minute run was smack dab in the middle of the 30 minutes of rain.

So I DECIDED to look at it from a positive perspective. I could hcomplained. I could have decided not to run. But instead, I said: this is the reality. And I can do this even though this is not the reality I thought I wanted. So I ran in the pouring rain. And it was lovely. Seriously. It has been so hot and humid. The rain was like a cool shower for my entire run. Who knew I would enjoy running in the rain.

So I learned something by accepting reality. I experienced something new and I enjoyed it. It was a little thing today, but if I can take this knowledge with me when I face a bigger and more serious challenge, I might have a bigger positive experience and learn something even bigger!

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art-blueprint-brainstorming-8704When I was growing up, I wanted to be something different each year. An astronaut. A veterinarian. A dancer. A doctor. An actress. A marine biologist. A civil engineer. The list was long and quite varied in scope. I thought that would change when I was in college, but I still didn’t know what I wanted to be. So I majored in what I liked doing: musical theatre. One of the reasons I wanted to be an actor was so that I didn’t have to choose just one thing to be. I might play a lawyer in one role, a mom in another, a cowgirl, a showgirl, a fairy. Once, I even played half of a cow — the back half! I was always learning new things and experiencing new perspectives.

After college, I was a dancer, then an actor, then a graphic artist, then a paralegal. accounting-achievement-aerial-1043506Then I went to law school and became a lawyer. Finally, I had “one thing” I could be. And like acting, practicing law provides me with the opportunity to be different in each matter: to learn a client’s business, or learn about an entire industry, or practice in different venues. But even that was not sufficient diversity. While practicing law, I became a certified health coach, taught legal writing in law schools, began blogging about health and wellness, and started my freelance writing endeavor. Clearly, I STILL didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

And I’ve felt kinda bad about this. Shouldn’t I be able to focus on just my legal career? Luckily, I found this TED talk by Emilie Wapnick and I now know it’s not only ok, but good, that I am the way I am. She calls herself, and people like me, “multipotentialites.” She says a multipotentialite is someone “with many interests and creative pursuits.” She accurately describes our strengths: our ability to learn new things quickly, our ability to synthesize various sources and kinds of information into a cohesive and understandable new idea, and adaptability.

Now I can be happy that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up! Are you a multipotentialite too? Enjoy yourself!

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Follow your curiosity

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I was listening to an interview with Elizabeth Gilbert the other day. She’s the amazing author of Eat Pray Love and The Signature of All Things and Big Magic. And other books too, but those are the ones I have read. She was being interviewed by Krista Tippett (love her too) of OnBeing. You can listen to the full interview here. In her interview, she said something that really resonated with me. She was asked about following her “passion.” And she responded that she found that intimidating, and suspected other people might as well, because: what if you don’t know what your passion is? what if your passion changes? then what? She said “Follow your curiosity.” I agree.

My passion changes. Sometimes I’m passionate about parenting. Sometimes I’m passionate about running. Sometimes I’m passionate about single-use plastics. And when my “passion” changes, or when it disappears, it doesn’t mean I don’t care about those things anymore. It means I don’t “feel the passion.” And I can feel lost because aren’t we supposed to be passionate about something, and preferably, one thing. But following my curiosity is awesome. It is effortless. We are born as curious beings. As we age, we often lose our sense of curiosity. Watching a child approach life can help us re-ignite our sense of curiosity.

Things I’m curious about: What would happen if I decided to start playing tennis at age 43? What would happen if I tried to give up single-use plastics for a month? What would it be like to go on a silent yoga retreat for a long weekend? How do dreadlocks form in hair? Can I install a fence in my yard on my own? Would anyone else benefit from a blog post about following curiosity? Where does that road that I’ve never taken go? And so much more.

And Gilbert advocates following your curiosity instead of your fear. Curiosity leads to creativity and discovery and growth. Fear keeps us stagnant. I am going to follow my curiosity. What are you curious about?

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