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Why So Serious? Being Playful Is the New Work Ethic Now

Why So Serious? Being Playful Is the New Work Ethic Now

All our lives, we’ve been asked to grow up and get serious. Beginning with our parents and teachers, and then moving on to our bosses, many of us have often heard this homily, “it’s time you got serious about your life”. But what if this very seriousness that leads to lack in playfulness in culling our creativity and productivity, and in a way holding us back? The work hard play hard concept is actually proving to be true.

The 4 Types of Playfulness in Adults

René Proyer, PhD belonging to the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg in Germany, has spent the last decade and a little more, in studying playfulness and its benefits in adults. In a study, Proyer has identified four different kinds of playfulness in adults:[1]

  • Other-directed playfulness: Playing around with friends, family, and coworkers, which include kidding and playing pranks.
  • Light-hearted playfulness: Regarding many aspects of life as a game and living with a rather carefree attitude.
  • Intellectual playfulness: Playing with different thoughts and ideas, sort of like playacting in the head.
  • Whimsical playfulness: Interested in strange or unusual aspects of life, noticing small day-to-day occurrences like Ramanujan discovering the Hardy-Ramanujan number through a taxi he often rode in London.[2]

Why You Need Other-Directed Playfulness and Intellectual Playfulness at Work

When it comes to a work environment, the first and third of these playfulness type are most significant.

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Other-directed playfulness means that you as a person keep kidding around and making jokes at office – in a way making yourself and people laugh. This wit of yours not only reduces your stress and makes the life of the office, or even a party, but also makes the workplace a better place to be at for as they say, laughter is indeed the best medicine.[3]

The other important playfulness type at work is intellectual playfulness. These are people with vivid imaginations who can playact situations in their heads and basically make work interesting and less boring. These people turn their work into a game. And by being creative and competitive, they can basically achieve a lot more than the average Joe who simply slogs away at his desk, thinking of work as an important chore. Often outspoken, these are the people who considered being the out-of-the-box thinkers, for they can imagine different solutions to the same problem with ease, making them rather valued employees. Not to say that they aren’t hard-working, rather they follow a work hard play hard kind of lifestyle.[4]

Why Being Playful Can Boost Your Productivity

“Enlightened” companies like Linkedin or Google have dream workplaces where employees can play video games, foosball or even play beach volleyball at the company HQs.[5]. However, these companies are few and far between, though all companies should realize that the best employees are the ones who work hard play hard!

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  • Playfulness makes work happen faster: When you indulge in gamifying your work, or just make work seem more creative – it seems less boring – and work that is not boring can be completed much faster that a chore that makes you nod off.
  • Playfulness leads to creative thinking: If you can view the same problem from one or ten fresh perspectives, you are likely to reach a solution much faster.
  • Playfulness lowers stress: An office filled with laughing and smiling employees who are allowed to kid with each other and maybe even compete with each other in various games are likely to be low on stress and high on productivity.
  • Playfulness makes for a motivated work force: Employees who are allowed to work hard play hard and not chained to their desk are motivated to do more on an everyday basis for they are happy, satisfied people willing to give all they have to excel at their jobs.
  • In totality, playfulness boosts productivity: If you have a workforce that is happy, not stressed, creative thinkers and motivated – you have a super productive workforce indeed. [6]

5 Ways to Let Playfulness Boost Your Productivity

Now that we’ve extolled the virtues of being playful, let’s talk about how you can incorporate playfulness into your workplace and boost your productivity, keeping in mind that playfulness can never ever equate to hurtfulness. Making fun of others, playing rude and OTT pranks is not what playfulness is about – it’s simply a state of being where you laugh, make others laugh and unleash that creative bent of mind that was hiding in every day’s mundane appearance.

Recapture that excitement

Remember the first day of work? That excitement you felt? Try and get it back – be the same excited and enthused person you were. This will motivate you to do better at work. And excitement is infectious – it rubs of. As does happiness.

Interact with your colleagues at work

You may be witty in your head and have a repartee that could leave them rolling on the floor – but for you to be truly playful, you need to go out and interact with other people. Keeping to yourself or not having the confidence can be a killer – so take a deep breath and start with simply smiling and greeting those you meet. Give them a pat on their back and give credit when its due and slowly you can unleash that comedian hiding underneath your reserved exterior. Share a joke or a riddle, an anecdote that makes you the fall guy and let those smiles and giggles escape those usually pursed lips. This makes you appear human, will usually make people see you in a positive light and make you a popular and nice person to be around, which also means that people will be willing to lend you a helping hand.

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Get to know your colleagues out of work too

We spend so much time at work, that it might as well be our second home. So colleagues often become part of our circle of friends as well. Get to know them better by inviting them over for a game, a drink or dinner, or maybe even a movie or short trip. Be fun and play a fun host – let down that proverbial hair and have a good time. Make a joke, a few wisecracks, and when the joke is on you – claim it![7]. Once you get to know your colleagues on a personal level, you will be able to connect with them better at work as well.

Look at a problem with a creative eye

When faced with a challenge, problem or obstacle at work – don’t approach it like you always do. Instead, think of it like the way you used to solve problems as a child – your approach may have been head on, or breaking the problem into small solvable bits. Don’t be adult about it, be as childish as you like – and you will end up finding a creative, if off the beaten track solution.

Give in to that imp

Sometimes a crummy day deserved a boot to the door, or a few frustrated jumps on spot and a devil of a boss deserved that stuck out tongue. Make sure the coast is clear and give in to that temptation – you’ll feel tons better in a bit. And if a colleague catches you in the act, a wink and a smile will make his day too. Smiling will increase your productivity.

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Finally, look at how kids play – no one wins or loses. So even if you invite a few friends over, keep any agendas out of it. Enjoy and be in the moment and just exist in calm, serene and hilarious waters for a while.[8]

Reference

[1] Science Direct: Proyer Study
[2] Wikipedia: 1729
[3] Help Guide: Laughter is the Best Medicine
[4] Psy Wb: The Virtuousness of Adult Playfulness
[5] Fox News: Work Hard Play Harder
[6] Reader’s Digest: Playful Productivity
[7] Psychology Today: The 7 Habits of Highly Playful People
[8] Tiny Buddha: 10 Ways To Make Your Life More Playful

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Last Updated on October 29, 2020

How to Develop Mental Toughness and Stay Strong

How to Develop Mental Toughness and Stay Strong

Are you the kind of person who wants to achieve massive success in your life? Do you have the mental toughness to make that happen?

I think we can all agree that no matter your ambitions, achieving success can be difficult; and over time, the daily grind can take a toll on your physical, mental, and emotional energy.

Achievers and high performers from all walks of life face ups and downs along the path to success—they face failure, burnout, discouragement, fatigue, self-limiting beliefs, stress, and so much more.

How do some people continually strive towards their personal goals year after year while others give up on them? How do those people stay strong and persevere when there is so much stacked against them?

Studies now show that mental strength is a critical key to success. If you haven’t read Angela Duckworth’s book Grit, you should. In it, she shows that “the secret to outstanding achievement is not talent but a special blend of passion and persistence she calls ‘grit.’” In other words, mental toughness plays a significant role when it comes to achieving goals.

At its core, mental toughness is simply the ability to stick to something when the going gets tough. People with high levels of mental toughness can push beyond these obstacles and forge a path towards success, while those with lower levels of mental toughness may abandon their dreams.

The good news is that no matter who you are, what you’ve been told, or what you currently believe, you can develop the mental toughness you need to be successful.

1. Develop a Positive Mindset

If you’re going to increase your mental toughness and manage stress, the first thing you have to do is focus on building a strong, positive mindset in everyday life.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the average person has 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 95% of those thoughts repeat each day and, on average, 80% of repeated ideas are negative.[1]

That’s roughly 45,600 negative thoughts per day!

Carrying around these negative thoughts is like going on a hike in the mountains with a backpack full of rocks. The hike is hard enough on its own, but having extra junk weighing you down is a recipe for failure.

Sometimes, building mental toughness isn’t as much about building new strength as it is about saving your strength for the right tasks. Wouldn’t it be easier to dump the rocks out of the backpack instead of trying to get strong enough to carry the extra weight?

Let Go of Self-Limiting Beliefs

It’s pretty hard to be mentally tough when you’re constantly beating yourself up. Self-limiting beliefs are any beliefs that hold you back in some way. Here are some examples:

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“I’m not smart enough to…”

“I don’t have enough experience to…”

“I’ve tried that before, and it didn’t go well, so I must just be bad at…”

When we allow these self-limiting beliefs to flood our minds, negative self-talk runs rampant, and we crowd out our ability to think positively.

When you recognize a self-limiting belief cropping up in your mind, quickly silence it by telling yourself that it’s not true, and then back that up with some positive affirmations:

  • “I am smart enough; I may just need to do some more research first.”
  • “I may not have as much experience as someone else, but that’s not going to stop me from trying. I have enough experience to get started. I’ll figure the rest out on the way.”
  • “Just because I failed at this last time doesn’t mean I’m going to fail this time. My past does not dictate my future.”

Get Rid of the All-or-Nothing Thinking

Another form of negative thinking that could be preventing you from building mental toughness is all-or-nothing thinking.

All-or-nothing thinking is the concept of thinking in extremes. You are either a success or a failure. Your performance was great or awful. If you’re not perfect, then you’re a failure.

But this isn’t true!

If you’re trying to lose 30 pounds and only lost 28, isn’t that still better than not losing any weight at all? I’d say so!

If you allow all-or-nothing thinking to rule your mind, you’ll be on cloud nine when you succeed, but you’ll beat yourself up when you “fail.” Acknowledging the shades of gray in between will allow you to see success more often.

When you recognize an all-or-nothing thought, remember to look for the positive in the situation. What did you gain by trying? What would you have missed out on had you not tried? Could you do better if you were to try again?

Ditch the Dwelling

Self-limiting beliefs and all-or-nothing thinking can lead to a bad case of dwelling on the negative, which is bad news for mental health. If you want to build some mental toughness and keep your mind strong, you have to ditch the dwelling.

When we dwell on our misfortunes, we waste massive amounts of energy that we could be using to achieve our goals. When this happens, we’re more likely to quit altogether.

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That doesn’t mean you’re not mentally tough; it just means you’re misusing your energy.

The next time something bad happens, it’s important to allow yourself to feel the disappointment and frustration, but work on reducing the amount of time you dwell on the situation.

If you struggle with this, you can try the following:

  1. Call a friend or mentor and talk it through with them. Get some outside perspective on your situation.
  2. Time block your dwelling by allowing yourself to dwell for no more than one hour.
  3. Then, tell yourself to move on, that you’re human, and you’re allowed to make mistakes or experience setbacks.
  4. If all else fails, find a good way to distract yourself until you can calm down and reexamine things with a clear mind.

The faster you can focus on the positives and move past the problem, the quicker you can get back to achieving success in your life.

2. Connect With Your Purpose

One of the most critical elements to building mental toughness and keeping a strong and focused mind is having a strong “why” for all of your short and long-term goals.

If you set out to achieve a huge goal that you don’t have a “why” for, you’re going to find yourself distracted, discouraged, or disengaged as soon as you experience your first setback.

Think about the last time you were working on a goal or resolution, and things weren’t going well. Perhaps you thought you didn’t have enough willpower or discipline.

It’s more likely that you just didn’t have a strong enough why.

Simon Sinek has been spreading his message “Start with Why” across the globe.[2] In short, he says that:

“Your ‘why’ is the purpose, cause or belief that inspires you.”

One of the biggest drains on your mental energy is pursuing a goal or a task that you don’t have a why for. Often, we set goals because we like the idea of the goal, not the reality of the goal. Without connecting to our why, we can’t intrinsically motivate ourselves to achieve our most challenging goals.

You can learn more on identifying your purpose in this video:

Find Intrinsic Motivation

Intrinsic motivation is our innate desire to do something, and it comes when we work towards something that satisfies ourselves above all else—not our parents or our bosses or our teachers[3].

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Develop mental toughness with intrinsic motivation

    Let’s say you think you want to quit smoking because you know it’s bad for you, but you really enjoy smoking. If you don’t truly want to quit smoking, it’s going to be nearly impossible, regardless of your willpower or mental toughness.

    However, if you want to quit smoking because you just had a baby, and you don’t want your baby growing up around smoke, then that “why” is going to give you intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is far more powerful than sheer stubborn willpower, and it’s far easier to maintain over the long haul.

    If you’re trying to develop mental toughness, connecting a why to everything you want to achieve will reduce the effort and energy it will take to achieve those things.

    3. Find Strength in Unity

    The final aspect of developing mental toughness is embracing the idea that you’re not in this alone.

    Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft alone. Oprah didn’t build her network by herself. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the iPhone without a team. Michelle Obama didn’t implement the “Let’s Move” campaign on her own.

    Behind all of these successful people were countless other people who were offering support, mentorship, guidance, and encouragement.

    If you want to develop unmatched mental toughness, you need to understand that you don’t have to go it alone. Even the toughest Navy Seals have a team backing them up.

    Find a Mentor or Committee of Mentors

    The benefits of having a great mentor are far too many to list, but to boil it down to the basics, a mentor is someone who will help show you the path to success, discover your greatest strengths, spot and overcome your blind spots, and work through your weaknesses.

    If you’re struggling to deal with your internal negativity or with finding your purpose, talk it through with a mentor. Sometimes we lose the forest for the trees, and a mentor can help us take a step back and see the bigger picture.

    Here’s how to find the right mentor for yourself: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

    Recruit Some Cheerleaders

    If you want to stay strong, it never hurts to have a group of personal cheerleaders to help you successfully complete your goals. Unlike mentors who are going to jump in and help you address your problems, a group of cheerleaders will help keep your spirits up.

    Even if you have a strong why and a positive mindset, it’s nearly impossible to maintain a positive attitude 100% of the time. It doesn’t make you weak to need some help from time to time. Having a group of people cheering you on will make all the difference in the world.

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    As you work towards your goals, tell a few close friends about what you’re doing, and when things get tough, tell them about it. When they give you the pep talk you need, don’t resist their positivity or counter it with your self-limiting beliefs.

    Allow their optimism to refill your energy and use that energy to press on.

    Form an Accountability Group

    Cheerleaders are great, but sometimes we need someone to give us the kick we need to keep going. You might have a strong why for running a marathon or losing 30 pounds, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy; and trying to force yourself to follow through is a sure way to tax your mental energy.

    Why not save some of your mental energy by forming an accountability group?

    Find a person or a few people who have similar goals, or at the very least, the need for an accountability partner. Then, form an agreement within the group to push each other every day.

    4. Learn to Pick Yourself up After Setbacks

    Building a strong mindset and developing mental toughness isn’t easy! Anyone who’s ever achieved massive success knows that obstacles, setbacks, and failure are inevitable, and you’re no different.

    As you work on your goals, you’re going to face many ups and downs, but this doesn’t mean that you don’t have mental toughness, willpower, or discipline.

    When you find yourself in a low spot, instead of giving up right away, ask yourself these questions:

    • “Am I being too hard on myself?”
    • “Are negative thoughts distorting my view?”
    • “What’s the positive side of this setback/obstacle/failure?”
    • “Why was this goal important to me? What was my purpose?”
    • “Is this goal still important to me?”
    • “Who can I ask for help? Who can mentor me or hold me accountable?”

    Asking yourself these questions is a great way to check in on your mindset. When we get lost in negative thinking or lose connection to our purpose, it’s far too easy to become discouraged.

    This article provides some useful tips to help you get back on track: How to Deal with Failure and Pick Yourself Back Up

    Tying It All Together

    A crucial part of developing mental toughness is learning to recognize negative tendencies and taking action to correct them early on with healthy habits. Developing mental toughness is not about eliminating weakness, but learning how to deal with it and overcome it.

    No one is perfect, but when we focus on the right things, we can develop a mental toughness worthy of life’s biggest challenges.

    More on Developing Mental Strength

    Featured photo credit: Zulmaury Saavedra via unsplash.com

    Reference

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