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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 August 19, 2019

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

How to Succeed in Life on Your Own Terms: 7 Essential Steps

There is a great deal of advice in the world telling us how to succeed in life, but often we are given advice that isn’t tailored to our needs, desires and priorities. Success means different things to each of us, and living a life that feels genuinely successful to me might be very different to your idea of a successful life.

Naturally, when we follow the advice of someone else, which is tailored to their life goals and personality, we can end up with something that doesn’t deliver on the promise. We don’t get rewarded with our vision of success: we get theirs.

This is why I’m a proponent of self-discovery, introspection and personal sovereignty. So how to succeed on your own terms?

These 7 essential steps are not going to tell you exactly what to do, but they will provide you with the tools and the questions to ask so that you can discover your own path, so you know how to succeed in life on your own terms.

1. Know Thyself

One of Socrates’ most well-known quotes is,

An unexamined life is not worth living.

I argue that an unexamined life is not a successful one. Self-knowledge is something we could dedicate our lives to, but I’m not suggesting you sit around and navel-gaze in order to find happiness and meaning.

Thankfully, there are people who have created techniques and systems that less us fast-forward through a lot of personal philosophizing, and quickly identify some key aspects of what makes us, us.

You might want to find out what your ideal daily schedule is,[1] and you can take tests that reveal just that. Or you might want to figure out what you need to get things done – and yes, there’s a quiz for that too.

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None of these tests are infallible, and some are more scientific than others, but the process of asking yourself questions about your behaviors and traits is invaluable when it comes to determining your path to succeed in life.

For example, if you know you are an introvert and are unhappy in your current workplace, it might be worth considering why that is (an open plan office space perhaps) and what you would prefer.

It’s these little questions that will provoke answers in you that can guide the decisions that truly improve your life now and in the future.

2. Figure out What Matters to You

What lights you up? This is a question that often gets forgotten as we age. A fortunate child will be given the stimulation they desire in the form of bright toys, affection and entertainment. Little by little, the things that bring a child joy get replaced by what society demands on their behalf.

When we return to that question, and ask ourselves what really matters and what brings us joy, we can move closer towards a successful life. It can help to think back to your childhood, and the times in your life when you were in what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a flow state.[2]

In a state of flow, time slows and our focus is directed like a laser. We are fully present.

Whilst not everything in life that matters to you will conjure up a flow state, it’s a good indication of the kind of activities and experiences you can try to incorporate into your life on a regular basis.

A successful life is made up of moments like this, and when you know what matters to you and brings you a sense of joy and purpose, you can go about creating more of that.

3. Play to Your Strengths

Why spend your time only on mitigating your weaknesses, only to feel average? Instead, playing to your strengths and amplifying those skills and qualities you already have will help you go from average to extraordinary.

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If you’re great at big picture thinking and love dreaming up new ideas, but often lack attention to detail, acknowledge that. Then instead of trying to improve your analytical skills, focus instead on developing your existing skills of imagination and insight. When you need someone with a keen eye for detail, you can collaborate with those people.

Jackson Pollock was an extreme introvert, with no real desire to get his artwork in front of people. Fortunately, he had Clement Greenberg, who was much further towards the extrovert end of the spectrum, to popularize his work and get Pollock the publicity he needed.[3]

Start by identifying your strengths and what comes naturally to you. Then work on developing those and becoming known for those strengths. You can always find someone who will help you in fill in the gaps.

4. Listen to Yourself

It isn’t always clear to us that we’re on a path that leads us to failure or to success. People can spends decades in a job that is unfulfilling and slowly breaking their spirit, without even realizing it – until it’s too late. This is usually because they haven’t learned how to truly listen to themselves.

The challenge we face is that we’re listening to so many other sources of information; whether it’s the news, television, social media, family, friends or colleagues. Many may want to help, but that doesn’t mean they know what’s best for us. Only you know what success means for you, and working this out begins with listening to yourself.

Listening to yourself requires practice. It’s a daily effort, which over time, does get easier. That inner voice of wisdom will get clearer, and the decisions you make will feel more convincing.

To start, you could try to set aside 10 to 15 minutes when you first wake up, in silence. Rather than look at your phone, checking emails or social media, simply sit in silence, listening.

Ask yourself a simple question like, what am I feeling right now, in this moment? Notice the answer that bubbles up, without getting lost in the story. Starting an inner dialogue, without judgment is one of the key tools you can use to start making better decisions in your life.

Learn more about listening to your true self in this guide: How to Listen to Your Inner Voice for Greater Fulfillment

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5. Listen to Others (But Not Everyone)

Listening to yourself is one thing, but listening to others is crucial in order to learn, empathize and be of benefit to your community.

Truly listening to others is not just waiting patiently until it’s your turn to speak. Active listening requires focused attention, and the intention to understand where the other person is coming from.

When you do this, you can ask better questions and discover more about the world and everyone in it, as well as learn how to interact with others in order to succeed in life on your own terms.

However, this doesn’t mean you have to listen to everyone you come across. Trolls on the internet may come into the category of people not to listen to. Some people’s opinions will do more harm than good, as not everyone has your best interest in mind.

It’s worth identifying a shortlist of people whose opinions you will listen to. Brené Brown, author of the New York Times best-seller Daring Greatly, recommends taking a 1-inch x 1-inch square of paper and make a list of people whose opinions matter to you. These are the people who love you and will genuinely support and help you. According to Brown,

“If you need more paper, you need to edit.”

6. Make Time for Reflection

It’s easy to go through life without taking inventory of what you’re actually accomplishing. Missing this crucial step means we end up jumping from one goal to the next, without feeling like we’re getting anywhere.

Make time, ideally each day to reflect. You might keep a paper journal, or an online document. Either way, jot down:

  • What went well today
  • Something you’re grateful for
  • What would make tomorrow even better

Doing this can have measurable benefits to our overall sense of well-being, as well as keeping us focused for more success in the future.[4]

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It also helps combat feelings of lack and doubt, that arise when we compare ourselves to others. When we look at someone who appears to be more successful than us in an area of life, we can forget how far we’ve come and how much we have to be grateful for.

Making time to reflect on what you have accomplished is critical to keep you on track, and just not looking at what others are doing.

7. Don’t Be Afraid to Change Your Mind

Arguably the most important step of all:

Remember that there’s nothing wrong in changing your mind and correcting course.

The path to a successful life is not straight and narrow. It meanders and there’s no harm in going back and picking a different (and better) route.

“I think our life is a journey, and we make mistakes, and it’s how we learn from those mistakes and rebound from those mistakes that sets us on the path that we’re meant to be on.” — Jay Ellis

Be willing to make mistakes, learn from them and change your mind. Ultimately, there’s no better way to succeed in life on your own terms.

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Featured photo credit: Shirly Niv Marton via unsplash.com

Reference

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