Fourteen years ago, I went with four of my friends to get our photo taken with Santa at the Burbank mall. Were we far too old to be doing this? Absolutely. Did we care that we were the only group in line that did not include young children? Nope. Is Santa kinda creepy with five grown women sitting on his lap? Definitely… which makes it even more hilarious. What was meant to be a one-time joke turned out to be so fun that it became an annual tradition, complete with themes and costumes. Even as our own families and lives grow and change, it’s a once-a-year event where we can feel like kids again with each other.
Over time, the things you used to play at become serious endeavors, or to-do list items, or no longer worth doing at all. Running around with your friends outside becomes running on the treadmill at the gym, scheduling coffee dates to see your friends, and attending networking events to make new ones. We think of those activities as good and healthy, but they’re actually remarkably unnatural, not to mention not very fun. Because if you saw a kid doing any of those things, you would feel like you were in an alternate universe. Kids don’t run to stay fit, they run to feel the wind on their face and the grass beneath their feet. Kids don’t network to climb a career ladder, they bond through joyful moments. Kids go for what they want without worrying about why or what for—they just want to have fun. As adults, we deny ourselves that luxury without understanding the incredible benefits we’re missing out on.
Do this quick exercise today:
Think back on your childhood. What were your favorite ways to play? How did they make you feel? Spend 5-10 minutes visualizing those memories in as much detail as possible.
When did you stop doing those things, and why?
In your life today, are there any activities you do purely for fun, with no goals or expectations about the outcome? If not, why?
What’s one play activity you’d like to do more of? How can you give yourself the time, space, and permission to do it?
Schedule time to do that activity.
About Bridget Hilton
Bridget Hilton creates tools to help teams and leaders connect in the workplace through rich experiences and shared goals. Her keynote helps Fortune 500 companies navigate topics of mental health and wellness, burnout, employee belonging and connection, inspiration, motivation, and goal setting. Her book Experiential Billionaire and card deck Treasure Maps is out now. She is located in Los Angeles, CA and is booking keynotes and workshops worldwide now.