How to have more fun and invite playfulness into your life
Ugh, I know, I know—even the title of this blog is frustrating. “How to have more fun? What are we, twelve?”
But if that’s what you’re thinking right now, then you definitely need to read this quick article about playfulness. On our podcast about people who don’t know how to have fun (okay, maybe it’s more about people getting into arguments, starting relationship fights, engaging in shouting matches on planes and putting fake spiders on their doorknobs to keep annoying kids out of places they don’t belong), we talk a lot about encouraging more playfulness in peoples’ lives.
What is playfulness? Is it for anyone besides children? And how can having more of it in your life make your outlook better?
We’re so glad you asked. In the next two minutes, we’re going to change your whole outlook on what it means to have fun, be playful and see the bright side of life.
What is playfulness?
Defining playfulness is sort of like watching Cirque Du Soleil: you can’t describe it, but you know it when you see it. The truth is, playfulness is really hard to pin down, because it’s different for everyone. It’s profound, strange, ineffable and idiosyncratic.
At the same time, it’s absolutely necessary.
In lieu of a strict definition—because strict definitions are not, by nature, very playful—let’s look at a powerful passive from Playfulness, ‘World’-Traveling and Loving Perception by Maria Lugones:
“We are by the river bank. The river is very, very low. Almost dry. But mostly is wet stones. Grey on the outside. We walk on the stones for a while. You pick up a stone and crash it onto the others. As it breaks, it is quite wet inside and is very colorful, very pretty. I pick up a stone and break it and run toward the pieces to see the colors. They are beautiful. I laugh and bring the pieces back to you and you are doing the same with your pieces. We keep on crashing stones for hours, anxious to see the beautiful new colors. We are playing. The playfulness of our activity does not presuppose that it is a particular form of play with its own rules. Rather the attitude that carries us through the activity, a playful attitude, turns the activity into play. Our activity has no rules, though it is certainly intentional activity and we both understand what we are doing. The playfulness that gives meaning to our activity includes uncertainty, but in this case the uncertainty is an openness to surprise. This is a particular metaphysical attitude that does not expect the world to be neatly packaged, ruly. Rules may fail to explain what we are doing. We are not self-important, we are not fixed in particular constructions of ourselves, which is part of saying that we are open to self-construction. We are not worried about competence. We are not wedded to a particular way of doing things. While playful we have not abandoned ourselves to, nor are we stuck in, any particular ‘world.’ We are there creatively. We are not passive.
Playfulness is, in part, an openness to being a fool, which is a combination of not worrying about competence, not being self-important, not taking norms as sacred and finding ambiguity and double edges a source of wisdom and delight.
So, positively, the playful attitude involves openness to surprise, openness to being a fool, openness to self-construction or reconstruction and to construction or reconstruction of the ‘worlds’ we inhabit playfully. Negatively, playfulness is characterized by uncertainty, lack of self-importance, absence of rules or a not taking rules as scared, a no worrying about competence and a lack of abandonment to a particular construction of oneself, others and one’s relation to them. In attempting to take a hold of oneself and one’s relation to others in a particular ‘world,’ one may study, examine and come to understand oneself. One may then see what the possibilities for play are for being one is in that ‘world.’ One may even decide to inhabit that self fully in order to understand it better and find its creative possibilities. All of this is just self-reflection, and is quite different from residing or abandoning oneself to the particular construction of oneself that one is attempting to take a hold of.”
From this description, it’s clear that playfulness exists outside of strict rules, boundaries and ideas. It’s a type of surrender that comes from the joy of the unknown, the acceptance of whatever may come, and the tranquility of being unsure but emphatically present in that uncertainty.
How to invite more playfulness in your life
If you’ve fallen into a lifestyle rut, taking active steps to make your daily living more playful can feel strange, hard and downright weird at times.
And that’s exactly how it’s supposed to feel.
In fact, that means you’re doing playfulness right, not wrong.
So take some time to feel a little uncomfortable, whatever that means for you. Maybe you’d like to ask some work friends to go play tennis after the office closes down for the day. Maybe you’d like to pick up a new hobby—with no intention of excelling at it. Maybe you’d like to take a painting class, go for a swim in the river, head to the beach in the rain, or put your chihuahua in a cute mini-pup onesie and go for a walk.
It doesn’t really matter how you do it, to be honest. What matters is that when life happens, you look at how the world is unfolding before you and you say, “How can I have more fun with this?”
Want an in-depth look at people who need a little fun in their lives? Our coaching podcast is THE place to go. Check out what we’re talking about in the latest episode of Am I The Bleep?! today.