Do You Remember How to Play?


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Do you still “go out to play"? Do your friends still knock on your door and invite you out to play? I hope so, and I hope you go.

This world seems to send strong messages that play is frivolous, time-wasting, and useful only to procrastinators and slackers-unless, of course, you can find a suitable way to include it in your business life, like golfing. Now, I'm not talking about exercise as play, although I hope you do find some redeeming features in exercising. I'm talking about doing things strictly for the joy of it, the fun in it.

When is the last time you lay out on the grass on a summer evening and looked at the stars? When did you last watch clouds and look for pictures? When did you last have a wonderful, tear-producing belly laugh? When did you last make music or dance? When did you last build a sand castle? When did you last play hooky from life?

Adults need to play. If we don't, we can lose our perspective. We think that everything we are doing is important, necessary, and critical to financial success. Surely, some things are. Some folks even think that they are indispensable. Do you? If your answer is yes, then I suggest you try this: put your finger into a glass of water. Take it out. Observe the hole your finger left. You get the picture. There are other kinds of success beyond those that society measures in dollars, homes, and positions. Which ones do you want to achieve?

Some folks pay lip service to the need for balance in their lives. It makes a good story. It makes others think that they actually have it. Isn't that true? Most of us can speak with eloquence and authority on what we need to do in order to be truly healthy. There is no shortage of information, simply a shortage of action. I was giving an optimal living seminar once on Vancouver Island in Canada. As I was introduced, I came up the aisle from the back of the room, asking folks, “Who wants to be healthy?" Most hands shot up. Next question: “Who knows what it takes to be healthy?" Most hands shot up. “Tell me what it takes. " I wrote their shouted suggestions on a flip chart:

  • Enough sleep.
  • Eat nutritiously.
  • Give up junk food.
  • Relax.
  • Have goals.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Have good relationships.
  • Spend time alone.
  • Reduce stress.
  • Have regular medical checkups.
  • Exercise.
  • Love someone and be loved.
  • Laugh.
  • Play.

A bright crowd. They had the main bases covered. My next question: “So, why are you here if you know all this?" Silence. Then, the million-dollar question: “So, how many of you are doing this?" Very few hands.

Isn't it true? You know what to do. You could give your best friend excellent suggestions, but do you take your own advice?

My greatest challenge is exercise. I'll do almost anything to avoid it. I have to trick myself into it some days. Here's one of my tricks: I can watch one of my favorite daytime TV shows as long as I am exercising through it. Okay, okay. You're right. It's simpler to give up watching the show than it is to exercise. It's easy to justify sabotage! But most days, I do at least get more exercise than I would if I didn't make that deal with myself. I've made it into a game with benefits.

Recently, my husband and I took our fold-up chairs out to the darkest, highest spot we could find, far away from city lights. We lay back and scouted the skies for the Perceids meteor showers. Each time a shooting star made its way unexpectedly across the sky, we were delighted, just as we had been as children. It was play.

How are you playing? Who are your playmates? What time do you set aside just for restorative play? Explore this idea: by any chance, do you and your friends have an unwritten contract to avoid playing? Have you convinced yourselves that you are only “doing the right thing" when you are seriously exhausted and morbidly overworked? Do you only laugh when you've had a drink or two with colleagues while discussing business after a tough day at work?

If you have children, they need you to play with them as much as you need to play. You are teaching them to live balanced lives while showing them that you care about them. You all benefit.

Some folks simply exchange one form of competition for another and think that they are playing. I knew a man who was highly competitive at work, and his supposed relaxation was playing competitive tennis. Oh, really? This may get his body moving and his heart beating, but is it play? At the end of the game, when he has lost, he is not a happy man. This is not play. It is an exchange of venues for his competitive spirit masquerading as play.

Be good to yourself. Take care of yourself. There is a part of you that remembers the joy of skipping stones across the water and singing songs around a campfire just because it felt so good. Go do it again.

Get out there. Play. Have fun. Laugh. Skip. Wrestle. Go to the zoo. Rent funny old movies. Be silly. It's good for you. Enjoy!

Rhoberta Shaler, PhD, is a “people skills” expert. Dr. Shaler, a noted international speaker, author, and executive coach, is founder of both the Optimize! Institute in Escondido, California, and an online Center for Spiritual Living. Dr. Shaler has taught thousands of people communication, negotiation, conflict, and anger management skills to strengthen all relationships calmly and effectively. Her latest book, Wrestling Rhinos: Conquering Conflict in the Wilds of Work, is receiving rave reviews worldwide. Visit her Web site at

Her article above is one of 101 great chapters that can be found in “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. " This powerful compilation book with Zig Ziglar, Brian Tracy, Jim Rohn, and Denis Waitley contains 101 chapters of proven advice on how to improve your life.

*** If you purchase just one copy of their new book today, you will also receïve $1,500 worth of valuable bonus gifts. To see this special book package, please visit


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