Written by Founder and CEO, Sara Potler LaHayne
In 2017, I vow to be less structured. I want to be governed less by project management software, incoming emails, and meetings with people who demand my time and energy. I want to allow myself more freedom; freedom to divert from the overly-organized lifestyle I’ve grown so accustomed to. I want to create space for spontaneity. This year, I want to bring back the adventurous spirit of my 5-year-old self with abandon. I intend to make 2017 the year of play.
Most who know me know that my birthday is on Halloween. So this past year, I had the pleasure of celebrating my golden year decked out in orange and black striped tights, a light-up orange mohawk, and an orange boa. Leaving our meeting in a fluorescently lit conference room located in Times Square, I said to my colleague “Why don’t we make every day feel like Halloween?” She looked at me like I was taking crazy pills and burst into hysterical laughter, which only made me more adamant. “I’m serious!” I proclaimed, waving my boa over passing tourists’ heads. How can we embody the same spirit of creativity and love of life in everyday moments, outside of the times when play is acceptable or deemed appropriate?
As adults, many of us are forced into limiting constructs or molds that we have to fit into in order to be respected or to progress in our lives and work. I have been a long time champion of intentional, structured time in order to get through all that we want to in a day, like exercise, meditation, staff meetings, client meetings, creative planning, inbox management, and intimate moments with the ones we love. And I stand by that structured use of time that without which, would leave me floating aimlessly through life, but in 2017, I am incorporating moments of reckless play into my calendar. No, I can’t wear a costume to every meeting, and not every month can include Burning Man. But these are some of the ways I am going to incorporate play into every day of 2017, and in turn, make everyday feel like Halloween.
1. Incorporate discovery in our own ways of learning.
We don’t teach our students through delivery systems, so why would we teach ourselves that way? We can seek sexier ways to learn that involve engaging in our own curiosities, instead of one way flows of information. If you want to find new ways to unlock your inner creativity, pick up a paint brush. If you want to improve your writing skills, take a stab at daily journaling. Whatever strikes your curiosity, get out and go for it. When we tap into our own sense of wonder, learning feels more intuitive and natural.
2. Refuse to be passive.
I am active every morning through daily workouts and in the evening through dance classes. We can reach out and proactively shape every encounter, and infuse micro-moments of movement and activity into those otherwise mundane moments. I’m thinking about a push-up competition in between calls, jumping jacks to kick off a meeting, or taking a call on a walk, instead of at your desk. By getting into our bodies, we unlock the creativity and play stifled within.
3. Follow the summer camp rule.
One of our advisers recently challenged me to reflect on the following notion when thinking about programming: “If what you’re doing fits into school or work, you’re not there. If what you’re doing fits into summer camp, you’re on the right track.” When I reminisce on summer camp, I think about color wars and paint ball and scavenger hunts. Images of school and work conjure up visions of disciplined pupils and lecture halls. How can we reshape the traditional structure of learning to be one inspired by the play and color of summer camp? This is a question I seek to find new answers to daily.
4. Live your imaginary life.
We all lived imaginary lives as kids from astronauts and ballerinas to athletes and such. My sister and I were teachers. We would sit in our living room and give lectures, hand out assignments and create lesson plans for our imaginary students. By tapping into those imaginary lives, we explore other identities and try on senses of self. Stick it to social norms. Go outside of your comfort zone. As adults, we are not yet locked into our “real lives” for all perpetuity. Next time I call my mom, I can try on my British accent. And since one of my imaginary lives has always been an architect, I’m going to take myself to the National Building Museum next time I’m in D.C. and try on that life in the afternoon.
5. Reclaiming Your Talents And Letting Them Shine.
We all have talents that extend beyond what the world knows us for. The first time I heard my husband’s insurance colleague belt at karaoke, I was floored. One of my colleagues is a world class baker. My lawyer friend is the best hula hooper I’ve ever seen. Revisit those once fiery passions that have dimmed to a dull glow. Let’s encourage the cultivation of our unique gifts, especially those random or more glorified skills that have been squashed by adulthood.
Have ideas for incorporating play into your everyday? I want to hear them! Share your ideas with me on Twitter: @sara_lahayne