Beware of a Half-Truth; It May Be the Wrong Half
Remember when summer used to mean time for play? Have you lost that playful feeling? Before fall rolls around, let’s see if we can get a bit of it back. Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void recently reminded me that there is no purpose without play. As anyone familiar with nursery rhymes knows, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
We accept that for children their “work” is play; that being free to explore and innovate is how they learn and make sense of the world. Yet we don’t allow ourselves the same liberties as adults. We forget that we’re all children inside and that perhaps this is still a good way for us to expand our minds… think outside the box… grow… become inspired… and create.
If you’ve ever felt you’re just mind-numbingly working, working, working… tediously running, running, running… monotonously busy, busy, busy – like a hamster on a treadmill – then perhaps a little play is just the ticket to finding new purpose and meaning in your daily routine.
Much has been written on the subject of finding purpose and, towards this end, the importance of channeling a play ethic (See “The PlayEthic”; “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul”(by Suart Brown, M.D. ). Similarly, research into the science of happiness has shown us that an organizational culture embracing play and joy can be a key to improving employee morale and customer satisfaction – all leading to a purposeful and successful bottom line (Check out “Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom” (by Rick Hanson); “Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow” (by Chip Conley)). So what are we waiting for?
It’s time to stop plodding through the day, barraging our constituents with messages about why they should do something (e.g., buy a product/service; give a contribution). Let’s stop pressuring and invite folks to do something pleasurable, fun and meaningful. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s book on “Delivering Happiness” is particularly relevant to nonprofits as he also speaks to the importance of concentrating on the happiness of those around you to increase your own. This means, if we do it right, making our clients and supporters (and co-workers) happy is what will ultimately win the day, enable us to fulfill our missions and make us happier, more passionate and newly purposeful to boot.
We need to cease thinking of play as a distraction and begin celebrating its benefits. How often have you heard an employee complaining, only to have someone else say “if it wasn’t so hard (awful; difficult) they wouldn’t call it “work”? Tony Hsieh reminds us that work doesn’t have to suck. Chip Conley exhorts us to find our own “joie de vivre” by going beyond short-term thinking and the daily grind towards an all-encompassing, joyful vision that bestows a sense of purpose and well-being among all who come into contact with it.