Necessarily Playful

11th May, 2016

As part of a wider Leadership programme, I was recently revisiting some classic Steven Covey with a group of execs… It is material they are each familiar with (and apply to varying degrees) and we were primarily working with the 8th Habit, finding voice and sharing moral imperatives in order to get under the surface of (and clearly express) the heart and soul of their business.

It was a precursor to an mBraining exercise and allowed each of them to expand their sense of “Why are we doing all this and what are the wider implications?”

We thought it would be useful to connect with the other 7 Habits too and within these: Habit 7 resonated for many – the benefits of “sharpening the saw”. If you are unfamiliar with 7 habits check out this YouTube link for a VERY abridged intro!

To support achieving their shared goals, one of many outcomes from the day was that each of them committed to finding ways that they and their teams could ensure healthy and sustainable working practices. On-going group coaching sessions and reflecting for meaningful action certainly enable time out and create alignment and coherence, a good start!

Discussions surfaced additional approaches they could take to ensure they are bringing their most creative, compassionate and courageous selves to the table. We worked on identifying where there is and is not balance, how broader lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise impact upon energy and motivation and how simple changes can significantly influence both personal and cultural change. Of the many ways we can sharpen the saw… one was clearly lacking in a variety of ways for many of them.


Now lets be clear – this is not a blog advocating losing any sense of pragmatism or wishing to trivialise areas where a more serious formal tone might be more appropriate.

Certainly excessive play at the cost of professionalism has obvious potentially negative business impacts… This said both credibility and a lightness of spirit are equally important if we are going to bring our full self to the work that we love.

In their career climb and embracing of additional responsibility several of them had become all too serious, to the point that they felt burdened and often equated humour with flippancy… an interesting gestalt dilemma for a provocative facilitator!

It was inspiring however to see them adjust their perspective in relation to PLAY once they considered some of the very real benefits.

We had some sciency chat relating to the neurotransmitters and hormones for those who required their heads to get on board

We also explored some beliefs about identity to re-educate their gut reaction to the idea of PLAY or even the word PLAY itself.

We connected their intentions for the business with their intentions for their life… their heart’s desires… finding out the role PLAY might have in fully expressing themselves in the world. Asking for example, could they exist fully without PLAY? I then asked in a more targeted way – when did you last take some time out to really play… or when were you last truly playful?

… For simple fun and pure curiosity?

… For a physical or mental challenge and the learning it offered?

… For a deeper connection with others or the environment?

These are of course in no way independent of one another, but it was a useful framework to offer. You see… If one of our life aims is to be fulfilled, then research shows that combining these provides a greater happiness hit than independently approaching these.

Subjective wellbeing SWB – has often been defined as a combination of 3 factors – high positive affect, low negative affect and high satisfaction with ones life, the first two of these being likened to a hedonistic and not necessarily psychologically sound approach. A fuller interpretation of happiness might include – living well and actualising our human potential, having a clear purpose and expressing our true nature (eudaimonia)

My friend “J” discusses the differentiation between these further in his book Blue Mind referencing the original researchers and a range of ways we can embrace more meaningful existence… incorporating variety, collective and compassionate action… and of course J being J there is an important and pro environmental skew.

PLAY was even one of the themes for the Blue Mind 6 summit I attended in Monterey.  So PLAY features a lot when we consider this new and broader definition of happiness. When we are playful we allow our mind and body respite to process less consciously those more taxing of challenges. Our autonomic nervous system can rebalance and find coherence and this dwell time enables a more wise and better aligned approach to the decisions we make.

Ahh I hear you say – but if you are playful people will not take you seriously.

You are fantastic at what you do… right?

You are continuing to hone your skills and gain new ones… right? (another aspect of sharpening the saw).

You gain great results… right?

So how does lack of PLAY enable or inhibit you in being awesome…  Your choice!

Ok – I am off to the beach and I look forward to once again sharing some waves with lots of the more PLAYful Cornish business community this Summer during 100 Days of Blue!

Please share your insights and comments about how PLAY features in your authentic self-expression.

About Lizzi Larbalestier

Professional Blue Health Coach, mBIT and NLP trainer specialising in coastal coaching. Creating meaningful conversations, facilitating action and change for the results that you deserve. #bluehealthcoach #oceanempathy #bluemind