Why Acting Like A Kid Again May Help You Find Your Purpose

In Bill Burnett and Dave Evans’ book, Designing Your Life, there’s an exercise that requires you to evaluate yourself on four life dimensions: Work, Health, Love, and Play. As I went through the exercise, I was surprised to discover that the dimension that stumped me most was play. I struggled to define what “play: even meant to me, let alone evaluate myself on it. All the activities that came to mind could just as easily fit into another category. “Being active” can be attributed to Health, “spending time with friends and family” fits in the Love bucket, etc.

But what do I do just for fun, with no other motives in mind?

 

Play is highly encouraged in children. In fact, several famous psychologists (including Freud) suggest that play is essential to a child’s development. They study children’s play to learn more about what drives the individual child: how he or she processes information, solves problems, and interacts with the world around them.

So when and why do we start to neglect (and often even belittle) play as we become adults?

 

And why do all games that are played by adults have rules?  Even when we do “play,” it’s hardly the same type of unencumbered play we experience as children.

The most honest (and equally disappointing) answer I can come up with is that play feels like a waste of time. As we get older, we somehow believe everything we do has to have a clear outcome. Yet, the beauty of play is that it is in many ways purpose-less. And that’s exactly why it’s so powerful. When you play, you let go of any expectations and let yourself be led by what truly engages, entertains, or excites you. 

So I invite you to embrace this truth: Play is NOT a waste of time.

In fact, play may be one of the most efficient ways to discover your purpose. Start by asking yourself what you loved doing most as a child. Then make a conscious effort to do more of that, with only goal in mind: play for play’s sake.