Play, or having fun, is something we all seek. Yet, in our desire to find it, we often miss it.  Play is essential to our wellbeing.  In adults, as with children, play is our entre to new learning, cognitive development, stress reduction, and healthy relationships.  The folly in our search for play is that we sometimes enter into the faulty thinking that play is an activity, something we have to plan for or manage in order for it to happen.

  • When we were conducting our research for our book, Act III, we were dubious of the image of   successful retirees whose pictures indicated a life of joy because they achieved the financial freedom to fund a life of “fun.”  According to the pictures, fun has everything to do with fine dining, beautiful sunsets, tans, sailboats,and smiles of content.  But, something is incomplete in the picture.  Surely, wealthy people who enjoy access to all these pleasures could lack a playful spirit.  By the same token, some less financially secure people seem full of excitement and fun.

  • As it turns out, play is more of an attitude than it is a particular activity.  There appear to be four characteristics of the playful individual—the person who finds joy in daily living and reaps the benefits of a playful life.  These characteristics include the ability to be a joyful best friend, the occasional expression of the Naughty but Nice, the habit of exploration, and the ability to play the Joker.

  • The Joyful Best Friend (JBF): The JBF is the person you always wanted as your best friend.  He or she never dwells in bad news or circumstances.   JBFs can compartmentalize their thinking so that problems and concerns are pushed aside in order to focus on being happy in the moment.  They are cheerful, positive, relaxed and enthusiastic.  They practice gratitude, finding the positive in every event.  They wake up anticipating the day with an optimistic attitude.  They reduce stress by focusing on others, not just themselves.

  • Naughty but Nice:  We all know that special person who can tease and joke without ever offending.  This person can convince you to take the hiking path that is not marked, stating that someone should be the first to make the path.  They are the friend who introduced you to flavored vodkas and mojitos.  For your birthday, she sent you a negligee from Victoria’s Secret and posted your profile on an Internet dating site. Naughty but Nice will challenge the rules and your boundaries, opening new possibilities and thumbing their nose at restrictions.

  • The Explorer: The Explorer is creative and whimsical.  They will agree to go on a fishing trip when they have never been on a boat.  They will set off to tour every national park in the nation—just because it is something they have not yet accomplished.  Like a child in a never ending game of “let’s pretend,” they will transition from sleeping in a hammock to spending a night in a five star hotel.  There is no excuse for them to not explore the next adventure.  Any physical limitations are ignored as they creatively find a way to make their goals happen.  They push just beyond their comfort zones.

  • The Joker:  The Joker prepares to be funny and humorous.  Jokers are the life of the party: they seem to have stories that make everyone laugh.  They know every knock-knock joke and can entertain any age group.  Their favorite time of year is April Fool’s Day and they find opportunities to stretch the day out.  They are the extrovert that is just on the edge of being a bit rude, but they are easily forgiven once the laughter starts.  They know their job is to make others laugh.

  • Play is a vital at every stage of life; in ACT III it serves to revitalize our interest in ourselves and in our lives, keeping us relevant and interesting to all we meet.  So get out and play.


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