I know a scientist who has made great discoveries in his field of expertise. But as a youth, he was a bit of a class clown and spent most of his time playing ball or building something with Legos.
One might look at this man’s accomplishments and say, “Wow, what if he’d actually applied himself the first 20 years of his life instead of goofing off playing all the time. No telling what else he could have discovered by now.”
I look at this quite differently. I believe that BECAUSE this man played for 20 years of his life, he had developed the creativity necessary to make the discoveries he has. Take away the years of play and you take away his ability to think outside the box.
But you don’t have to take my word for it, there’s been research done on this very subject. Dr. Stuart Brown, MD, the author of, “Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul” explained in an interview:
“In my career I have reviewed more than 6000 life histories, looking specifically at a person’s play experiences over his or her life. In studying these histories it has become vividly apparent that play is enormously significant for both children and adults.
I began thinking about the role of play in our lives while conducting a detailed study of homicidal males in Texas. What I discovered was severe play deprivation in the lives of these murderers. When I later studied highly creative and successful individuals, there was a stark contrast. Highly successful people have a rich play life.
It is also established that play affects mental and physical health for both adults and children. A severely play deprived child demonstrates multiple dysfunctional symptoms– the evidence continues to accumulate that the learning of emotional control, social competency, personal resiliency and continuing curiosity plus other life benefits accrue largely through rich developmentally appropriate play experiences.
Likewise, an adult who has “lost” what was a playful youth and doesn’t play will demonstrate social, emotional and cognitive narrowing, be less able to handle stress, and often experience a smoldering depression. From an evolutionary point of view, research suggests that play is a biological necessity.
There is evidence that suggests the forces that initiate play lie in the ancient survival centers of the brain–the brain stem–where other anciently preserved survival capacities also reside. In other words, play is a basic biological necessity that has survived through the evolution of the brain. And necessity = importance.
But one of the strongest arguments for the importance of play is how strongly we identify ourselves through our play behavior. Just look at the eloquent memories of 9-11 victims the New York Times published. The headlines—the summation of a life—were lines like ‘A Spitball-Shooting Executive,’ a ‘Lover of Laughter.’ Play is who we are.”
Here’s my challenge for today — not just for you, but for me too… get out and play! I think I’ll pick up a new frisbee at the store and play with my kids when they get home. What will you do?