The Power of Play

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?

Explore the World and Express Yourself

Marnie & Judy Discuss a fantastic week at the Light the World Retreat

I love speaking at live events where I can see people’s eyes light up and know that they’re getting what I’m saying. The ultimate to me are live events that incorporate nature. In April 2010 a few friends and I put together the Light the World: Birthing Your Destiny Retreat in Zion National Park.

This event brought together talented musicians and instructors in one of God’s most amazing settings. Nature has been such an integral part of my journey out of workaholism. Being immersed in it has been food for my soul. That is why I tend to gravitate toward attending or holding events in nature.

If you get a chance to be a part of such an event, I highly recommend it.

Music has also been a big part of my journey as well. I create soundtracks for my life — playlists on my ipod that go along with almost everything I do. I have music to

  • Pump me up when I’m feeling down
  • Inspire me when I want to connect to God
  • Relax me so I can meditate
  • Keep me awake as I drive, etc.

Lately, I’ve been serving as the music chairman at my church. So I spend most of my Sundays behind a piano. I learned how to read music when I was 5 and took 13 years of piano lessons. I’d gotten a bit rusty over the years because I hadn’t kept up the practice. But with this new position, I’ve been getting back into the swing of things. One thing I’ve noticed is that I have music inside me that wants out, but I don’t know how to play what’s not written in front of me.

So this week, I started a self-paced home study course to learn how to play the piano by ear. It’s teaching me chords and rhythmic patterns. I’m sure it will take a while to get good at it, but the idea is to be able to play anything without music in front of you — to learn to speak the language of music and express what’s inside you.

I believe that is what God has been trying to teach me lately — to explore the world He created for us and express myself and my talents completely. It doesn’t matter if those talents are “practical” or whether they ever make me a dime. They are a part of me and that’s what’s important — being the best me I can be and enjoying my time here on Earth.


Gatlinburg, Smokey Mountains

Unplugging can mean a lot of things. It can mean turning off the TV, the computer, the cell phones, the video games and the ipods. That can be tough to do in this day and age. I’m certainly not advocating abandoning all the technology at our fingertips. I believe technology can be used to bring a lot of good to the world.

But, every once in a while, it really does pay to unplug. Recently I spent a week in the Smokey Mountains with my family followed by another week at the foothills of the Uinta Mountains in Oakley, UT for a spiritual workshop. Over these two weeks I didn’t work, and I spent the bare minimum of time online. My assistant checked my emails. I turned off my cell phone for most of the 2nd week and only took about 5-10 minutes each day to post some photos to Facebook so my friends and family could catch a glimpse of the beauty I was enjoying.

The rest of the time I relaxed in nature and connected with real people in the “real world” offline. When I came back to work, the perspective I gained was incredible. Suddenly I could see the virtual world for what

Knowing Your Light Workshop

it was — virtual! It isn’t real. You can’t touch it, feel it, or experience it fully. Many of us get so caught up in technology that we lose our connection with others. We begin to believe that that world is all that matters. But it isn’t real!

So I have two baby-steps into unplugging:

  • First take at least one day a week and unplug from work. Stay off the computer, forget the email and rest your brain a bit. No working for that one day a week.
  • Second, take at least 20 minutes each day to connect with nature. Go for a walk, dig in the dirt, go for a drive and enjoy the view, etc.

My Journey out of Work-a-holism

Up until 2000, I ate, drank and dreamed business. I didn’t know who I was apart from my work. When I thought about selling my business or not working, I felt a panic seize me. I didn’t know who I was outside of it. What would I do with my time? What would engage my interest? Sure, I had five children at that time, but it didn’t occur to me that I could be happy just spending time with them. I wanted MORE.

And then I met a coach who set me on a different journey — away from the 70-hour-a-week work-a-holism to becoming someone who embraces and enjoys life.  Here’s what she taught me to do:

“Put time for yourself on your ‘to do list.’ Pat yourself on the back when you take time to enjoy your life, when you take time off work to relax, or when you spend time with your family. You’ve just accomplished something important.”

This shift in thinking — where taking time off was an item on a to-do list — was enough to set me on the path of recovery.

The second thing that came out of this coaching relationship was a passion for exploring my spirituality. I started in 2000 as a result and I began exploring and expressing a part of me that didn’t revolve around work.

Why am I just now starting a blog about this?

  • First, I think there’s a lot of over-achiever women like me who could benefit from my story.
  • Second, I’m still on this journey! I’m still learning and recovering!

It’s not that I struggle so much with work-a-holism, as much as I’m rediscovering who I am now that work isn’t consuming my life.

When you spend years figuring out how to build a business, supporting a family, and keeping everyone else happy, it’s easy to lose yourself along the way. You forget who you are and what makes you happy.  If it’s not practical, then you don’t do it. If it doesn’t serve some higher objective, you feel like you’re wasting your time.

In the end, you can come to this place where you’ve delegated and automated so much that your business runs itself and then you think “now what?”  Rather than dive into some new project (which we are so prone to do as work-a-holics), I’m recommending something radical.

I’m recommending exploring the world around you, fully engaging in life, unplugging from the rat race and simply being YOU! In the end your deeds, accomplishments and awards will not be weighed on a scale to see if you’ve piled up enough brownie points. It is you who will be weighed in the balance — it’s your soul, your being, and what you’ve become that matters.

If you get to the end of life with a truckload of itemized checklists and goals crossed off, but you don’t know who you are, what does it matter? If you haven’t found what brings joy and peace to your soul, what’s the point?

So, all of you high-achiever women out there (and men too), come along with me on this journey. Let’s unplug together. I’ll be documenting my journey and I’d love for you to share yours too!