This life lesson blog is a fictional re-creation of real life experiences with my students designed to maintain anonymity and confidentiality.
“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”-George Bernard Shaw
When was the last time you did something just for fun? I’m talking about something that made you smile and laugh, got you up and moving or kept you interested until the time just flew by. How about an activity with friends and family that brought you back to your childhood and the carefree days when imagination was part of everything you did? Did you know there are serious consequences to limiting the amount of play in your life?
Even as I write this blog, I struggle to create a unique, interesting and meaningful message because I’m trying to do it perfectly. I’m so afraid of doing it incorrectly or coming out badly that I can’t get past the first two paragraphs. I’m STUCK! My creativity is being roped and tied by a brain that is overthinking and over analyzing.
Danielle stood in the sun surrounded by the herd of equines, intently staring at the ground, the oversized yellow rubber dice in her hand. She hadn’t moved even an inch in several minutes since hearing the instructions I gave her for the activity: create a game using the “toys” in the box that has a name, rules and involves one or more of the horses.
Creativity Kicks In
Finally, I walked over and suggested she walk toward the box of toys and look in. As she picked through the colorful balls and cones, an idea apparently came to her. She began walking through the herd setting up what she would call her “Meditation Box.” Throwing the large die down with a soft thud, she explained the idea of her creation.
“I know that Brownie is enjoying the grass, so I let him stay in the box for exactly 30 seconds. Each number on the die represented 5 seconds of meditation for me and I threw a six.” Danielle explained that the horse in the box created by four cones represented staying in her mind with quiet thoughts. Giving herself a limit of time that was doable (five to 30 seconds) meant the chances of being successful were greater. The horse would eventually move, she explained as would her thoughts, but while they were there together, she could feel a sense of peace and the horse would continue to happily graze.
Danielle had been struggling for weeks to “get motivated” to complete a project for work that she’d begun months before. The assignment had been a step forward in her career as a designer and she knew that there was a lot at stake. Unfortunately, in the past week, she’d found herself on the couch in her office, unable to move from the spot. She was avoiding taking even the smallest step in the process. It had always been her habit to wait until the last minute to complete a college paper, a work report or even preparations for a dinner party with friends.
Fear of Looking Foolish
In her quest to make sure it all turned out perfect, Danielle was avoiding even starting. She admitted that her greatest fear was in looking foolish or incompetent. Rather than exploring the possibilities and making mistakes, she found it easier to just wait until something PUSHED HER! Like the moment I told her to walk over to the box of balls, she was waiting for something or someone to tell her what to do. Reflecting on my advice to check out the toys, she shared what she was thinking at the time, “How is that gonna help?”
Play with It
It did help. Danielle admitted that once she began moving, she was able to let her mind wander and experiment with ideas, imagining what a new game would look like. She found herself letting go of any presumed outcome, encouraged by the words, “there’s no right or wrong way to do it, Danielle.” Without the pressure of doing it perfectly, she was able to let go of the notion that to be correct it had to be complex. “Why am I making it so hard?” She could simply play with this or that and learn from the experience of experimenting with different options.
Danielle admitted to me that fun and games were not emphasized growing up in her household. She was rewarded mainly for her efforts and serious work at school. It wasn’t until she met her husband who introduced her to some of his games that she began to let go of the idea of everything having a purpose and a successful end goal.
Our fear in making mistakes or looking foolish/incompetent is a fear of failure and the sense of rejection we feel when others see us. It’s real and universal to all humans. It also leads to anxiety, depression, even isolation.
With the help of the horses and experiential education, you can learn to let go of the crippling effects of fear of failure and rejection.
And fun is the way to do it? Are you serious? Yes, as a matter of fact I am.
Developing a playful nature can help you loosen up in stressful situations, break the ice with strangers, make new friends, and form new business relationships. Play can also stimulate your imagination, helping you adapt and solve problems. As Danielle shared her game with me, we smiled and laughed. I congratulated her on her imaginative spirit, giving her a sense of accomplishment and reinforcing her desire to try something new, even if it didn’t work out.
Play helps in building community, keeping the mind sharp and keeping close the ones you love. The social interaction of playing with family and friends can also help ward off stress and depression. Play can boost your energy and vitality and even improve your resistance to disease, helping you function at your best.
And, no worries-it’s never too late. You can learn to have fun whether you’re 6 or 63. Play is not wasting time or being frivoulous. It’s vital to a balanced, happy life.
So, the next time you are trying to create a blog, generate ideas for a new project at work, plan a party for friends and family, or even discover a new way to talk to your partner, start with a sense of fun. Be playful and let go! Imagine and create-you’ll live longer and be happier!
JOIN the horses and me for some fun and imagination at your next Life Lessons with Horses