Yesterday a friend of my told me about his Track&Field training (running – exercising – running). He was relieved that finally the weather was getting colder. Because, this meant that there were no annoying kids playing around on the training instruments in the park. I asked him what he was doing instead of playing on these instruments. ‘Exercising!, he said. Next, I asked him about the difference between playing and exercising. ‘Well, I do not pretend to be a monkey when I am exercising!’ he exclaimed.
Exercise versus playing
This apparent difference between playing and exercising intrigued me. Although the actual movements are roughly the same, the difference lies in the intention. Exercising has with a clear cut goal. As my friend told me: his goal was to be able to do more pull-ups today than last week. Focus and technique are important here. When you truly dedicate your attention and your energies you will become fitter and you will reach your goals. The intention of those kids on the other hand is a process approach. They are not interested in the result at all. They want to discover how many different ways there are to climb that bench. In this approach there is no right or wrong: everything goes. Dirty clothes? No problem! We had fun didn’t we?! This is the reason why kids are seen as being free and adults… well… What is the thing with adults? Adults have a lot of responsibilities and tasks. There is a whole variety of goals (expectations) from a diverse group of people (work, spouse, friends, etc.) of which nobody can meet all of them. The result is stress. ‘Stress’ as an adrenaline kick is in itself not a bad thing: it helps you focus and achieve your goals. But it becomes a bad thing when it is continuous at a high level in your subconscious system. So how do adults cope with stress?
Stress builds up tension in the body and this needs to be released. And this can be done in many ways: eating drinking, sex, etc. Many of our addictive behaviour comes from the disability to cope with stress in a proper way. To a degree compensating stress works, but it is not very efficient. Al compensating stress is not very fulfilling.
As second way to ‘deal’ with stress is to reconnect with the opposite of stress (which many of us we have lost): playfulness. In playfulness you will realise and integrate that the goal often does not really matter. It is the process. Someone bumps into you on the street? Turn it into a dance! This is much easier said than done of course. It is a different way of life. Many people with a burn out realise this. But the downside is that you will play a lot, but will get nothing done.
There is a third way of dealing with stress: to make conscious use of stress and playfulness. When you know the both opposites of the spectrum, next you can learn to balance them. Then, when you are doing your tasks you can need to be able to make a conscious choice if you really need to achieve a goal or if there is room to play. And since many of the tasks, goals and expectations in our life are not as strict as you might think, there is much more room to play than initially thought! In this way you are able to integrate stress and playfulness in your life at will in the moment.