What does play look like if you (like so many adults) have difficulty connecting to your sense of play? A few years ago I probably couldn’t have answered that question. I’d become so work-driven I lost my sense of play.

A coach I hired gave me an exercise. She said, “I want you to give me a list of 75 things that have got nothing to do with work and I want it by tomorrow.” I said, “All right. That’s not a problem.” I hung up the phone, got out a pen and paper and wrote down a grand total of two things down on my list. I was stunned. I was upset. I cried. It shocked me that I couldn’t access that part of me. I questioned myself: “Was I ever a good player, or was I just a complete nerd on the playground?”

I picked myself up and began calling other people I knew like my sister and my friends and asked, “What do you do when you’re not working?”

They said things like, “Oh, I go to the movies, I work out, I take a nap, I read a book, I go for a walk….” With that help, I managed to finish my list of 75 fun things to do that had nothing to do with work. In fact, by the end of the list, I was starting to really have fun with it. I was determined to get myself back–at any cost.

I proudly returned to my coach, assignment in hand and shared my list with her. She said, “This is a great list. Now I want you to do it. I want you to do every single thing on this list.” I have to do what?

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At first, I was so out of practice that I had to refer to the list a lot. I actually had to allow myself to sit and read a novel and know that was okay. I had to remind myself that spending time with myself to rejuvenate was okay; I had lost that sense. And what I found most interesting was I had to let go of my ego to regain my sense of self–and play. This sense of self is now critically important to me–it’s important to my health, my happiness and my well being, and everything around me is flourishing because of that.

I was a pretty extreme work fanatic, so having a simple “non goal” related conversation with a friend was, for me, play. And hanging out just chatting was at first quite challenging. Being play-full has allowed my relationships in every arena to grow and flourish. Using my imagination has allowed me to discover innovative, progressive solutions for any circumstance. Who knew? (Well, I guess Einstein did–but he was a genius right?)

Check out the post Fear of the Unknown-Part III for a further look at how to step into the unknown in a really fun way.