Be Serious About Play (Pt 1)

be-serious-about-play

Booking under: Keith

“Be serious about play,” declared the subtitle of this month’s chapter. How I wish we could all do more of this on a daily basis! I’ve always loved taking the time to play and have fun. But as I got older and acquired more responsibilities, it just seemed like taking the time to play and have fun was increasingly becoming a luxury.

Gretchen seemed to understand this as well. But she very helpfully shared some pointers on why we should reserve some time for leisure. Here are my takeaways this month:

1. Find more fun

enquiry-human-understanding

The only thing harder to read than a work of philosophy is my handwriting. It’s less fun too.

It didn’t take Gretchen a lot of effort to find what she found fun: children’s literature. Similarly, it’s extremely easy for me (and anyone who knows me) to identify what I find to be fun – playing football (or soccer, as we call it in the States). To me, there is no distance too great and (almost) no time that is inappropriate for a game of footy. If this sounds like how I should be treating my girlfriend, then yes – I’m still learning!

But in all honesty, I just love playing football (or soccer, whatever). I see it as the perfect combination of strategic thinking and physical activity, where mastery of either aspect alone is not enough to become a truly great player. I also see it as the perfect balance between pursuing a fixed objective with defined rules and using your creative freedom to (literally) score a goal. And did I mention I love playing it?

Another thing I love to do is to settle down with a good book. As a kid, I enjoyed fantasy and thriller novels. As I grew up, I started to get into non-fiction, first into behavioral economics (yes I read Freakonomics too), and then into philosophy (which I ended up studying in university). I love sitting down with a piece of philosophical writing with a pen in my hand, following the author through his/her argument and writing down my thoughts in the margins. Sometimes I’d agree. Sometimes I’d disagree. And sometimes I’d be confused, which is probably the essence of doing philosophy – if you’re not confused, you’re not doing it right!

Following Gretchen’s point, I want to make sure I find more fun so that I’m not only filling my days with work. I’ll commit to doing my fun activities at least 3 times a week. Here, any combination will do – I can simply read for 15 minutes a day for 3 days, play 3 games of football (maybe not such a good idea after all) over the week, or do some combination of the three. The result should be straightforward fun and an immediate boost in happiness. That sounds good to me.

2. Go off the beaten path

fruit-stall

Might be a good idea to bring a few back to the office.

A few weeks ago, I fell sick one morning and took the day off from work. Although I did not feel amazing that day, I appreciated it somewhat as it allowed me to observe, on my way home from the doctor, people going about their daily lives. I was able to take a break from my usual routine and take in sights and sounds that I would not encounter inside the confines of the office.

Now, before you think I’m crazy, my commitment is not to get sick every month. Instead, I will aim to get off the beaten path in my daily routines, by exploring a different place each week in my lunch walks. As some of you know, I try to take a quick lunch time walk whenever possible to fight off the impending food coma and to keep myself in shape. But due to time constraints/good old habit, I tend to take the same routes and go to the same places (HMV or a nearby bookshop). Moving forward, I will try to explore a new place every week in my walks. The fresh stimulus of a new environment should at least provide a much needed energy boost for when I enter that wonderful stretch of time after 3:30 PM (you know what I’m talking about).

3. Interrupt negative thoughts

happy-sad

Cliched as it may sound, the difference really does start from within you.

This isn’t so much an observation from Gretchen than it is from a quote from one her readers. The reader talked about how “determinedly interrupting [negative] thoughts and forcing myself to think the opposite” can boost happiness and prevent herself from falling into a negative spiral. Silly as it may sound, I actually agree with her observation, which reminded me of a quote I used to hate (because it’s so cheesy): your attitude determines your altitude (really, it’s so cheesy).

Indeed, there are times, especially after a long day of work, when I’d be feeling quite tired/useless/insert-negative-adjective-here. However, by changing my focus to something I did well that day or thinking ahead to something exciting in the future, I find myself quickly feel better and more confident about the tasks I have to deal with. It’s a simple little trick that might sound a little lame, but thus far it’s been working out pretty well. So no hard action items here, just a reminder to actively interrupt my negative thoughts with positive ones. At the very least I’ll be more productive at work!

Summing up

summary

Yet another three takeaways for me this month. They are:

1. Find more fun – do favorite activities 3 times a week

2. Go off the beaten path – take a lunch time walk to a new place once a week

3. Interrupt negative thoughts – whenever they appear

I’m quite interested to see what Nicole has in store next week, as she’s also one of the reasons why I can be cheery and positive. Tune in next week to see what she’s learnt! But I am also interested to hear about how you find leisure and enjoyment in your life. What is your secret for finding more fun? Let us know in the comments or at aloha.abf2@gmail.com!

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