Even if you were enjoying yourself at the start, so often happiness, joy and freedom are replaced by monotony, boredom and stagnation. Play cannot survive in such harsh conditions, and neither can growth. (Read time: 2 – 3 mins)
There are some amongst us who are immune to these changes and refuse to allow something as precious as fun to be taken from them. These masters of play are also known as children. Rules, socially acceptable norms and fear of failure do not feature in inquisitive minds that are driven by imagination, inspiration and a disregard for what others think.
Pick an activity. Is it fun?
Yes. Do it more.
Has it stopped being fun?
Yes. Change it.
As we progressed in chronological age we transformed from a master of play and became a prisoner of constraint. It’s sad that as ‘grown ups’ so many have lost the true sense of play and become creatures of habit. For some reason, we have stopped giving ourselves permission to create happiness in our lives through a format that brought so much joy in our early years.
Just as play and fun are intertwined, so too are play and movement. Children move, fall, bump and bang. Sometimes they get a fright or hurt themselves, but their excitement for the world and appetite to explore it drives them on. Any potential negative consequence they experience pails in insignificance to the potential happiness that lies in trying again.
We think that research is an adult job done by academics. The truth is, we have been doing it since we were born. What happens when I move like this? What if I grab, chew, push, pull, throw or drop. As we improved our ability to play we became more skilled researchers. If the results of our experiments were fun, we’d do it again, only this time we’d allow creativity to further enhance our ideas.
As their world comes into view, children build a library of experiences. In an endless pursuit of happiness they select those that bring joy, test combinations and constantly explore the unknown. This is play.
Everyone starts small. Driven by the development of motor control, strength and a growth mindset, crawling becomes walking, walking becomes climbing. Why? Because it’s fun. And so, it continues. That is, until we stop…for no good reason.
As ‘grown ups’ we have far more resources to facilitate play in our lives than when we were children, yet we do less of it. I think we’re missing something. Yes circumstances, commitments and time all play a part. But it’s not finances, play can be free. I think it’s much more simple. We stopped permitting ourselves the freedom of physical exploration and expression without fear of consequence.
Maybe trying to balance on your hands will lead to you falling over. Maybe people in the gym will laugh. When Jacko and I started calisthenics as absolute beginners, someone came over and said ‘what are you two doing in the gym because it looks like you are messing about’. With the kind of smile on our faces that you’d see on two mischevious little boys we replied…’that’s exactly what we’re doing’. We were happy, having fun and couldn’t care less what anyone else thought, partly because a lot of them looked miserable!
A master of play ‘engages in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose’. On the other hand, the prisoners of constraint ‘exhibit unnatural behaviour that is the result of forcing oneself to act in a particular way’.
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P.S As I was writing this someone replied to a comment on one of our YouTube videos saying ‘This would look super weird in the gym’. My reply, I’m doing some high-level research, you can join in if you like!