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Play Is Important

Play is Important

As an Executive Coach, I work with leaders who are already very successful. They come to me because they want to further succeed and sometimes because they feel overwhelmed. They feel like they’re working too much. Even when they’re not working, they feel like they should be–which takes some of the fun and happiness out of their leisure time.

Play is important to our happiness and our ability to be creative. Leaders understand the importance of creativity in the work context. They know that creativity helps their organization keep pace with market demands, and yet, ironically, some of them have forgotten how to play.

In Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, Stuart Brown MD explains the importance of play to our wellbeing. He defines play as follows:


  • Is it’s own purpose, no other.
  • Comes with no demand, it is voluntary.
  • Moves you into flow where there is no sense of time.
  • Lowers judgement of the self.
  • Is free form and chaotic without planning.
  • Is a virtuous cycle in which you would rather not stop.

How to Play at Home

Brené Brown, Ph.D., offers the following activity to increase and improve play at home: Ask every family member to list activities they enjoy to the point of losing all track of time and themselves when doing it. Next, create a Venn diagram and see where there is an overlap among family members. Seek to engage in these overlapping activities so that your entire family can play together. Try to avoid leisure activities that feel more like work than play to some family members.

How to Play at Work

Putting a slide or fire pole between floors won’t necessarily create more play in your organization. Your team members may feel more embarrassed than inspired.

Don’t decide what is play for your group or team. Let them decide. Try Dr. Brown’s activity with your work colleagues. Ask everyone to list activities they enjoy to the point of losing all track of time and themselves when doing it. Draw the Venn diagram and see if you can find something that you can all play at.

What have are you playing at lately? (Please comment! I would love to hear from you.)

About the Author

Gary Cohen is a highly-skilled Executive Coach, Leadership Author, Trainer, and International Keynote Speaker. His clients range from entrepreneurial CEOs of the nation’s fastest-growing companies to executives of global 100 companies. He differentiates himself from traditional (psycho/therapeutic) executive coaches by bringing a vast amount of business experience as a former Founder / President of one the Nation’s Fastest growing companies. He is the author of Just Ask Leadership: Why Great Managers Always Ask the Right Questions (McGraw Hill). Gary B. Cohen Full Bio

  • Lola Fredrickson

    I love the definition of play you presented here, but I struggle with what activities constitute play for me. Lots of my leisure time is spent with activities similar to what I’m doing at work, e.g., discussing social issues with colleagues with an attempt to contribute to the solution, working in a non-profit or attending a fund-raising event. I need something akin to playing with paper dolls which I did as a child. Does reading count? Should play be active? Who does this well? Can you make suggestions?

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