Letter No 95 - Should grown-ups play?

Dear Friend,

My friend arrived 15 minutes late, and I had been waiting for him. This has happened a few times before. Although he is generally punctual, there are occasions when he becomes more casual about time. Time matters to me, both my own and other people's. When others don't respect my time, it upsets me, especially when it comes from a friend or someone close. It makes me feel offended and agitated, leading me to say things that I could have avoided.

I strongly believe in the significance of punctuality. In the past, I have been assertive and even aggressive in enforcing punctuality on my family, students, and colleagues. However, this approach has resulted in strained relationships.

I have also been hard on myself. I have exerted willpower to accomplish various things, such as giving up sugar for a year or waking up at 5 am consistently. While these efforts have brought about change, they have also caused collateral damage in the form of strained relationships. Only those who were already seeking change were able to adapt, while others felt pressured and disconnected.

Every living being desires growth and comfort. However, growth often demands sacrificing comfort, creating tension between the two.

To prepare for competitive entrance exams, I must sacrifice activities I enjoy.
To expand my business, I must engage in uncomfortable decision-making and conversations.
To grow in strength and grace, I must give up certain comforts and pleasures.

Why does existence seem to play such a tyrannical game with us? Does life have to be this difficult?


All of us experience this struggle in various aspects of our lives. Relationships require facing conflicts. Self-improvement demands discipline. Business necessitates hustle. Leadership requires sacrifice. Innovation involves failure.

It appears that growth often comes at a cost -pain.

Even my daughter was grumpy this morning when I asked her to eat her breakfast. I find myself torn between being harsh and forcing it down her throat or letting her go without it, knowing she will return home with a headache. It's a headache indeed. Even to help my daughter stay energetic and healthy, I have to be strict, which only makes her more grumpy!


I don't believe that our creators (whether it be God, existence, the Force, or a higher intelligence) would be so cruel to us.

I believe they have provided us with the answer to life's biggest challenges during our childhood itself - be playful!

Children do everything through play.
They learn.
They grow stronger.
They make friends.
They solve problems.
They deal with disappointment.
They figure out how to convince one parent through the other.
They learn to navigate sharing their favorite toys with other children who visit their home.
They fall down and get hurt.
They cry.

But they keep playing.

Animals play too.

Playfulness is ingrained in nature.

Play relaxes.
Play builds bonds.
Play sparks creativity.
Play fuels imagination.
Play eliminates fear.
Play teaches.
Play strengthens.

Playfulness is our true nature.


The struggles of hustle, conflicts, discipline, sacrifice, and failure wear us down. People are exhausted and anxious at home, in schools and colleges, in offices and factories, and even in the boardroom.

However, all of this serious business - involving money, lives, our future, and the need to earn profits - cannot afford to exclude play.

Yes, we can afford it, and we must.

The benefits of play are well-known for children, but even as adults, play has multiple advantages for a more joyful (and successful) life. There is ample research showing that:

Play is therapeutic, even for adults.
It enhances learning, productivity, innovation, and creativity, even for adults.
It fosters bonding and communication, even for adults.
It transforms dull or challenging situations, even for adults.
It relieves stress, something that adults truly need.
It improves our ability to cope with challenges and conflicts.
It boosts our energy levels.
It increases our confidence.
It promotes mindfulness and presence.
Oh, and it helps attract friends and partners, regardless of gender!


One organization that has taken the concept of play to the next level is LEGO. Yes, those little plastic blocks we all played with as kids.

LEGO introduced a beautiful oxymoron to the world - serious play!

Not only has LEGO discovered a growing market for their toys among adults, but they have also created a leadership and innovation training program for startups and leadership teams based on their colorful building blocks. The company has spent five years simplifying the kid-oriented instruction manuals to make them more understandable for frazzled adults!

In fact, according to a report commissioned by the Entertainment Software Association, the average age of a video game player today is 33 years old. The study also revealed that more people over 45 years old play video games than those under 18. This speaks to the increasing adoption of gameplay by people throughout their lives. Older players also emphasize the mental stimulation video games provide, with 68% of those over 65 stating they play to "use their brain." Both men and women play to have fun and pass the time, with similar numbers engaging in gameplay for those reasons.

So, relax and indulge in a little play.

We all need it, and the world needs it.


Now, you might be thinking, "Oops, now in addition to being a good spouse, parent, student, employee, being disciplined, communicative, and keeping up with technology, I also have to be playful!" Take a moment to chill. Play is not another item to add to your list of self-improvement tasks. Play is inherent to who you are. That's how you were conceived!

To make it easier, here are 5 types of playful adults. See which ones resonate with you:

1. Those who enjoy fooling around, joking, and making people laugh.
2. Those who approach situations as challenges or games, maintaining a light-hearted attitude.
3. Those who play with thoughts and ideas, constantly coming up with new things.
4. Those who are fascinated by the magic in ordinary everyday things and enjoy reflection and introspection.
5. Those who enjoy learning and exploring.

Which of these types can you relate to?


So, yes, you should play—a lot! But how?

To start, let's remind ourselves of what play is. In general, play is an activity you engage in for its own sake, driven by intrinsic motivation and the desire for enjoyment. It's not something you do because you have to or solely to achieve a particular outcome. Play is all about wanting to experience the journey as much as, if not more than, reaching the destination.

It's as simple as that. Play is about having fun. Engage in activities that bring you joy.

And for the other less enjoyable tasks, find ways to make them fun or tackle them anyway!

Get playing!