AND Play

March 29th, 2015

I love when a theme emerges from seemingly disparate contexts. The theme that emerged this week is how important it is to choose to play. It is so amazing what can arise from that simple choice and how it can benefit all of us.

I have been watching some of the women’s NCAA basketball tournament games. The North vs. South Carolina game and any game played by the UCONN Huskies stand out for me. In the first, I watched two teams play with heart to the final seconds. Changing leads, going ahead by a few points, only to watch the opposing team make great shots and shift the lead, cheers, teammates jumping up from the bench to celebrate, and great creativity in passes and shots pointed out the level of play possible when the women played together with heart.

It’s fun for me to see how easy it is to attach to who wins. Yet, with a little distance, the reminder that it’s not about winning or losing; it’s how you play the game really rings true. There is a level of inspired play that stems from people playing together, giving their best without fear of outshining another, giving the ball to the one in the best position to make a basket rather than making a less than wonderful shot yourself, staying focused on what is going on in the moment because players are constantly changing positions, AND being so in the moment that mind chatter disappears and time stands still.

In my observation, our workplaces don’t operate this way. We forget to play in our relationships and with people at work. Thinking of the context as a game reminds us to bring our best, not be afraid of another’s strengths, play together to get a better result, and enjoy the moment without attaching to or being afraid of what will happen next.

The UCONN games have reminded me of something different. This team plays at its best, even if the score is horribly lop-sided. They don’t lower their game, if the opponent is not playing their level of championship ball. In my younger days, I might have told them to lighten up and give the other team a chance to catch up and feel better about themselves. (I botched more than one good tennis shot and eventual match with this kind of thinking.)

The point is to shine your light and remember that when you shine, you do not outshine others. You remind them to shine their best and know that that is good enough. Play from the heart and give your best. Have fun. Playing is not about winning and losing. AND human life always has the same ending. It may take different forms and occur at different times. It’s still the same ending. So—enjoy the game and play from the heart while you are here.

Nothing in life has to be serious or heavy. We make it that way with all our rules and head games. In a TED talk I was listening to, one researcher found that we respond with empathy, rather than fear, to strangers, when we play a game together. We forget the labels and just have fun. Maybe this is a good week to look at the people, situations, and conversations where we find ourselves and choose to play. AND just maybe, this can be the beginning of a series of choices to play more. Then we all win.

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