#526 The Science of Play

What’s YOUR Play Personality?

In our last +1, we talked about Abraham Maslow and the fact that self-actualizers dissolve the (apparent!) dichotomy between work and play. Then we enjoyed James Michener genius thoughts from his autobiography regarding the master in the art of living.

Remember: “The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he’s always doing both.”

Yep. That’s where it’s at.


Today I want to talk about the SCIENCE of play.

Yes, scientists study play. (Hah.)

And, they’ve discovered a) just how pervasive it is throughout the animal kingdom and b) just how important it is for those animals from the great ape family and the Homo genus and the sapiens species known as us.

One of the leading play researchers is a guy named Stuart Brown. He’s spent his entire career studying play and wrote a book appropriately called Play all about “How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.” (Of course, check out the Note for more.)

Today I want to talk about what he calls “play personalities.”

Stuart has identified eight play personalities and gives us some detail on each—encouraging us to get more clarity on where we find our greatest source of play and then make sure we’re integrating it into our lives.

He says: “When people know their core truths and live in accord with what I call their ‘play personality,’ the result is always a life of incredible power and grace.”

So…. Here’s a super-quick look:

  • The Joker. The class clown or practical joker falls into this category. Loves nonsense.
  • The Kinesthete. The kinesthete loves to move—whether it’s football or yoga or dance, they do their best thinking and feel most alive when moving.
  • The Explorer. Explorers love to discover new places—whether the terrain is physical, emotional or mental, they love pushing their edges and finding new vistas.
  • The Competitor. The competitor loves to play by creating games and playing to win—whether it’s solo or social, they love keeping score and coming out on top.
  • The Director. The director loves to organize—the party givers and excursion leaders who take us on adventures.
  • The Collector. The collector loves to have the most interesting collection of objects or experiences—whether that’s coins, toy trains, antiques, shoes, cars or whatever fascinates them.
  • The Artist/Creator. Artists/creators love making things—whether that’s painting or sculpting or knitting or sewing or gardening, they’re playing when they’re creating.
  • The Storyteller. Play for storytellers focuses on imagination. Our novelists, cartoonists, and screenwriters, performers and also those whose greatest joy is engaging in those creations.

Basic idea: The more we can identify our play personality, the more we can consciously set out to ensure our lives are full of play.

Today’s +1: Can you see yourself in any of those descriptions and identify how you currently engage in certain play activities?

I’d say that my dominant play personality is a mix of the Competitor with a mix of Creator. I absolutely love to set ambitious creative targets for myself and then “compete” with myself to get them done. And, I get great joy in setting up my routines to match my ambition and then have fun dropping into Deep Work Flow as I (at least when I’m doing it right!) playfully (!) push myself to “win” in my own little game.

How about YOU?!

What’s your play personality look like and how can you take it out for a (playful!) spin today?!

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