Turn Practice Into Play

What are places in your life where you yearn to play but instead have chosen to be a spectator?

For many years I lived the life of a spectator, watching other people do activities I loved. I chose to be a spectator because I hated the idea of not looking perfect when I tried a new activity, but instead having to practice to get good at an activity.  It just did not seem fair.

In junior high, I would spend hours watching my friends play video games. Then in high school, I went All-Pro at watching other people play contact sports.  Whether it was live or on TV, I was sitting in the stands.  If medals were given out for being a spectator, I would have won the gold.

A key to living a creative and athletic life is finding what you love and practicing what you love.  I’ve found that there is excitement and joy in watching other people play.   But there is a whole different level of excitement and joy and responsibility in playing ourselves.

Practice gives us the skills and confidence to move from being spectators to being joyful participants in the areas of our lives that mean the most to us.  The act of playing builds skills and confidence that leads to greater abilities the next time you play.

It is ironic that I would be writing a blog post about the value and joy of practicing because as a kid I loathed the idea practicing as if it was a serious threat to my fundamental liberties as a child.

Practice was drudgery as a kid because I thought of it as a misery instead of approaching it with an attitude of play.  To any new activity, I brought impatience and a stubbornness that assumed I should understand how to do it on the first try and become a master at it after five tries.  I also conveniently assumed that I was somehow exempt from needing to follow directions as I practiced a new activity.

This charming kid, now thirty-six years old, luckily grew up and changed his attitude and now goes to yoga many times a week and sometimes even twice a day.

I changed from hating the very thought of practice to regarding practice as an integral part my life.

Here are some of the ideas I found over the years that can help transform practice from misery into play:

  1. Be gentle and loving with yourself- being playful is fun, while demanding perfection of oneself often creates misery.
  2. Smile as you play.
  3. Give yourself freedom; remember no one is forcing you to practice your chosen activity.
  4. Doing the activity the way it is designed is part of the game called practice.  The rules are not meant to take away your freedom, but to make the game exciting.
  5.  As opportunities arise, be creative and laugh during your practice time.
  6. Practice activities you enjoy and enjoy doing consistently.  As kids, when searching through the toy box we pulled out toys we liked.  As kids doing things we loved built character.  As adults doing things we love still builds character.

 I’ve found from years of personal experience that sitting on the bleachers for too long can bleach life out of us.  We yearn to practice at learning new skills.  Let’s play!

Game of the Day

What are places in your life where you yearn to play but instead have chosen to be a spectator?

What are activities that you can do practice playing in these areas?


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