The Power of Playing with Possibilities

As we head into a new year, have you thought about what you’d like to accomplish, what goals you want to set for yourself, and what dreams you want to turn into realities? This is a time when all things are possible, as we rip 2021 away and replace it with a new (blank) sheet of possibilities: 2022. So, I would like to suggest that we not just get back to work, which many of us are, but get back to play, playing with the possibilities that lie ahead of us in this coming year.

“Get back to work!” Who was the last person that gave you that command?   Did you say it to yourself?  What we really mean by this is that it’s time for hard, focused labor.  It’s time to put our nose to the grindstone, keep our shoulder to the wheel, and put our back into it.  That sounds like a pretty serious approach that will probably get the job done, but may not give us the best result, especially if we’re trying to solve a problem.

The brilliant mind behind Monty Python, John Cleese, says, “the most creative professionals always played with the problem for much longer before they tried to resolve it.”  A solution often requires time for exploration, creativity, and even fun.  Cleese reflected, “The more I allowed myself time to not find an answer, the better answer I eventually created.”

My experience has taught me that to uncover the best solution possible, you need to play with the problem. So, give it time and space to bounce around in your brain, simmer and percolate, kick it about a bit.

Instead of telling yourself to “get back to work,” what if you told yourself that it was time to “get back to play” or, as Walt Disney might say, to “get back to making magic.” 

A play-oriented approach perhaps takes more time, but the results are going to be far more impactful. Play:

  • Creates an environment that celebrates inspiration, creativity, and off-the-wall thinking.
  • Pushes us to rethink what we think we know.
  • Expects creative silliness, which usually leads to extraordinary results.
  • Relaxes the room and opens the mind.
  • Finds the best solution by not settling for the first solution.

My advice: Don’t search for the answer. But instead, live with the question. Let the question lead you out to the edges of your thinking. And don’t be afraid to explore, be creative, be silly, and have fun. As Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “If you never did silly things, then nothing intelligent would ever get done.”

Phillip J Martin

Exploring the Power of People

You succeed by choice, not chance.
Every decision you make shapes your future

Phil is a published playwright and song writer and an award-winning television writer for the Nashville Now show on TNN. He has spent 30 years as a college professor, most recently in the Department of Theatre Arts at Edgewood College in Madison, Wisconsin. He has presented at colleges, universities, conventions and symposiums across the country. In addition to writing 13 musicals, Phil has written two books: Play Hard-Have Fun: A Philosophy for Life and the soon-to-be completed Take the Stage: Leadership Lesson from Theatre. Phil believes that achieving personal and professional success requires the challenge of creative and innovative thinking, that you succeed by choice, not chance.

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