Play More. Exploit Less

Curiosity – It keeps us moving forward, exploring, experimenting, opening new doors.

Walt Disney
Credit: Pixabay – santiagotorrescl95

Early in the creation of Practice Playfulness we discussed how we are adults much longer than we are children. This became a cornerstone for our exploration of why play and playfulness could be as important if not more so for adults than children. 

An original touch point that sparked our enthusiasm was Zat Rana who believes “life is a playful act best guided by curiosity.”  His essay  “Why Playfulness is More Important Than Ever”  blew us away.  His contemporary, thoughtful and interesting perspectives jump started our thinking. 

He shares “We can roughly divide life into two realms of existence: a period dominated by exploration and a period dominated by exploitation. You spend the first part of your life exploring, seeing, and understanding, but once some of it has sunk to a satisfactory level, you start to exploit the fruits growing on the foundation you have laid.”

Our adult brains prevent us from play?  That a child’s brain is built for exploration (one way we think of play) and the adult brain exists to  process or exploit learned info?   How then do we get back to a kid’s brain, more fun, more play, more exploration?  

In our prior post “Spend More Time Thinking Like A Playful Kid” we highlighted a fascinating podcast with Alison Gopnik. She shared how kids’ brains and adults’ brains function differently including a funny anecdote of how an octopus seems to use both brains at once.

She suggested “you’ve got one creature that’s really designed to explore, to learn, to change. That’s the child form. And then you’ve got this other creature that’s really designed to exploit, as computer scientists say, to go out, find resources, make plans, make things happen, including finding resources for that wild, crazy explorer that you have in your nursery. And the idea is that those two different developmental and evolutionary agendas come with really different kinds of cognition, really different kinds of computation, really different kinds of brains, and I think with very different kinds of experiences of the world. So, the very way that you experience the world, your consciousness, is really different if your agenda is going to be, get the next thing done, figure out how to do it, figure out what the next thing to do after that is, versus extract as much information as I possibly can from the world. And I think adults have the capacity to some extent to go back and forth between those two states.”

In her recent WSJ article, “The Many Minds of the Octopus”,she added “Human adults are “neotenous apes,” which means we retain more childhood characteristics than our primate relatives do. We keep our brains in our heads, but neuroscience and everyday experience suggest that we too have divided selves. My grown-up, efficient prefrontal cortex keeps my wandering, exploratory inner child in line. Or tries to, anyway.”

Does this mean we can in fact (as adults) be more like the octopus, but with just one brain, capable of both exploring and exploiting out of the same space?

The explore/exploit theory isn’t new.  Gopnik playfully leans into it’s importance for adults. Yet what will it take for us, in America, to truly embrace the benefits of play and playfulness for adults?

Playfully Practice

“…..And allowing no answers, and just saying, you just have to observe it and be in wonder the whole time.”

Amy Tan – Unintended Memoir

As Seth Godin shares: “Creativity is the generous act of solving an interesting problem on behalf of someone else. It’s a chance to take emotional and intellectual risks with generosity.

He also suggests, “Do that often enough and you can create a practice around it. It’s not about being gifted or touched by the muse. Instead, our creative practice (whether you’re a painter, a coach or a fundraiser) is a commitment to the problems in front of us and the people who will benefit from a useful solution to them.”

The Practice Playfulness Blog is just one commitment to ourselves to “Practice Playfulness” and to share our moments of awe and wonder around play in hope we inspire others to also Practice Playfulness!

Being “creative” does not always arrive when we most want it, or need it; however, our little habit to practice our own form of diligence, determination and discipline enables us to eventually share a sliver of an insight into Practicing Playfulness.

To paraphrase Julia Cameron’s work in “The Artist’s Way” there’s something to …doing the work, filling in the blanks on the page, and embracing the process.  And, part of our process is practicing.  Practicing Playfulness. 

Yes, it’s a little like riding a bike with training wheels.

Image by Frantisek Krejci from Pixabay

Start (practice) with training wheels and repetition to gain confidence and experience. Then a time when the freedom to peddle with abandon will arrive. The training wheels come off. Thanks in part, to practice.

Play On Words

The power of words is not a metaphor; it’s in our brain wiring…Other people’s words have a direct effect on your brain activity and your bodily systems, and your words have that same effect on other people. Whether you intend that effect is irrelevant. It’s how we’re wired.

 Lisa Feldman Barrett PhD

Words matter. THEY ARE EVERYWHERE. Inescapable unless of course you’ve mastered meditation. Even then, daily practice is needed to rid the brain of chatter.

Credit: Brett Jordan – Unplash Photo Community

Words shape meaning, enable communication among people, across cultures, and between humans and other species. Just look at people and how they talk to their pets.

In her article “People’s words and actions can actually shape your brain” Lisa Feldman Barrett discusses “how the power of words over your biology can span great distances” and that “the power of words is not a metaphor; it’s in our brain wiring.”

Words shape us, our thoughts and how we view the world. Regardless if they are communicated through poetry, prose, spoken, or visualized, they impact bodily functions and they always have.

Words impact the body and mind directly. We might find ways to avoid negative words that impact how we think or feel but we can’t otherwise avoid how our bodies function and respond to words. It’s in our wiring.

What we say to ourselves is equally important. Countless tips and strategies on self talk can be found online. Negative self-talk is bad. Positive self-talk is good.

In her article “What Are the Benefits of Self-Talk?” Susan York Morris suggests how Brené Brown playfully “refers to the negative voices in her head as her gremlins. By giving her negative thoughts a name, she’s both stepping away from them and poking fun at them.”

Credit: Ben Hershey – Unsplash

The wide and deep impact of words collectively and individually suggests the importance of playing with words. Especially now. Words, like play, should not harm or come from a malicious place. And great words, really great words, are endless fun in games, crossword puzzles, and banter.

Credit: Complied by AdGrayVisions and found on twitter

Lighthearted humor is a basis for playful word banter. When it involves the entire community it’s especially fun. The recent Canadian Sign Wars “take the cake.” See how we did it right there with “take the cake?” It’s easier than you might think.

A sign reads 'Hey DQ, Wanna have a sign war'
Credit: BBC News

Truly playful words do no harm. Playful words can change our thoughts, change our bodies, change the world. Choose your words wisely and playfully.

Playing at Taxes (Really!)?

Nothing is certain except death and taxes

Attributed to Benjamin Franklin

For those of us in the U.S. taxes seem to be a most “certain” thing…. Why not make them Playful? Or, at a minimum, ease the stress and find a way to “Play” when gathering all the tiny bits of information that go into the making of the sausage which is a tax return?

Rather than spending months juggling papers …… choose to tackle taxes like a playful game! (Note to self: Last year’s taxes due May 17, 2021).

Breaking tasks down helps us to see large tasks as more approachable and doable, and reduces our propensity to procrastinate or defer tasks, because we simply don’t know where to begin.

Melissa Gratias, Ph.D. workplace productivity coach and speaker

Check out Kat Boogaard’s 6 min read “What’s Microproductivity? The Small Habit That Will Lead You To Big Wins” for all the insights to setting yourself up to “Play at Taxes.”

And, maybe…. just maybe… at the end there’s a big ole cookie waiting just for you.

Spend More Time Thinking Like A Playful Kid

We need to spend more time and effort as adults trying to think like kids.

Erza Klein paraphrasing Alison Gopnik

What do an Octopus, Kids, Adults, Play, and artificial intelligence have in common? Carve out time for “Why Adults Lose the ‘Beginner’s Mind'” and learn the answers. Trust us, it’s all about play.

Crank up your brain and pay close attention — you don’t want to miss a moment of this energized conversation between Erza Klein of the New York Times and Alison Gopnik, Professor of Psychology and Philosophy at U.C. Berkley.

The podcast runs about an hour. If short on time start 20 minutes in. If reading the transcript is easier click here.

Credit: The Erza Klein Show Podcast – Why Adults Lose the ‘Beginner’s Mind’

Sticking with the theme of play and an eight-armed cephalopod have you seen “My Octopus Teacher?”

This enchanting exploration of the friendship between a documentary film maker and a wild playful Octopus dives into how one creature with divided brains can do things and learn things at the same time. As Craig Foster shares “You see play in social animals. Here’s a highly antisocial animal playing with fish. It takes an animal to a different level.”

Check out the trailer below or click on the credit to get right to Netflix.

Credit: My Octopus Teacher – Netflix

Finally, had enough of “My Octopus Teacher” and Craig Fosters’ mildly pretentious narration? Tune into “My Kreepy Octopus Teacher” for some clever silly play.

Sometimes humor gets lost across cultures but this parody by a South African about a South African hits the mark. Who knew the thing that cleans the pool is apparently called a creepy in South Africa? It’s the little things.

Credit: Written and Directed by Glen Biderman-Pam

Ok enough Octopus play for one day. Bye Bye!

Practicing Playfulness. As simple as Salmon and Rice.

It’s a prayer for her, for me, for you, for the whole world. I figure it’s a perfect time to pray for the whole world twice a day, morning and evening…

Mandy Patinkin

Ralph Waldo Emerson is quoted as saying “It is a happy talent to know how to play.”

Talent (more often than not) takes practice. During Covid few have stood out in their ability to Practice at Play in a meaningful way. Through their Instagram antics Mandy Patinkin, Kathy Grody, and son Gideon thrive and play their way through life with humor, love, warmth, tenderness, and simple camaraderie.

Mandy in particular shares the power of practicing at play, twice a day, through a morning and evening task (turned ritual) with his tiny bundled habit of song, prayer, and play.

For more on tiny playful habits click back to Make 2021 YOUR Year of Playfulness and PRACTICE…It can bring Magic to Play

The Sacred Activity of Free Play

Holiness and play always tend to overlap. So do poetic imagination and faith.

Johan Huizinga

There is much to learn on the value of play and playfulness for adults. In his formative work “Homo Ludens A Study of the Play-Element in Culture” Johan Huizinga explored ancient culture, mythology, ritual, contests, and humor around the the sacred activity of play.

In 1938 Huizinga noted “as civilization increases in spiritual amplitude, the regions where the play-factor is weak or barely perceptible will develop at the cost of those where it has free play. Civilization as a whole becomes more serious — law and war, commerce, technics and science lose touch with play; and even ritual, once the field par excellence for its expression, seems to share the process of dissociation. Finally only poetry remains as the stronghold of living and noble play.”

That quote may take a re-read to digest and this post doesn’t speak directly to poetry yet these words hold power for us today. We’ve strayed from our ancient relatives in many ways yet the fundamental yearning for play still exists.

In a recent article from, Maddy Shaw Roberts shares how “Thirteen Redemptoristine nuns at a County Dublin monastery have mastered a viral dance challenge, to “cheer people up” in lockdown.”

These nuns thoughtfully, deliberately, and most important playfully match the recent viral Tik Tok Jerusalema Dance Challenge.

We’re not sure which is more heartwarming…the nuns above or the backstory below from Master KG a South African Musician.

Occasionally wonderful, communal, and touching moments of play reappear in contemporary society. What are we to make of these and their importance? Should we, can we, how do we return to fundamental aspects of free play as originally described by Huizinga?

Credit: Youtube, Master KG, South African Musician and D.J.

Let’s Play with TIME!

How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?

Dr. Seuss

Can TIME be bent? Does it fly? If traversable wormholes exist, they could allow time travel….. If you are drawn into the physics behind wormholes read Morris, Thorne and Yurtsever’s paper on interstellar travel.. Think about it – time travel could be very fun and PLAYFUL!

If you live in the United States, you have probably just experienced Time Travel as clocks “leaped forward” an hour across most of the country placing you an hour into the future.

Image by Johnson Martin from Pixabay

TIME is mystical. How we approach it, what we name it and how we embrace it are important to how we experience TIME.

For more, travel back to our prior post “Make TIME for Play” And, by all means enjoy and play with your time.

Make the most of your TIME – go out and be PLAYFUL today!

Playful People, Perspective & Purpose

You can deny, if you like, nearly all abstractions: justice, beauty, truth, goodness, mind, God. You can deny seriousness, but not play.

Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens, A Study of the Play-Element in Culture

Playful Perspectives, People & Purpose

Credit: Iceberger– Draw an iceberg and see how it will float.
Credit: PlayDatePlayBook
Credit: OK Go Sandbox

Your Spirit Craves Play.

The human spirit is more powerful than any drug – and that is what needs to be nourished: with work, play, friendship, family. These are the things that matter.

Robin Williams

Physical play is important to maintain a healthy and robust quality of life. Playfulness is equally important for our mental, emotional, and intellectual well being through hobbies that challenge the mind like games, events that create social connectivity with others and activities that trigger creative approaches to problem solving.

The human spirit also craves and depends upon play and playfulness.

Lila Hindu God of Divine Play

 Anthony de Mello, SJ a Jesuit priest from Bombay got to the heart of the human spirit and play through his story on Leela or Lila the Hindu God of play. He shared:

The Master once referred to the Hindu notion that all creation is “leela” – God’s play – and the universe is his playground. The aim of spirituality, he claimed, is to make all life play.This seemed too frivolous for a puritanical visitor. “Is there no room then for work?” “Of course there is. But work becomes spiritual only when it is transformed into play.

Credited to Anthony de Mello, SJ

If the purpose of the “Spirit” is to make all life play including us as humans and our human spirit, then, perhaps our goal should be to live life through a playful spirit. 

The Flower of Life is a sacred symbol – both playful and practical. Take a look as it is a visual depiction of the Creator creating us, and all of creation, in a very creative manner. Yes, playfully replicating spiritual eyes or circles.

The Flower of Life courtesy of

The Creator creates creatively. And, encourages us to playfully create through our human spirit, in part so the Creator may also create with us and through us. The human spirit IS playful and needs play!

Taking the eastern philosophy further Lorenz Sell Co-founder of,  or ‘threads of knowledge’ in Sanskrit, writes in the Huffington Post “We are born to contribute by creating. From that intangible space between mind and heart emerges the palette of creativity.” 

Human Spirit Plays

Breathe into the Moment Now

Yes Playfulness Soul

If your spirit is up to a bit of playfulness… go here to learn about Haiku and have a bit of help generating your own. If the spirit moves you, of course.

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