In module 4 of the online course, Coaching is Magic, the material teaches us some therapeutic benefits of laughter and play. Personal development, therapy and any other kind of self-work can often become very serious. Many times there are many negative issues that need to be brought to the surface and addressed. However, there are lighter aspects of getting to know deeper parts of the self and others, specifically, through play, which can be just as valuable.
During times of stress, I try to ramp up my therapeutic play, and in some cases, my stress response will be to create something. This might seem counter-intuitive; Why would I take on yet another project that requires my time when I have so little time and mental bandwidth to go around?
Often, it is this creative play that helps me through the stress. Lately, my creative play manifests in creating a scrapbook volume set chronicling my relationship with James from the first week that we met. So far, I have 3 volumes and I’ve only updated through last summer, but I’ve covered a tremendous amount of material. When I feel like creating, I make a page or two; When I’m tired of it, I stop working on it. I pick it up and put it down as it suits my needs. It will be very important to have for immigration purposes and hopefully our future kids will enjoy looking at it. Creating a scrapbook is also especially therapeutic because it gives me a chance to revisit memories both good and bad (like my first real winter in Canada), where I choose to keep, toss, amplify or tone down different aspects of a memory. This latter retroactive assignment is what I really dig for an indirect source of personal therapy. At the end of it all, revisiting old pictures and mementos is a feel-good reminder of all I am grateful for and lends a birds-eye view to an emotional inventory I carry around with me.
Choose Wonder; Hone Intuition
Many times, I see advice for people in my age group to “follow your bliss”, or to make a career based off of what you are motivated to do in your spare time. For some, this is easier to find than others. But for many of us, career-hopping seems to be inevitable, whether it is within a skill set or between skill sets. We choose our bliss out of a sense of wonder, but when the wonder fades as we get into more technical aspects of understanding, we tend to devalue the knowledge we already have. It becomes boring; We desire more stimulating problems or tasks and we move onto something new, many times in an entirely new field requiring a completely new set of skills. It is not that the problems become too hard; The problems become so uninteresting that it is difficult to become motivated to try to solve them. As a result, we have a great breadth of knowledge but a cap to our depth. So how does one chase their bliss and find success in it?
In my opinion, immersive success begets the development of intuition and consistently honed intuition begets mastery-level success. In some of the supplemental material, the Ted Talk Learned Intuition discusses aspects of intuition and defines it as a “combination of experience and expertise”. So, if as a newcomer, we are 9-parts wonder to 1-part expertise, it is appropriate to recognize that this ratio will shift over time as we increase our expertise and our experience. In some career paths, hobbies or skills, we can increase one without the other, for example, the idea of being “book smart” but never having experience “on the ground” or “in the field”. Often internships are designed for the purpose to fill the gap where experience is needed.
So, what happens when emotional exhaustion sets in? Is it just exhaustion from something that I have a high talent for or is this truly the wrong career path? If its just exhaustion, how, if possible, does one find the wonder again?
I don’t have the answer to these questions directly. Everyone’s wonder, what attracts them to a career path or subject, is different. However, many times the wonderment we find is emotionally connected; It evokes a part of ourselves or emotion that we enjoy manifesting. Its duration depends upon several highly-personal variables.
Wonder Is Nice, But Not Required for Success
However, I believe that success and wonder are not necessarily tied. Long-term mastery requires commitment to cultivating intuition, whereas wonder can fade and reignite depending upon the attachment to the material and value perceived. In the past, I’ve lost my wonder for many different skills as soon as the skills veered from the larger problem I wished to solve. I simply lost interest and suspect it had something to do with the way I was going about understanding the details.
I do very well by grasping the problem I’m trying to solve or the end-goal first, then learning about the value of my tools in relation to how they will help me achieve the end goal. This “working backwards” and solution-oriented method has also served me well where deadlines and time tables for projects are concerned. My engagement and wonder come from solving the problem, not the tools that help me solve the problem itself. Whereas both have value and are necessary for an appropriate outcome, I find it most important in my learning process to continuously relate what I’m learning back to how it can contribute to solving a larger problem. This cyclical relation usually feeds or reignites my wonder.
Wonder and Success In Play
So bringing this back around to the journal topic of play: My learning style (big to small and continuous relation to how the small solves the big) is how I go about completing tasks, not only in work, but also in play.
When I began my scrapbook, I knew that I wanted to chronicle all of my now-marriage from the time that we met to present. To do so effectively, I would need to divide different events into Ziploc bags by theme, date or season in order to help tackle the large project.
I find that my wonder doesn’t seem to fade on tasks once broken up into achievable goals that have a clear relation to the larger goal. I can immerse myself into the world of that one memory, to relive details about restaurants or special smaller events, that I wouldn’t otherwise be able to pay attention to if my mental bandwidth was taken up by maintaining several events at once.
For now, during the move, my main source of solitary, therapeutic play is our marital scrapbook. And I might just be able to complete it by our moving date. I’ve been entertaining the idea of a few others sources of play that I think are much more sustainable in the sense of longer-term wonder as well as venturing on a new career path with a new skill. But that announcement is for another day!
Do you cultivate a sense of wonder in your work? What are some of your favorite ways to incorporate play into your adult life? Let me know in the comments below!