Close your eyes and remember a time when you used to play as a kid. Something specific – a game, a play, a song, a dance, jumping, kicking a ball, a doll, imagination time, day dreaming…
What did time feel like when you replayed that memory? Did it slow down? Did it have a magical sense to it?
For me, it was the times I used to play a prank on certain selected teachers at school. I would stand up and ask a question in the middle of their lesson that had absolutely nothing to do with the lesson.
This was especially shocking to them as I was normally a very quiet kid. My classmates were even a little shocked. The ones that knew me a little better would laugh and shake their head. They almost knew what I would do next.
So what do pranks, games and play have to do with joy, success and satisfying productivity every day? The answer is almost everything. I realized later the reasons for which I felt alive in those precious moments – watching my teacher stare at me and some classmates squirm in discomfort. What causes that aliveness?
1. Challenge – that stretch for something new
If you are bored, you need more challenge to get you into that flow. If you are anxious, then you need less challenge. But for the most part, we want to stretch in some appropriate way daily to test out your capabilities – what you can get done and in what better way you can do that. Finding that stretch in your daily tasks – reframing your to do list as an act of challenge – a game that stretches you in a good way.
2. Play – Create Intrigue for yourself and others
We are all dopamine addicts. Ah.. dopamine that lovely chemical that goes off in our brains when we feel we are on track or we know we are going to do something ‘exciting’. But that ain’t enough is it? A life of the occasional dopamine? Always looking for the next exciting thing is not necessarily sustainable – nor really desired realistically.
We also need the other chemical – norepinephrine – this is the chemical that is released when we are a little challenged. When we have a deadline or something at stake with some urgency.
Creating both exciting goals and goals that challenge us – keep us on the edge and help us forget our insane human search for dopamine, drama, victim-hood and other forms of unnecessary sufferings.
3. Commit wisely but do commit to something
Commit your day to doing things in high quality completeness. If you are going to attain a result, let’s do it completely and fully. This means that you cannot fill your day with a huge list of to-do’s – but a short but sweet list that will feed you and be more realistic.
4. Structure your day for innovation
Plan your day to get your short list done. Keep as much blank time on your calendar otherwise – to give you the experience of choice in selecting other things to focus on that will feed you even more and give you the time to clear your mind to come up with brilliant ideas and more innovation.
So what did I do with my teachers?
While the teacher was staring at me in disbelief, I would then clear my throat and ask a perfectly legitimate question. Then almost like a space man who had seen his first alien but dismissed it as a hallucination, they cleared their minds and went back to normal life – like nothing happened.
5. And this above all, unto thine self be kind
This is the greatest prank to play on yourself. Reward yourself everyday for no reason – regardless of whether you did good or bad, right or wrong – be kind to your existence – it is the only one you have.