The Key to Happiness Might be in a Toybox



Photo by Kalexanderson / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA


The Key to Happiness Might be in a Toybox

by Paul Tracy,  CTACC

To some degree, society sees playfulness as frivolous. Why is being playful seen in such a negative light?

Psychologist Dr. Stuart Brown leads the National Institute for Play, which focuses on opening opportunities for play in relationships, health, education and corporate environments.  Dr. Brown observed that “Executives running organizations do not have the information to understand the true nature of play. Even those who have a natural appreciation and temperament for the benefits of play see play and work as separate. Some believe that play is the opposite of work. Yet science already provides data to show that playful ways of work lead to more creative, adaptable workers and teams.” Note the belief that work and play are opposites. Brown is often quoted as saying that the opposite of play isn’t work -- the opposite of play is depression.

In his excellent article about adult play, Joe Robinson explains that “Play brings you back to life — your life. Adults need to play because so much of our life is utilitarian. We need to reconnect with the things of our lives that ground us in who we really are and why we like our lives. When a 40-year-old goes headfirst down a water slide, that person is not 40 anymore. A few decades have been knocked off, because something inside has come alive again. It should be pretty obvious that the animating spark of play is the fast track to happiness.”


Coaching Tip:

How might you add a little more play into your life? Here's how you can get started:

  • Make a list of what brought you joy when you were young. Was it sports, puzzles, games, or being creative?
  • Map these to activities you can do right now. Maybe you could join an adult sport league, start a family game night, or get back to that creative writing you started in college.
  • Make a commitment to explore these activities over the next 30 to 60 days.
  • For the purpose of your own discovery, start a journal of what you’re doing to be more playful. Do some reflection and note the impact it has on other parts of your life.
  • Once you feel comfortable with your new, playful self, think of how you can introduce play into your professional life. Could you increase creativity or lower stress?
  • Finally, bring some playfulness into your relationships. (This part you might want to keep out of your journal!)

Play is a necessary part of being a whole and fulfilled person. It’s required for your wellbeing and happiness. What are you waiting for -- go out and play!

About the Author:

PaulTracyHawaiiPaul Tracy, CTACC, is President-Elect of the ICF Phoenix Chapter.  Paul came to coaching after many years as a leader of the customer experience areas of several software companies. Paul’s unique coaching niche is working with individuals who want to take control of their life and drive it further and faster than they ever imagined possible.  Contact him at, or (480) 788-7229.