Before starting in on the second Key to Contented Living (which I will post soon), I wanted to offer some thoughts as follow-up to Part 1, which outlined the importance of play. I'm typically not one for sports analogies, references, or metaphors, but this just felt very appropriate to Key 1 and possibly illuminating in terms of offering another added benefit of approaching activities with a play mentality, rather than uber-competitiveness, extreme focus, or seriousness.
Leading up to Super Bowl 50, Cam Newton (phenom quarterback of the Carolina Panthers) had been receiving lots of feedback from the press/media which could basically be summarized with these kinds of sentiments: "Newton doesn't take the game seriously enough", "Cam will have to get more serious and focused to lead the Panthers to a win at the Super Bowl", etc...
Well, for those of you who watched that game and/or read the subsequent commentary on it, Newton's focus and serious approach in the Super Bowl stood out in stark comparison to the fun-loving, playful way he had approached games all season.
Now, I admittedly hadn't watched the Panthers play all season (or any football team for that matter!*) but apparently Newton had quite the reputation for big smiles, celebratory dances, and a fun-loving attitude on the field. Quite simply, he made it look easy and the game seemed to come naturally to him. Suffice it to say, he played really, really well.
I couldn't help but wonder if the press's critique of Newton's approach to playing football leading up to the big game** negatively affected his ability to perform on the big day. Approaching the thing with serious and rigid focus really seemed to throw him off. Perhaps it added a kind of stress and pressure that wasn't helpful to him and didn't allow him to naturally play the game the way he had all year.
So, I offer the hypothesis that approaching activities with a "play" mentality MIGHT in some cases actually allow us to perform better. Competition can be healthy too, but we need not dismiss play.
*Full disclosure: I did watch almost all of Super Bowl 50, but it was more out of anthropological interest than for the game itself. I tend not to support football as an enterprise, due to all of the research relating the sport to chronic traumatic brain injury and early onset dementia (along with other mental health issues). Read "League of Denial" for more on this.
**it seems worth noting that we still refer to these things as "games" even though we criticize players who don't take them seriously enough