As a play practitioner, I promote joy and laughter and fun in teams and workplaces, and it really works for supporting development, growth, wellbeing and connection.
When I first set up my company, PACT Creative Training in 2016 (PACT stands for Play, Act Create, Transform) I was so keen to demonstrate the amazing and positive power of play. I still am.
However back then, I wasn’t so keen in acknowledging that for many people, the beginning of a play-based workshop can be daunting, confronting even. “What is she going to get us to do..?” “What if I make a fool of myself/are you going to make a fool of me?” “Is this forced fun?”
As the company has grown, I too have grown in confidence about how much this play thing really works. I’ve been reflecting a lot recently that it might just be that initial discomfort which contributes to the winning formula of playing at work. There is the spontaneity, the sense of fun and being in the moment, the scope for a game or activity to address any aim or issue without having to thrash it out with long talks and PowerPoints. That is absolutely present and powerful and why I love my work.
Yet also I observe in every session I run that there is a lot of initial hesitancy; the unknown, the desire to get everything right –especially in front of colleagues. Our workshops are carefully crafted to take participants on a journey and support them through their discomfort. The beginning is gentle, and the session builds in energy, humour and activity as we go on. This gives people a chance to step out of themselves and take their time.
All the while, their facilitator reminds them, you can’t get this wrong, you are safe, you are accepted, have a go.
I always check in with participants at the beginning and end of a session. Often the words that come up at the start are “hungry” “tired” “nervous “wanna go home”
By the end, the check-out words are “hopeful” “energised” “joyful” “confident”. Always. Every time.
So I have learned that by my own need for everything to be perfect, I was missing something crucial. We have to embrace our discomfort in life to experience the sweet joy of surviving and moving through that feeling and doing it anyway, a metaphor for life if ever I saw one!