Maintain a Sense of "Playful Seriousness"


We often use the term "playfully serious" to describe the proper mental attitude one should have when sparring. In his martial art notes, Bruce Lee wrote, "Turn your sparring into play -- but play seriously." This is because in martial arts, sparring should be a time for experimentation and exploration within certain parameters, rather than simply a win-at-all-costs, beat-the-opponent type of mentality. Even though it might be challenging and even frustrating at times, we should enjoy ourselves while engaging in it.

Like Yin/Yang, being "playfully serious" is the harmonious combination and interfusion of two opposites: seriousness and playfulness, as opposed to running to one extreme or the other. If, for example, we are too serious, we can become rigidly attached to a particular way of doing things or a way of thinking about things. Likewise, if we are too playful, we may become flippant and treat everything as nothing more than fun and games.

Utlizing the idea of "playful seriousness" will offer you the opportunity to find new perspectives, be creative, and maintain fluidity. It can allow you to "get out of the box" with regard to your thinking, keep you loose and pliable and create space for new opportunities. Furthermore, it will allow you to "ease the burden of your mind" by helping you from becoming overly self-conscious with regard to all your actions.

Creativity and innovation both require a sense of playful seriousness. Innovators are open to new experiences and discovery. They are not afraid to try new things, to test and experiment through playing. This is because they know that playing brings on trial and error and new experiences to learn and observe from. Without play and curiosity there is no innovation. At the same time, innovators have a desired target or goal they wish to reach, or a product they wish to create. They can be passionate and serious about design, but at the same time maintain a sense of play.

In a book about the sport of Western fencing entitled, "Foil" by Charles A. Selberg, the author relates the same concept -- "Fencing is the epitome of serious playfulness. The intensity of concentration, the pouring out of yourself experienced in sparring resembles the seriousness of a child at play. Play is an attitude, not an activity; it is a freedom and creativity that comes from the courage of complete commitment. There is no calculation in play, only the richness of experience."

I think this is a great approach to take in whatever we are doing or learning. it can help change our attitude and approach towards things and make our life much more enjoyable. If you find yourself not having fun (or at least enjoying the process) while engaged in an activity, ask yourself -- How can I bring a sense of playful seriousness to what I am doing? How can I make this more fun?

In closing, I'd like to leave you with a quote from Frederick Nietzsche --

"The struggle of maturity is to recover the seriousness of a child at play."


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