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Getting Started on the Path of Playful Self-Discipline

playful tutuOver the past few days I’ve been planning out my posts for January’s theme, and I realized  something important.  Before I’ll be able to do any thoughtful work on my quest for playful self-discipline I need to define exactly what I mean by playful and self-discipline.  It could be interpreted as only doing things when they’re fun, which would probably be a very easy quest but not too productive in terms of achieving my goals of better self-control.  It could also be interpreted as being very strict about my behaviour while wearing a ballerina fairy princess costume, which would be kinda fun, but not really what I had in mind.

What do I mean by Playful?

For inspiration and enlightenment on the true nature of play, I sat back and watched my two girls play together. When adults think of play we often dismiss it as simply fun and games, something amusing to pass the time. While a lighthearted nature and pleasure are certainly important elements of playfulness, there’s more to it than that.

Kids play to learn and experiment with the world in a safe space. It’s kind of like what the dream world is for adults – somewhere to take your imagination for a test drive without all of the real-world consequences. Of course, when kids play in the real world it’s not without consequences or dangers, but they have caregivers to look out for them and keep their space safe. I think many adults lose their playfulness because it’s scary to be imaginative and creative when you know there’s nobody holding that safety net underneath you.  Even scarier when you’re responsible for holding someone else’s net.

The kind of playfulness I want more of in my life is the creative, self-directed, imaginative, mixed-age play that is so beneficial for kids. I want to do things because I’m curious about how the world works. I want to do things that are fun. I want to do things because I am engrossed in a project and am committed to seeing it through to completion. I want to do things that help me see myself in a new light. I want to do things because I want to do them, even if they are challenging. Intrinsic motivation is a habit I want to encourage in both my kids and myself, and playfulness is intrinsically motivated.

Another important aspect of playfulness that I want to adopt is the freedom to experiment and improvise without feeling like I have to be perfect the first time. I’m looking for incremental achievements, and I’m willing to embrace my mistakes.

What do I mean by Self-Discipline?

My main goals are to develop my willpower and self-control. Within those goals are smaller ones that are dependent on the main goals: I want to be healthy, full of gratitude and joy, able to accept reality as it is, able to be more assertive and self-confident. I want to be the kind of person I want my kids to be like when they grow up.

If I expect my kids to be able to do something like choose healthy foods instead of sweets, share their toys or express emotion assertively using words instead of throwing a fit – I should be able to do it too.  These are the kinds of things I want to practice.

What does playful self-discipline mean to you?

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  • Rachael January 6, 2011, 7:10 am

    I like what emerges by combining the words playful and discipline. Though I know that the roots of the word discipline have to do with teaching and learning, ideas about harshness or rigidity still come up for me when I hear the word. Curiosity, imagination, freedom all seem like much, much better ideas to associate with discipline!

    • michelle January 6, 2011, 9:50 pm

      Yes, at first the two words didn’t quite seem to fit with each other but it feels like a creative, positive dissonance. The more I think about playful self-discipline the more I like it. :)