William Arthur: Don’t let’s forget the value of play

Many of us have lost touch with our inner child

Many of us have lost touch with our inner child - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

South Devon College student William Arthur’s Teen Talk column:

In a modern world of productivity, success and accumulation, the challenge is no longer about how to stay motivated for long periods of time or how to rack up dollar bills like old birthday cards.

The challenge in the 21st century is learning how to play.

Sure, I often write that staying engaged and focusing on useful activity is paramount but at what expense? I have struggled for so long to play and enjoy myself out of fear - the fear of guilt.

Moreover, I fear that upon watching a film, meeting up with friends or taking a well-deserved rest, I will spoil my ‘unbroken record’ of discipline and focus.

It seems like in a desperate attempt to grow up, many of us have lost touch with our inner child – largely, I believe, this is due to our childhood; your parent who encouraged rigorous order and cleanliness; that teacher who scolded your assignment which didn’t receive the full eight hours of work input.

It sounds crazy to say that it’s hard to play, since every child finds ease in enjoying themselves. But to spend our time doing something which is unproductive or a ‘waste of time’ can easily infuse us with guilt, anxiety and the fear of falling behind on our work.

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Modern success is not correlated to level of personal satisfaction or enjoyment in one’s own life, but by arbitrary metrics like fame, wealth and status. Objective measurements like these give us a sense of validation as if our life has amounted to something worthwhile.

All the while, we may spend our entire lives slaving away at work which we don’t enjoy, in a desperate attempt to feel this validation – purposely avoiding those activities which we derive real meaning from.

Taking a break from our work, focusing on quality over quantity and learning to be unproductive seems outrageous and lazy, but overworking ourselves can be equally if not more detrimental to our success, producing diminishing returns.

What can you do to simplify your life, start small and ask yourself whether you need to spend as much time as you perhaps do on your work – I sure need to!