The Energizer

Resilient Insights for Work & Life

The Opposite of Play is not work…

by Eileen McDargh, Chief Energy Officer - Monday, August 12, 2019
Featured Image

In fact, according to Stuart Brown, M.D., the opposite of play is depression!  As founder on the National Institute for Play, Brown has spent his career conducting thousands of “play histories” of humans from all walks of life: from Nobel prize winners and CEOs to serial murderers.  (In the latter case, what the murderers had in common: they never played as children!)

Humans are hard-wired to play with implications for social interactions, creativity, brain functioning, and the ever -important resiliency skill – adaptability.  When our attachment to work and its responsibilities create a vacuum for play, depression sets it.

According to Brown in his seminal book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, “work and play are like the timbers that keep our house from collapsing down on top of us.” Without play, our souls become over-burdened, dull and frankly, potential burned out.

The reason: play is the catalyst for creativity.  Creativity allows us to escape the boring and tedious. Break apart the word “recreation”and you discover RE-create.Innovation and improvisation are cornerstones for adaptability- a critical resiliency skill.  When we step off the ordinary and rigidly programmed, a sense of delight, joy and shall we say even wonder arise. As Isaac Asimov said, “The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka! But ‘That’s funny.”

But don’t think of play as a sandbox for children or the rough-and-tumble world of little boys and girls. By definition, play is purposeless, all-consuming, and fun. But as Dr. Stuart Brown illustrates, play is anything but trivial. It is a biological drive as integral to our health as sleep or nutrition. We are designed by nature to flourish through play. Play runs the gamut from physical play to mental play, from singing and dancing, to social “games” (not video games) and any other activity that is done for the sheer fun of it.

Herb Koehler, founder and CEO of Southwest Airlines, made play a cultural cornerstone of that organization.  From very funny safety announcements on planes to interviewing practices that asked a potential candidate to relay something that was playful or funny in his life, Koehler knew that PLAY was essential to keep employees AND customer.

In fact, to grow in resiliency and keep burnout at bay, play might be the most important work we do.



Share This Post

Like this post? Please share it!

< Back to All Posts


Eileen McDargh Keynote Speaker Blog Author

About Eileen!

Since beginning her consulting and training practice in 1980, Eileen has become noted for her ability to speak the truth with clarity, wisdom, humor and compassion. Long-standing clients and repeat engagements attest to her commitment to make a difference in minds, hearts and spirits of organizations and individuals. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. Executive Excellence magazine selected her as one of the top 100 thought leaders in leadership and among the top ten consultant providers of leadership development.

View all posts by Eileen

Subscribe to My Blog!

Like My Blog?

Please share it!

Recents Posts




Stress Your Resiliency GPS Divorce Career Advice work life balance Office Celebrations Faith resiliency Adventure Reshaping the Brain More Fun at Work Suddenly Single Ownership Boston Marathon Energizing Others Spelling Bee resilience coaching Girls Ecotourism Family women in leadership Humor Survive Arlington Cemetary Mother's Day Hurricane Harvey Education Emotional Intelligence Happiness Postive Work Environment Networking Social Media Women Empathy Environtment Diversity Play Speaking Writing Learned Optimism Memorial Day Laughter Voting resilient organizations Branding Spirit Adam Grant Multi-tasking Sheryl Sandberg Walk For Hunger Change Soft Skills Radical Resiliency Leadership Skills Employee Attitude Talk Ain't Cheap Book Burnout Leaders Open Doors Book Fun Work Environment Idea Motivating Others Trust New Year resolutions Option B Technology Strangers Human Interaction Gifts From The Mountain Children Energy preresilience Sustainability Kindness Building Resilience Alzheimer's Engaged Workers Guns Relationships ecology Hurricane Irma employee retention Exercise Mark Scharenbroich Politics Back To School Persuasion Loss Optimism conscience The Last Jedi Vacation Art Jewish Marriage love Sexual Harassment USAA servant leadership Christmas Married Breath Positive Brain Repatterning Meetings Climate Change Volunteer Book Reviews Henry VIII angels Animals St. Patrick's Day Bullying Deloitte Feedback Communication stuck Patriots Charity Superbowl Disrupt Road Trip goals WASP Tornadoes in Texas civil discourse holidays waiting Nursing Listening Aging e-mail Humanity Adaptability Yoga Twas The Night Before Christmas Breathe cancer teams Depression employees Bill Treasurer resilient leaders gratitude Intentions Interview Energizing Content Generation Disruption John Havlik Sales Honoring Veterans Sleeping Siblings Travel Napping LGBTQ Seder Eve creativity U.S.A.A. Thanksgiving John Blumberg Labor Day Dogs Corporate Culture earthquakes customer service