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Play: The Essential Ingredient To A Thriving Life

October 20, 2021
Inspiration

Guest blog by Sharon Calderón

Sharon Calderon

Sharon is no stranger to taking chances and living a life she loves on purpose. She is an emotional wellness and resilience coach as well as a play activist. Through her own life experiences with adversity, she has discovered how the power of reclaiming play and recognizing the importance of emotional nourishment are keys to helping overcome even life’s most challenging situations. 

She embraces the vibrancy of what life has to offer, and makes radical authenticity a non-negotiable in every venture she takes on. She will dare you to dive head first into your dreams and aspirations with equal measures of courage and love, all the while being a warm support to hold you through your own process of self discovery.

Sharon Calderón is 2021 graduate of the JRNI Coaching Intensive. She would love for you to connect on her internet playgrounds on Instagram @shar.ingcreations or by visiting her website https:/linktr.ee/shar.ingcreations.  

How Returning to Play Shaped My Path as A Coach

For as long as I can recall, I’ve enjoyed seeing people shine in their self expression and helping others grow to their fullest potential. You might say that was a positive side effect from childhood trauma, but that's another story for another day.  

What I remember vividly is wanting to help friends communicate their differences to find understanding and empathy. As you might imagine, this made me an excellent playground friendship mediator! In high school, I enjoyed guiding and supporting others into their confidence and skill in my role as the alto section leader for our choir. 

But could I make a career out of these naturally emerging skills?

Throughout my childhood and even well into adulthood, I never identified with just one job as an answer to the prevalent question: “What do you want to be when you grow up?” It seemed like a daunting (and honestly boring) undertaking to pick just ONE thing to do for the rest of my life. 

I have many unique passions, and as a self proclaimed multi-hyphenate, I knew I needed variety to help me feel most alive. Only problem was, I listened to other people’s advice on what path I should take. This led me down some interesting roads, but they never felt quite my own.

Fast forward a few years. With the advent of the pandemic, I - along with the rest of humanity - was given the opportunity to spend a portion of time in a vortex to ponder the significance of my life. There’s nothing like a bit of daily existential dread to help wake up to the longings of one’s heart!

I asked myself a question I think many of us were asking ourselves at that point: 

“What do I want to do?”

As I got still in the silence, I found my answer:

 “I want to do FUN!”

I had no logical explanation at that point of what “fun” as a career looked like for me. No path ahead saying, “Here’s what’cha do and who to talk to next to live out your purpose”. I simply remembered the feeling of joy during my time as an early childhood educator. I wanted to recreate the fun, but bring in my drive to make an impact with it in an even greater way. 

Instead of trying to figure it all out at once, I allowed myself to open up and receive whatever came up as my truth. I followed that feeling like a compass, on a quest to locate my true-north direction. During the process, I developed a deep trust in myself as I realized that this journey was mine to experience. 

I would never have guessed what would come next. Little did I know that within the next year I would be helping others do this exact same thing as a coach! 

Why Play? 

I will shout this till the cows come home: Play is for ALL.  

Trust me, I get it - as an adult, you may not necessarily subscribe to the word “play”. Just hear me out! If you’re already sensing some resistance to this idea, that’s an interesting thing to get curious about. I’ve found that what we resist or cast a skeptical light towards is often the thing that helps us find deeper meaning and self awareness. 

Play can be identified in many ways and is called many things: 

  • Passion
  • Desire
  • Pleasure
  • Art
  • Joy
  • Fun
  • Indulgence
  • Learning
  • Enjoyment
  • Excitement
  • Exploration  

You get to define it. Play is anything that aligns with the creation of positive experiences in life that don’t require a specific “result”. 

And who doesn’t want a healthy dose of all of that goodness?

The Power of Play

My mission as a play activist is to help make the concepts of play not only accessible but achievable. I like to think of this work as a homecoming, a vital component to rehumanizing humanity. It’s time to reframe the way we value play in society, to help us evolve from survival and oppressive states to truly thriving within ourselves and in our communities.

Play is the sacred process of learning how to become a human being. And I’m here to suggest that most of us have had or are suffering from an epidemic of different proportions. Our culture suffers from an emotional and spiritual malnourishment known as play deprivation. 

Dr. Stuart Brown, the granddaddy of modern day play research and the founder of the National Institute for Play, identified the consequences of play deprivation as a “lack of vital life engagement; diminished optimism; stuck-in-a-rut feeling about life with little curiosity or exploratory imagination to alter their situation; predilection to escapist temporary fixes…alcohol, excessive exercise, (or other compulsions); a personal sense of being life’s victim rather than life’s conqueror.” (source: Consequences of Play Deprivation). 

I believe every person deserves to live a joy-filled life, in whatever way they wish to create it for themselves. 

That being said, in order for each of us to truly enjoy those freedoms, there must be acknowledgement and discussion of the oppressive systems that perpetuate societal issues of disconnection and suffering. I acknowledge that the thought of play can seem like one of privilege. This is my “why” for committing to serving others and standing in agreement that play is a human rights issue.

Play and Coaching

In my world, these two concepts go hand in hand. Coaching is the vehicle, and play is the highway to get my clients where they want to go and who they want to be.

My work as a Play Coach involves being curious and asking questions that allow my client’s deep inner wisdom to shine as a beacon to illuminate their personal path. Through this process, clients experience the freedom to express and discover themselves in a new and expansive way. Sometimes it feels like magic - an evolution taking place before my very eyes!

Lasting results take intentional work. But that work doesn’t always have to be difficult! 

As coaches, we help our clients explore the unconscious mind. We assist them in figuring out where they may be on “autopilot” and repeating patterns that keep them feeling stuck. Doing so opens up a mental doorway, allowing them to more purposefully choose actions that support their desired life goals. 

We’re learning more about the power of play every day. With the advancements in research across a whole host of multidisciplinary studies such as positive psychology, emotional intelligence, performance science, neuroscience/neuroplasticity, trauma-informed care and somatic experiencing, the long-lasting positive effects play has on our daily lives has never been more evident.

As simple as it is to say “play more and you’ll feel amazing!”, there is more nuance to adding purposeful play that needs exploring.

Coaching Tools

Here’s a few simple questions that you can use for yourself or your clients to help find the joy.

1. What is getting in the way of you choosing joy for yourself daily?

2. What would you do/be/have if nothing got in the way of that daily joy?

Time to daydream! Envisioning helps us create the embodied emotions of what we want to feel in the future right here in the present. By simulating the feelings during a coaching session, your client can gain access to a full body recognition when they are outside of session. That is the real “ah-ha”! 

3. What would your play look like to you? 

Identifying anything we used to be passionate about or interested in during childhood gives excellent clues as to what we may want to try now.

4. What would help you maintain play as a part of your daily life?

Play for Thriving

“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.” - Charles Schaefer, American psychologist and "Father of Play Therapy" 

By supporting and embracing a play-full life, you are helping to develop a counter culture that has the ability to break so many barriers. When we’re operating from joy, we’re:

  • Promoting a more consciously aware society that’s able to generate equitable, cooperative, and creative solutions to both large and small scale problems
  • Reducing trauma related symptoms due to improved emotional intelligence and relational skills such as empathy, compassion, and self-awareness
  • Increasing holistic healing in order for the collective to live in a more aligned way

Play is the epitome of a thriving life. It is not just our birth right, it is the foundation of our expression and evolutionary process as humans. And I would say, that is no trivial matter indeed!

Want to Become A Coach?

One of our values at JRNI is that we dare to be different. Our coaches like Sharon ignore the expectations society tries to impose on them, and seek to live from their own truth instead. If you are ready to step into your power and you’d like some partners in the process, come check out JRNI Life Coach Training. Grounded in science, our ICF accredited program features authentic instructors, a robust curriculum, and business instruction to prepare you for liftoff.

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