As adult humans existing within a Western culture, we live in a world where most of our activities are driven by obligation, expectations and increasingly higher goals for improvement. For most of our waking lives, the value of any activity in which we engage is measured by its productivity and profitability. By this standard of measure, anything that can be accomplished with more efficiency, by taking less time, or more economically, by requiring a lower investment of financial assets, is deemed more worthwhile. Many of us have been conditioned to evaluate the ROI in regard to the way we use our time and resources. We are drawn then to evaluate the comparative value of the activities in which we choose to participate in comparison to other activities that might be judged as better uses of our time and energy.
As a result, we must look for reasons to justify our hobbies as worthwhile because there may be some sort of measurable return that might one day bring a payoff. And so we systematize our relaxation and feel pressure to strategically squeeze out the maximum amount of enjoyment from our limited windows of opportunity for leisure. We take something that should be fun and we create stress around it, making an activity that might be replenishing instead depleting. It saps our joy. This is not how we have always functioned, and it may not be the best way to continue. What if we stopped?
Children at play are not concerned with time, cost or return. They are able to participate in an activity purely for the sake of enjoyment. Often, the only measure of value attached to playtime is the degree of fun that the child experiences. As a result, children are not stressed as they play, and they are highly creative. It is no surprize that fun and enjoyment lead to greater creativity. Creativity leads to satisfaction. Adults attach fun to quality. Typically our degree of enjoyment is attached to a level of proficiency; so a person who finds that he is good at golf will find enjoyment in participating in that hobby. Kids do not do this naturally. A child can take great pride in creating a perfectly terrible painting. They can enjoy the process apart from the result.
Matthew York is Videomaker's Publisher/Editor.