While pondering an update to my mission statement, I was thinking about how to frame relationships, and this line popped into my mind:

My relationships are based on play.

My relationship with Rachelle fits this like a glove, and I think it’s why we’ve had 10+ happy years together. Same goes for my best friendships.

This applies to more than human relationships, like my relationships with work, creative projects, personal growth experiments, writing, speaking, courses, coaching, hobbies, etc. There’s a core of play when the flow is strong and healthy.

When a relationship loses its core of play, it seems to be on its way out and won’t endure, or it devolves into something not worth preserving.

What happens if you reflect upon past relationships with the lens of play? Any insights generated from that?

If you’re considering a transition in some area of life, could it be that the old path lost its core of play (or never had it to begin with)?

Consider the lens that a healthy relationship is really about play. I’m not saying that this is absolutely true. Just look at your past relationships through this lens, and see if it sparks any interesting realizations or reassessments. When you reflect upon the story arc of the relationship with respect to its changing level of playfulness over time, what do you see?

Also consider that you have a relationship with your work. When that relationship loses its core of play, does it ever work?

Consider the ripples that play generates – connection, caring, bonding, happiness, enjoyment, appreciation, respect, cooperation, etc. Those can be valuable in any relationship context – both in work and your personal life.

Injuries can still occur, but in a context of play (like a game), they’re quickly forgiven. When people lose sight of the play aspect, then an injury may be taken more seriously though.

What can be objectively accomplished with a frame of seriousness that can’t also be accomplished at least as well with a frame of play?

One way to think of play is that it maintains the intensity of seriousness but ditches the attachment. It lightens the experience of full engagement, allowing you to focus on the present moment activity without worrying so much about the outcome. The lens of play removes the clinginess without being forced to descend into goofiness.

I’ve always appreciated playful relationships more than others. That’s been true of romantic and sexual relationships, connections with colleagues, coaching or mentoring relationships, friendships, and even random acquaintances. Playfulness elevates the mundane, making it more stimulating but not stressful.

Play can be a tough value to respect unless you test it enough and see what it does for you. When you observe that investing in play generates strong results with good consistency, it’s easier to trust it. Also observe the results you get when you lose the connection to the core of play. Which results do you prefer?