Renowned Speaker and Play Activist Jenny Ward has brought the joy of life all over the globe. She received her MFA from New York University, is a licensed Life Coach and Author of three books. She is the CEO of Playward.com, and a proud mother of Leela, her greatest teacher on play.

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Playfull Living

I was sitting on the beach the other day when I saw a girl with her mom digging in the sand in front of me. They were giggling as they dug their purple shovels into the sand. The girl seemed to be about 5, and was full of life and joy. There was no right way to dig and she didn’t care how messy she got.

Moments later, the girl starts skipping towards me. “You are pretty” she says innocently. I began to cry, not out of sadness, but because I felt loved and appreciated. In two seconds I remembered the simplicity of this playground called life.

When do we lose this? At what age do we feel as if we need to stop telling others they are pretty? Smart? Awesome? Loved…you name it. Why do we mute ourselves into becoming adults? When we choose to play in this game of life, we are choosing to be in the moment of now. Dig deeper into the sand and understand that the castles we build are created by the beliefs we hold.

Watching children play is watching masters at work. They get it. For years, I lived off my belief that life was meant to be hard. I got the degrees, won the awards, got married, had the perfect home and still something was missing. Becoming an adult has many requirements: responsibility, success, marriage, stability and security. I checked each box off every day, yet found myself feeling heavy and lost. Years of dieting to be perfect, working to be successful and auditioning to be famous led me to a great place.
Nowhere. At the age of 28, I stopped, looked at the sandcastles I had built, and asked who said life is meant to be like this? From that moment on, everything changed.

I believe our world is on autopilot most of the time. In order to choose your own path, one must believe in the possibility of magic, passion, play and love. Play is all about believing. Believing that life is meant to be enjoyed, not survived, embraced not memorized, loved not loathed. Being a visionary takes believing in the infinite possibilities of the answer to what if? Watch a kid make a sand castle, or paint a picture and notice their willingness to create without rules, design without limitations, and build without expectations. Choosing to add playtime into our lives is a key ingredient to creating a life of your own. A life designed for and by you, and magnificently lived.

I began to look at the beliefs I had about myself slowly and with compassion. “ I am not enough” came thru loud and clear for me. This not enough syndrome led me further away from play, love, creativity and honor. I spent most of my life trying to please, be something I was told I had to be, not playing within my own heart.

Life begins to shift when you decide to live for yourself. As a kid, I was taught that selfishness is wrong, that it’s not “right” to think of yourself first. Being a visionary involves looking within first, getting to know your own dreams and joy’s and taking steps to create that. I have re-defined selfish, and I triple dog dare you to do the same. Life begins on the edge of your comfort zone. It begins when you look at yourself with loving eyes and make choices that are for your highest play-full good. Giving yourself time to play, breathe, love, explore and share is essential to creating a life that is yours, not someone else’s.

Deep down inside, we are all craving to color outside the lines, or “mess” up without labeling ourselves failures. Perfectionism bruises the soul. Play allows your heart and soul to come out and dance. When I work with clients, I encourage them to erase “should, right, responsible and perfect” from their dictionaries called our minds. These words have very powerful intentions that have been passed down from generation to generation.
“You should be this, you should do this, you better do that”, all over our society, placing tons of ideals and expectations on our plates. One step at a time, we continue to search for the answers, buy the self-help books, take the classes, get the better job, climb up the corporate ladders and try to attain …..what? Being “successful” is a matter of whose guidelines? Why isn’t it successful to take time out every day and honor yourself with play?
In our world I notice that most adults are waiting until they are 65 in order to play. We don’t have to wait. The time to enjoy life is now. Your life is your play, write it with joy. C’mon I triple dog dare ya!

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