20 Ways to Bring More Play Into Your Life And Work

By Esra Sertoglu
YPO Certified Forum Facilitator

“People tend to forget that play is serious.” —David Hockney

Humans tend to see play as light, fun and heartwarming, something children do before they grow up. And, as a result, we tend to trivialize it and delegate it to the realms of recess and sports.

Yet, as adults, we complain that it’s not always easy to let go and have fun. We say our work is too serious. Or, our meetings are dull and our days, too routine.

Who could imagine that we actually need play to have a healthier dialogue with ourselves and with others? Play just means something different for adults.

We knew how to play as children…can we train our brain and mindset as adults? Recent neuroplasticity studies show that many aspects of the brain can be altered, even in adulthood.

As with anything you want to perfect, you can alter your brain through daily practices that will support the new behaviors you want to see in your life. Here are some tips:


  1. Start your meetings on a positive note. Positivity creates a constructive environment where even the most divergent views are heard with open ears.
  2. Develop an archive of icebreakers to encourage meeting attendees to open up and relax before you get to the meat of the meeting.
  3. Reverse the pattern. Rather than spending more time discussing problems and issues, start off by exploring possibilities and opportunities. Track time spent on problems versus solutions.
  4. Every six months, surprise your team by planning an offsite to an unusual place. Lead exercises to create more trust among team members. It can be a playground, a historical building, a park, an antiques gallery, an artist’s studio, etc.
  5. Critically review the physical environment of your office. Does it reflect the personality or energy you like to portray? There is a strong relationship between the mind and physical space.
  6. Create fun and engaging orientation programs for new members of your team and make it a part of your culture.
  7. Design unique meetings related to your business. For example, ask your team to wear 70s costumes. Boost the energy and design the day around the activist mindset of the 70s.


  1. Once a month have a family meeting for an hour, even if you have young children. Take turns and listen to everyone’s desires and agree how to minimize recurring issues between parents and children. This will add more joy to your daily home life as issues, like “Have you brushed your teeth?” will disappear or occur less often.
  2. Make fun meals. Ask your children to cook “silly” dishes without worrying about the taste. Ask them to mix ingredients creatively or present them playfully.
  3. Write love letters to each other and leave them in beds or schoolbags. Turn it in a tradition.
  4. Turn birthday gifts into playful experiences… make your own gifts.
  5. Reverse roles between parents and children, or between wife and husband. Watch and have fun with your child pretends to be you or how you pretend to be your husband.


  1. Begin each day by saying a positive affirmation to yourself. Say it with a full facial expression in front of the mirror.
  2. Give yourself two minutes every morning, just for you. Freely dance to a song, sing in the shower or open the window, close your eyes and breathe deeply.
  3. As adults, we think too much about planning and scheduling. From time to time give yourself the permission to do nothing.
  4. Engage yourself in simple pleasures, not always sophisticated activities.
  5. Get in touch with the child in you. If you ignored her/him for a long time, have an imaginary conversation with that child to bring out her/his voice more vividly.
  6. Connect to your body sensations. Being too much “in your head” takes you away from your body awareness. Feel the warmth of your hands, your heartbeat and listen to what they are telling you.
  7. Maintain a curious mind. Engage yourself in a new activity or hobby once a year. Commit yourself to learning.
  8. Write a letter to yourself that you will read later. Have a friend or family member send it to you in six months.

Every CEO needs somewhere to turn for the insight and perspective only trusted peers can provide. In YPO, the supreme sounding board is forum. Around the world in 3,800 forums, small groups of members – and small groups of their spouses and young adult children – meet in an atmosphere of confidentiality, respect and trust. Most members say forum is their most valued asset, because the maxim holds true: it can be lonely at the top, but it doesn't have to be. YPO members, spouses, management team and YPO certified forum facilitators (CFF) are contributors of the articles below. CFFs are a specialized group of 100 highly skilled professionals with a deep understanding of forum process and protocol. Each CFF has completed a rigorous application, interview and certification process that requires peer recommendations.