Play is serious business!

Using play to build resilience: Social, Mental, and Emotional resilience


What are some of the first things that come to mind when you think of play? Is it that it is mainly for children? Or is it something you do after-hours or on the weekend, perhaps a sport? But surely serious leaders never indulge in something as juvenile as play!

A definition of play: Scott Erbele, the editor of the American Journal of Play defines play as a process not a specific set of things. What you do find in the process of play is understanding, empathy and the strength of mind, body, and spirit.

Emotional Resilience: Stress can be defined as the negative label given to a pressured situation. I used to volunteer as a Care Clown using play to help children in hospitals with severe burns. I was often surprised at how effective play was in reducing their pain and getting out of the victim mentality. In this age of VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity), the art of play could be of enormous value to provide a break and change the negative emotional label, i.e. difficult situation vs. exciting opportunities for growth.


Mental Resilience: Connections and creativity. Jean Piaget once wrote, “Play is the answer to the question: how does anything new come about?” Play is vital for children to explore, use their imagination to develop creativity and learning and to develop their brains. It helps them to make connections between things and to make sense of the world. What a pity we lose that as we grow older.

Social Resilience: I believe the ability to build strong relationships is foundational to being successful as a leader and a person. Play helps us build meaningful relationships. Think of any meeting you’ve been, and the shift that happens during an icebreaker. At first, it’s annoying, then uncomfortable, then there’s laughter, and then the moment of feeling part of the group. The light-heartedness of play can build moments of real connection, and create a supportive environment.

Authentic Leadership: Overall strength

Lastly, I have been following a series of videos on how play in exercise e.g. crawling, baby pose in yoga, results in building holistic muscle strength that focused exercise fails to build. Authentic leadership is one where you use and develop your strength in ways that are natural. When you force play in an inauthentic manner, the result is often the opposite of what we intended.


In what authentic ways can you use play to develop your team, your resilience and yourself as a leader?

How can you include play in your daily activities to increase creativeness, learning, and innovation?

About Racheal: 

 As Organisational Psychologist, and Executive Coach, I have worked with leaders internationally to build resilience and create strategies to become more effective. I have developed an online platform to connect and grow leaders. You will find mentorship stories from senior leaders, learn how to become more resilient, have access to bite size leadership lessons, and engage with a coach. Please connect if you would like to learn more.

Coaching can be defined as a partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that supports them to identify and take steps that move them between their current reality to where he or she wants to be. The biggest impact of coaching occurs when there is a shift in a person’s thinking, (or aha moments). Shifts in how we perceive the world occur because what we experience changes through the questions that are asked.

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