Play to Find You

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Posted by: AABC

Play to Find You

By Petra Benach,
Photo: Silvia Falcomer Photography

I have had a couple of opportunities in the last year to speak at local networking events here in Amsterdam. At my last talk for Creative Mornings, I touched upon the topic personal development – it lasted about 30 minutes and you can watch it here. Personal development has always been a popular topic. My social media channels are always filled with messages about the importance of finding your true self and all the benefits that come from doing it. It’s easy to dismiss these typed words over the image of a perfect sunset as just all around cheesy, but when I explore the importance of really being your own best friend, it’s hard to deny that investing in personal development is incredibly smart.

Let’s first examine what personal development is all about. To do that I am going to use Humanistic Psychology, which theorizes that we humans are all here to grow, change and strive to be the best people we can be. Some conditions apply – just take a look at Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.


In Maslow’s theory, to be the best people we can be, we need to have a few things taken care of, like physical health and safety. When we can get these layers under us we can become self-actualized – with a true awareness of our selves and others, acceptance, confidence and self esteem. This level of self-involvement is critical is because of the way our personal attributes run through all aspects on our road of life.

On this road of life most of us have a feeling that our life progresses forward, we mature, get jobs and mostly move ahead, just look at who you were five years ago. Now we have multiple roads all leading us in a direction, and we’re traveling on all of them at the same time. There’s the family road, the health road, the relationship road and definitely the business road. All of these roads are connected and intertwined. We can see this most prominently when one of the roads runs into a block. For example, when your have problems on your health road, all of your other roads feel it, things seem to grind to a halt and everything has to shift so that your energy can go to improving your health. On the positive side, when one of your roads is amazing, like that new-relationship road you just got on, all of your other roads seem to brighten and feel more positive. This is just how life seems to work.

Abraham Maslow, co-founder of Humanistic Psychology, 1908-1970

When we view our life in this way the role of personal development becomes a bit more apparent. If Maslow was right and I take care of these levels of development and become more self aware, it means that I have learned how to become more flexible and acceptant of my self and others. If I do all that, I am a better person making that road, the personal awareness road, stronger and more at ease – and that, my friends, makes every road better. The more I know myself, the more I know that whatever road hits a block next, I will find the tools or the repair crew to work it out.

Since knowing yourself is such a useful tool, how can we do it? First we must understand that we’re all incredibly unique. What works for me isn’t going to work for you. You need to find the tools you need to understand and embrace that you are different because that’s the key to accepting that your road is yours and no one else’s. One of the best ways of figuring out your special brand of you is by playing, which was the crux of my Creative Mornings talk. When we play we understand how we express things, Plato said “You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation.” You can read all about the benefits of play as an adult here.

So how do you do it? Here’s a practical guide:

1) Go to a store and check out materials. You can do this at an art store, but what’s better is a toy store with a large craft section. Here’s the best part about this step – LOOK but don’t buy – go home after you’ve checked everything out.

Here’s what it looks like when I play.

2) Take a day or so and see what material(s) you saw that you’re still thinking about. This is about finding a material that inspires you, it’s the thing you’ll keep looking at on the shelf, once you’ve ID’d that go ahead and go back and buy it.

3) Schedule three hours of uninterrupted time, if you can’t do that, learn some time management and try again OR, even better, recruit a someone to do this all with you. When we partner up with others it can keep us accountable.

4) Put your phone away and don’t touch it for those three hours, if you touch it, you owe me €20 – when was the last time you consciously disconnected from media? Just try it.

5) Now for the fun part, just play with your materials – which means NO goals, NO end product, NO analysis, NO tweeting. Definitely do NOT follow the directions, do NOT judge what you do, just explore those materials and see if you can discover what is so great about them.

6) When you’re playtime is up, check in with yourself and see how you feel. Did you have fun? Take some inventory and embrace the experience.

7) Share your experience with others, recruit them for your next session or even better get your employer to sponsor a play date at work. You’d be amazed at how much closer you’ll feel to your coworkers after you’ve made macaroni art together.

8) Repeat as often as you can, but no less than once a month, schedule it and don’t compromise.

Taking the time to connect with yourself through play is one of the best things you can invest in to really be a better person – you won’t regret it. If you want to come and play with me you can do it by coming to InterART at the Affordable Art Fair on Thursday 27th and Friday 28th of October from 4pm til close. I hope to see you there!

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