As June beckons, Holland Haiis wants you to prepare to be playful. The New York City coach who helps others with work-life balance believes we have become disconnected from ourselves and others owing to the frenzy of modern life.
"So many of us are disconnected because we are chasing somebody else's dream and are on the money trail. But when you ask people, they want connection to family and friends," she said in an interview. The solution is to find one concrete act we can focus on each week of the year to reconnect with ourselves and the world we want to live in. For June, that means rediscovering play.
It started with a walk three years ago in Central Park as she rushed between client engagements, oblivious to her surroundings, madly checking e-mails, even though it was spring, her favourite season. Her work often focuses on helping people to avoid burnout but she realized she was desperately out of balance herself. "I was disconnected. But I didn't have an hour a day to meditate. So what exercises could I do that don't take a lot of time?" she recalled.
The result, tested on herself and clients, is a series of activities, for each of us to focus on for a full week. It takes the notion of New Year's resolutions but makes it more practical and manageable, an initiative for each week, tied to a monthly theme, and neatly stitched together in her book, Consciously Connecting.
So start June by finding your inner child. Look back at the passions from your childhood that you have disconnected from and forgotten. "Did you like camping? Were you a bowler? What resonated then but has disappeared from your life?"
She loved being outside, running around and climbing trees. There comes a time in life when you are told or feel you can't do that any more. You're a grown up. But maybe you can sit under a tree again and let your mind wander – or even climb one. Maybe you can call up some friends in the first week of June and suggest you go bowling.
"Reconnect to what you lived for when the pace was slower and you didn't have much responsibility. Give yourself permission to partake in and connect to your childhood passion at least once this week, and try to do it twice. If you are really lucky and can do it for all seven days, go! Reconnect to playtime," she writes.
The second week in June, go further – play at being silly. Loosen up and let yourself go. She likes to race her husband to their apartment from the lobby of the building, each using a different elevator. They also challenge each other to see who can slide further down the hallway in their socks. "It's pretty ridiculous. It's silly. It's fun," she said in the interview.
At Manhattan's Riverside Park recently, she saw a young mother invited by her kid to roll down a hill. Ms. Haiis encouraged the mother to join the child in the game but the mother was resistant, afraid she would get dirty. Ms. Haiis told her that, in 40 years' time, she'd wish she could roll down a hill and should share this moment with her youngster. "We sometimes stop ourselves from doing something silly because we'll look foolish or get dirty. But loosen up and have fun. If you have kids, it connects with them and they will see you enjoying yourself," she said.
Make like Seinfeld the next week and play at doing nothing. Remember when you were told by your mother to go outside and play, and you had nothing to do? Reclaim that freedom. Lie on the ground and stare up at the clouds. See how many times during the week you can grab 10 to 15 minutes of nothingness to daydream, or get caught up in something you don't normally have time for. Set aside, as best as you can, lists and agenda. Revel in bursts of nothingness.
The fourth week is for playing with your impulses. She was at an amusement park with some friends a few years ago and was seduced by the smell of caramel corn. A woman was ahead of her in the lineup, her husband taking advantage of the time to stand 10 yards away and text. The woman was making it clear she would only buy for the kids, not herself, as the treat was too fattening. Ms. Haiis told her that she wasn't at an amusement park 365 days of the year and that she should enjoy the snack.
"She couldn't go with her impulses as she was layered with many restraints," she reflects. For a week, unleash yourself. Give yourself permission to connect spontaneously with your playful nature through your senses of smell, touch, taste, sight, and sound.
Enjoy the month. Indeed, enjoy a year of consciously connecting – unsubscribing from e-mails in January, honouring yin and yang in May by seeking polar opposite viewpoints, and being grateful around Thanksgiving by seeing the glass as continually half full (or more). It may rejuvenate you in unexpected ways.
Harvey Schachter is a Battersea, Ont.-based writer specializing in management issues. He writes Monday Morning Manager and management book reviews for the print edition of Report on Business and an online work-life column, Balance. E-mail Harvey Schachter