According to Shonda Rhimes, ” Work doesn’t work without play”. And she should know. She’s one of the most successful women in TV – a creator, writer, and producer of hits such as Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. She’s a TV power house creating 70 hours of television every week! She’s a self-proclaimed “titan” and most certainly a workaholic.
I write a lot about boundaries and learning to say “no” on this blog. So, I was intrigued with by the title of Rhimes’ Ted Talk: “My year of saying yes to everything”. My gut instinct was that this was a terrible idea. No one should say yes to everything. That’s a recipe for burn out, resentment, and being taken advantage of. So why would Rhimes, a single mother of three working close to 100 hours a week, want to say yes to even more?
I think a lot of us can relate to Rhimes. She loves her work. It’s a core part of her identity, not just a job. It’s the “hum” that’s always with her. It feeds her soul. Until one day she lost her groove. Most of us just call this burnout. Her passion was gone. And without the exhilaration from her work, she’d lost a part of herself. “So what do you do when the thing you do, the work you love, starts to taste like dust?” she asks.
How do you overcome burnout and get your groove back?
It turned out that the most important, and perhaps most difficult, “yes” was agreeing to playing with her daughters EVERY time they asked.
Work can’t fill your being with joy all the time. More importantly, work needs play. They are like yin and yang. As a workaholic and perfectionist, play didn’t come naturally to Rhimes. She bravely admits her guilt-ridden truth: She likes to work more than she likes to be at home. And she’s not alone. There are lots of people who are driven and high-achieving. They love to work and they love the high they get from success.
But work isn’t just success and fulfillment. There’s stress There’s pressure. There’s fatigue. There’s disappointment. There’s regret. Perfectionism is striving for greatness at any cost. It’s fear of failure. It’s a lopsided life. It’s self-worth based on achievement rather than on simply being.
Work alone can’t be the center of a happy, healthy life. Over-working is just an attempt to fill a void; to try to make whole what’s missing in one’s life. This kind of self-worth leads to loss of identity, depression, and burn out when the work is gone whether it’s due to a layoff, retirement, or a failed project.
Play brings balance. It’s energizing. Play is a form of self-care. Play provides joy that no amount of work or success can fill. Dr. Agnes Wainman, a psychologist who helps overwhelmed and burnt out women increase their joy, says, “Play allows us to be connected to the present moment; connected to feelings of joy, excitement and pure fun. It gets us out of ruminating about the past, worrying about the future or simply being on auto-pilot.”
Play doesn’t have to be a trip to the beach or a tennis match. Nor does it have to be playing with your children. Play is whatever you find fun. It’s energizing and staying emotionally present. And it doesn’t have to take all day.
Play has a purpose.
Rebecca Wong, a relationship therapist specializing in helping couples reconnect through play, knows that play isn’t just for children. She says,”Play is often overlooked as a valuable self-care tool perhaps because it’s seemingly purposeless…Play is our species’ inborn language of connection. In fact, recent findings in neuroscience are showing that nothing lights up our brains like play does!”
For most of us, as we grow-up, we exchange play for work. We literally forget how to play. It becomes uncomfortable. Think back to when you were ten years old. Remember the joy of playing. You may find you still like to play the same sports, activities, or crafts. Or you may need to discover new ways of playing as adult.
If you’re still not convinced of the benefits of play itself, consider how more self-care and more play will help your career. Rhimes concludes that “The more I play, the freer my mind becomes. The more I play, the better I work. The more I play, the more I feel the hum, the nation I’m building, the marathon I’m running, the troops, the canvas, the high note, the hum, the hum, the other hum, the real hum, life’s hum.”
Play makes you feel more alive! And who doesn’t want that?
Rhimes’ Ted Talk is really great and well worth 18 minutes of your time.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read. To find out more about increasing self-worth and overcoming perfectionism, please follow me on Facebook.