Can you make it more playful and more serious?

picture by Donald Zolan (and, by the way, not my child) http://abstract.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/430791/

picture by Donald Zolan (and, by the way, not my child) http://abstract.desktopnexus.com/wallpaper/430791/

What? Everything.

Keith McCandles of Liberating Structures asked me this question when I shared my instructions for the use of network pattern cards with him. He proposed to make it more serious by inviting a group to explore a shared problem and to make it more playful by asking: “What is the pattern you would need to choose if you really wanted to mess this up?” And only after that the group would pick the pattern they think will make them succeed. This follows the idea of the liberating structure TRIZ.

His question stuck with me – way beyond the concrete discussion of how to facilitate a group experience. Now it has a place of honor on a post-it on my office wall: “Can I make it more playful and more serious?” How would my life and work be, if I made it more playful and serious.

When I am with my kids, could I have more playful openness and laugh more about things that just aren’t that important AND have the mindful focus of someone who knows that this is serious, that these few years of closeness run by quicker than you think and that every moment matters.

At my work, what would happen if I played and improvised more freely, inviting myself, my colleagues, our clients to use play for experiencing the changes we aim for in an nonthreatening environment – it’s only play after all. And what if at the same time I was much more serious about my aspiration, much braver about naming and claiming the changes I really care about, allowing myself to really care about them?

What are the things in your life that could be transformed by being more playful and more serious? Are you taking steps in that direction already?

Own it – with a smile

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(Picture by Alan Cleaver on flickr)

How do you deal with situations you are not 100% comfortable with? How do you approach your work and your family life when it gets stressful? Are you quick to blame others for whatever goes wrong? Are you inclined to focus on all the different ways that you have messed it up?

How about owning it with a smile?

What does that mean? I started thinking about this last week, attending an amazing creative facilitation training by Retreats that Work¬†(or, more specifically, Merianne Liteman¬†and Sheila Campbell). They highlighted the power of an honest smile, how it can light up the room, make the most difficult group processes more bearable and convey to participants that you approach them in a positive, inviting manner. As a German I come from a culture where you only smile if you have a reason – and even then, you often don’t. My German friends think I have become Americanized… I am not sure my American friends would agree. There is still a lot of room for adding more smiles, with or without concrete reason. So I just started trying it out: What would happen if I smiled more? Not a “I’m sorry I’m in your way” kind of smile but rather a “I own my own space and invite you to join me here” smile.

At the end of the training I realized that “owning it – with a smile” is a powerful guidance for dealing with things beyond group facilitation. So I have looked at a number of issues both in my professional and private life and asked myself: What would happen if you didn’t blame others or yourself for this, but own it with a smile? If feels like breathing in – in a way that makes your lungs expand and fills you with fresh spring air. Now I’m curious where it will get me. And I’d love to hear from you: Do you own it with a smile? What does that mean to you? And what happens if you do?