Be Active, Alert, but Unstressed


Play cannot be passive. To play, you must take an active part in the journey instead of merely being an outside observer. Being active is not enough if your actions are automatic or derived from habits and reflexes. When Playing, your actions should be based on conscious decisions.

Stress does not only kill Playfulness — stress suppresses Creativity. When it comes to creative, open-ended tasks with no predefined or obvious solution and tasks that call for decision making, the pressure to perform creates less effective results. When you feel stressed, you aim for quick, bulletproof methods. You cannot afford to miss the target, and therefore, you don’t have the resources needed to Play or the bandwidth to experiment and be creative.

When you are unstressed, when you allow yourself to play with a problem, you have the bandwidth to utilize your Creativity Operating System. Your inherent creative skills require you to be mindful, take detours, explore new possibilities and have enough space for opportunities to emerge. It is a playful journey by definition, and therefore, it cannot be stressed.

Creativity is messy, and the results are never guaranteed. The less stressed you are, the more you allow yourself to take this uncertain, playful path.

actionable steps

Create space to Play — a physical, conceptual, and mental setup that allows all Creativity Functions to be utilized.

Experiment with different setups and methods to reduce stress. Keep in mind that not being stressed does not imply being passive or numb.

Avoid the vicious circle of stress. Be aware of the stress level and actively try to mitigate it in real-time. If nothing else works, take a step back and do something else until you feel less stressed.

Favor Fuzzy Goals that allow more flexibility and room for Play.


Example 1

In a group ideation activity, make sure everyone is involved and no one stays passive, even if some players believe they have nothing to contribute. There is no such thing as a bad idea when you explore creative opportunities, and being active and alert is essential for triggering a Playful and creative mindset.

Example 2

Break important, creative goals into smaller, more manageable ones. Celebrating each achievement along the way enhances the sense of success and therefore reduces stress levels. Note that this does not imply having a detailed, high-resolution plan but setting sub-goals that are easier to achieve. Consider, for example, the following goal: applying the c.os model in your life. It is a goal that can seem overwhelming. But applying one practice every one or two weeks is much more manageable and creates a real sense of achievement.

Attribution and Inspiration

  • Inspired by the definition of Play by Peter Gray

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