Crocus for hope

Goals for Play – My Recipe for Sanity

Here we are at home. Socially distant from friends, family, and our usual routines. What to do? How do we fight off cabin fever like we’ve never known cabin fever before?

I’m convinced my answer lies in goal-setting. What would I do if I had a chunk of seclusion, a time-out from my usual? Hmm…maybe this home-bound thing ain’t so bad.

Of course, I’m a bit of a home-body to begin with. Working from home as I have for the last twenty years or so, many routines don’t change. I still turn on my computer, teach and grade papers online, try to squeeze in writing. No doubt my adjustments to our new temporary normal are easier than what most face.

Full circleBut OMG, how do I not go bonkers without my water aerobics class? I feel so alive in the water where I don’t have to sweat as I exercise. It’s a thrice-a-week dose of fun – even when I’m gasping for breath. How will I remember whether it’s Monday when I go to class or Tuesday when I don’t? How oh how will I close the activity circles on my pesky Apple watch?

Still, here’s this chunk of time – no longer scheduled. Open for…something different. A chance to build a new routine. What if I committed to starting each day with yoga? Huh…

Somehow, the spirit has never been willing before, despite my head’s pleas for a regular yoga routine. The pool demands so much time each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. But not now. What if I… Okay, why not?

My goal: ‘I will start every day with at least 15 minutes of yoga.’

Fifteen minutes. Not a lifetime. A starting point. I can do that. And what’s more important, I can control that. There’s so much I can’t control now. To grab onto something I can control? I need that power.


And who knows? Maybe fifteen minutes will turn into a life-long habit. Wouldn’t that be cool? Other potential goals glimmer and tease in this weird time. New ways to find socially distant fun and stimulation? New ways to play.

I take inspiration from students in the Development and Meaning of Play course I teach online. In each module, my students are required to play for at least ten minutes. That’s right. PLAY! Even when they don’t have time – and since most of my students also have full-time jobs and families, and are women, they aren’t used to making time for their own play. All the more reason for the assignment!

After they play, students are to reflect. What did they learn? How can they connect their experience to some theory we’ve studied? AND what goal will they set to play again?

We’re a goal-driven society, but most of us goal-getters at work somehow never get around to setting goals for other important parts of life. I want to turn that around with my students and you too! If we believe that family, and health, and play sustain, enrich, and make our lives worth living, then why not set goals so we WILL make time for play?  Now! Not someday that might never come! Let’s use goals for all parts of our lives to hold ourselves accountable to actually DO what we say we want to do.

Last week’s ‘Play and Reflect’ assignments were due Sunday, March 15, when the Covid-19 threat still felt more threat than reality for most. But the threat was beginning to knock hard – especially for students that lived in and around New York City. By Monday, Covid-19 broke down a lot of doors – 729 positive cases in New York State. Five days later, we had ten times that many.  Few among us thought about play, except to wonder how the nature of play would or had already changed.

But an assignment is an assignment for my students, and I was intrigued to see how they were reacting. Stress was high. ‘We usually spend our weekends with people at trampoline parks, movies, festivals.’ said one student. ‘On Friday, we stayed home.’ Another said, ‘I work in a child-care center, my son takes the train to his work, and my husband has Type-2 diabetes. We worry.’ Still others stressed over home-schooling.

Plenty of reason to stress. And more reason than ever to play! Whether they played Battleship with a child or did a jigsaw puzzle with their family, students spoke of play as a respite, a relief from their all too real worries. While they played, they focused on ‘right now’ instead of what loomed ahead. And during that ‘right now’ they felt in control.

In their goals to play again, I saw determination. Despite the bleak and uncertain future ahead, they reached and planned for playful activities to keep them human and loving life. To hike a new trail, to paint and create art, to practice violin, and finish that eye-crossing jigsaw puzzle – they set goals to play. Determination and creativity sustained and nurtured by play. In their goals, I saw an unshakeable belief in the future!

That’s what a goal is – tangible hope for something better. With the built-in conviction that I CAN DO THIS! 

So my goals to get through this weirdness?

  • Do yoga every day
  • Play with color and shapes as I felt and bead
  • Savor budding crocus and daffies
  • Read lots – of course!
  • Practice daily hopefulness.

I CAN DO THIS! I’ll take my vitamins, get lots of rest, and close my activity circles every day too. I CAN DO ALL THIS! And I can do it all with a playful spirit!

What playful goals will help you dance beyond the weirdness?

half activity circleNow if you’ll excuse me, I’ll retrieve my book and take to the exercise bike. Gotta close that red circle! I CAN DO THIS!

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