“The mind is like a car battery — it recharges by running.” (Bill Watterson creator of the Calvin and Hobbs comic)
Accompanying this quote was this write-up about Watterson – Every day, for 10 years, cartoonist Bill Watterson delighted readers with a new story in his beloved syndicated comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes.” But that kind of round-the-clock ingenuity is no easy feat. His secret? Recharging the mind by letting it play. “I’ve had to cultivate a kind of mental playfulness,” Watterson said in the same 1990 commencement speech at Kenyon College where he gave the quote above. “A playful mind is inquisitive, and learning is fun.” In other words, creative ideas come when the mind is encouraged to wander into new areas, exploring wherever your natural curiosity may lead.
I might have phrased the quote differently and added to the second part – “it recharges by running and playing.” Allowing your mind to wander, to play, allows it to explore its creativity. As adults we too often discipline ourselves to stay focused on the tasks at hand. In sports that is often called “mental toughness”. Whether in sports, business or just in our everyday lives, the ability to focus can be helpful but it also can be stifling to our minds. I suspect that the increased incidents of road rage and the general lack of civility today is largely due to people becoming too focused and not allowing their minds any play time.
It’s not that living isn’t serious business. For many in high stress jobs it is very serious and for most the responsibilities that come just with being an adult cause us to take life seriously. But that doesn’t mean that you must or should give up some level of the playfulness that you had as a child. Every now and then on the news you will see a story of kids in a war zone playing and having fun. As adults we may think, “How can they play in the middle of being shot at or bombed, with death and destruction all around them?” They simply have not yet been trained to suppress that need to play physically or mentally. That training will come with age, faster and at a younger age in a war zone.
For those of us not living under conditions like war or grinding poverty or famine, it is important that we allow our minds to recharge by letting it out to play, to stretch itself through our imaginations. I have suggested a way to break the mental tension of being too serious all the time by making a funny face in your mirror each morning as you get ready for the day ahead. It is hard to maintain a serious attitude when you make a face at yourself. Try it and see. Just that small crack in your otherwise serious façade will allow your imagination out to play for an instant and allow your mind a break from the grindstone of seriousness.
You might also be surprised that this small break from seriousness will allow you to approach the happenings of the day and the people that you meet from a different, less somber point of view. Just that little spark of playfulness and imagination may show through in your attitude and that will impact how others perceive you and how you perceive yourself. It may put a smile on your face as you start your day and that will be noticed by those whom you encounter. Just keep thinking of that funny face in the mirror and keep smiling.
Recharge your mental battery this morning. Make a face at yourself in the mirror. Let your mind out to wander about in your imagination. Doesn’t that feel better?
Have a great and less serious day.