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Thomas, chief technology officer (CTO) for a large software company, looked up from his seat in the lobby of his gym, just down the street from his office. Seeing that Nancy, his chief people officer teammate, was walking over, he pulled out his earbuds and stashed them away.

“It’s so nice outside today,” she said when she got close. “Want to walk through the park on our way back to the office?”

“Sure thing.” He got up, picked up his gym bag, and they headed out the door.

The streets were too busy to talk comfortably, so it wasn’t until they were past the park entrance that Nancy turned to Thomas and said, “I’m still curious what you meant last time, when you said that flexing in the gym helps you with flexing outside your preferences. You explained the ‘flexing outside your preferences’ part then. The course you recommended for discovering my preferences for interacting with the world is illuminating.”

“I’m glad you’re finding it helpful. So, now you’re following up on my promise to explain how flexing in the gym helps me with that flexing outside my preferences?”

“Yeah. The course hasn’t covered anything that seems like it might apply.”

“No, it doesn’t. This comes from a different part of my journey to defining what play means for me.”

You need more than the basics

“I mentioned last time that I had stumbled across the preferences course while searching the web for help defining what play means for me.”

“I remember.”

“Well, one of the other rabbit holes I went down discussed sustaining movement.”

“As in, being able to lift weights for longer?”

“As in, having the energy to keep moving and changing and going after our goals.”

“That’s simple. Just eat right, get enough sleep, and get the right amount of exercise.”

Thomas shook his head. “That’s not enough for me. Even doing all that, I always used to run out of steam part way through the day.”

“Well then, one of those is off.”

“I’ve tried every variation on those I could think of. Nothing made a significant difference. The website says this is because sustaining our movement is more than those basics.”

Nancy looked at him, a quizzical look on her face. “What else is there?”

Your specific resources replenish you

“When you feel drained, what do you do to recharge?”

“That depends on the type of drain. Sometimes, I feel a yearning to get outside and walk in nature. Other times, I want to go for a run. Most often, however, I put on headphones and listen to my favorite music for a while. Fifteen minutes of that almost always has me up and going again.”

“So, eating, sleeping, and exercising aren’t enough for you. You also need time in nature and time with music.”

Nancy nodded thoughtfully.

“What do each of those give you?”

“Well, hmm. Time in nature reminds me that nothing really matters. The trees and bees don’t care whether I get through my to-do list. Running reminds me that I’m never really stuck. I always have an escape hatch. And music feeds my soul at some deep level. I don’t understand how or why. I just know it does.”

“What do you do when you yearn to get outside, yet can’t?”

“That’s why I’ve filled my office with plants. So I always have a little outside near me.”

“Is that why you always have photos of plants as your computer wallpaper?”


Maximize opportunities to replenish by finding the underlying resources

“What does remembering that nothing really matters give you?”

Nancy opened her mouth to reply. Then, she immediately closed it again, realizing she didn’t know what to reply.

Thomas chuckled, but otherwise stayed silent. They walked on in silence as Nancy reflected on Thomas’ question.

A few minutes later, Nancy said, “It’s not remembering that nothing really matters. As I guess you guessed. It’s the sense of wonder I feel. Nature is such a complex system. And yet also so simple. I always feel awed at how everything works together so well.”

She fell silent again. And, again, Thomas gave her space to continue her reflections.

A few moments later, she said, “That’s what I get from running and music, too. That sense of wonder.”

“What else evokes wonder for you?”

“That’s a good question. I don’t have an answer right now. I get where you’re going, however: wonder is a critical resource for me.”

“It certainly seems to be,” Thomas agreed. “Working out—flexing my muscles—isn’t just exercise for me. It’s about testing my boundaries. My limits. Something about that replenishes me.”

“No wonder you do so well with the engineers. They’re always pushing the boundaries you set regarding schedule and scope.”

Thomas snorted. “I’m not sure that’s always replenishing. And, something about pushing my physical limits fills me in a way I don’t know how to describe yet.”

“The way running for me isn’t about physically running, but instead the wonder I feel when I run.”


Replenishing your resources supports your play

“I understand, now, why your web searches about defining play led you to all this information about sustaining movement. We must replenish our resources to have the energy to play.”

“And, whatever play means to us, it probably involves whatever replenishes our resources.”

“That makes sense. Soccer always leaves me energized. Even if I go in feeling completely drained. Basketball, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite. I’ve never liked basketball much. And I’ve always loved soccer.”

“So, now you know why I said flexing at the gym helps me flex my preferences.”

“Yes, I get it now. Flexing at the gym replenishes your resources. Which you can then expend flexing outside your preferences for interacting with the world.”

Thomas and Nancy were almost back to the park entrance. And thus almost back to the noise of the street.

“Keep me updated on your search to define what play means to you,” Nancy requested. “I’m curious what other unexpectedly illuminating rabbit holes you’ll go down.”

“Will do. And please let me know what you find in your search for what else evokes wonder. Otherwise, I’ll forever be wondering.”

Nancy laughed out loud as they headed out into the street.

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