Editor's letter: Payal Kadakia on how to make play everyday

Introducing our second Spotlight series of 2018 - how to make play everyday - is dancer, entrepreneur and our new guest editor Payal Kadakia. Here Payal explains why we should embrace the idea of play at every stage of our lives, using it to fuel creativity and maintain wellbeing.

I fell in love with dance at the age of three and never looked back. It became intertwined with my identity, inseparable with my vision of myself.

In our society, kids are expected to discover their skills and explore their passions. Sports, dance, art, drama and music are considered to be foundational for our social-emotional, physical and intellectual growth. Our parents, instructors and coaches pave the way by emphasising these activities and encouraging us to develop these skills. For the lucky few, these activities not only consume our days; they also nourish our souls.

But then we grow up.

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Once we graduate into the real world, society expects us to suddenly shift our priorities. We’re expected to just abruptly drop the activities which dominated our lives for so long. Squeezing even an hour or two each week into maintaining these passions becomes arduous at best. After all, play is for kids.

As grown-ups, we’re expected to be serious. We’re expected to work hard and fulfil our many grown-up obligations. We’re expected to devote ourselves to others - friends, kids, parents, co-workers, bosses, spouses, anyone but ourselves. Unfortunately for many of us, dropping our passions means losing a bit of ourselves. It can damage our identity, our sense of self, and our very joie de vivre.

Why should we suddenly have to drop our passions just because we grow up? Who says grown-ups shouldn’t make time for play?

I say we should. Play is for all of us, adults included.

As adults we can play and still be incredible friends, parents, children, co-workers, employees and spouses. In fact, I argue that by carving out some time to nourish our souls, we improve our capacity to fulfil these other important roles because we’re happier and more content with our lives, and we possess more joy to share with others.

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This belief in the fundamental importance of play underlies the company I founded. ClassPass is an app that enables people to attend all sorts of fitness classes - anything from kickboxing and strength training to ballet, Pilates, swimming or yoga, all from the convenience of their phones. So far our members have booked 45 million classes through our platform. That’s 45 million hours of their lives they’ve reclaimed for themselves by engaging in the activities they love.

I first came up with the idea for ClassPass years ago when I was working in a job that I felt was pulling me away from dance. I believe that when you give up on your passion - in my case dance - that you lose your sense of purpose. Without purpose, no job can ever feel right.

After graduating from college, I worked in consulting, which was not at all amenable to dance or any other activity dependent upon predictability. I couldn’t stick to a practice schedule or even commit to performances. Without dance, I felt lost. It was a big decision, but I realised I needed to quit.

In my next job, I worked in a major music studio. You’d think that would be a good environment for creativity. But there, too, I felt a void in my creative soul.

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Play in action: Payal on stage in Boston with Richard Branson and Tyler Haney

In an attempt to revitalise my spirit, I decided to sign up for a ballet class to take after work. To my shock, the sign-up process was terrible. I spent hours scouring the web looking for classes, trying to understand what was available where. I didn’t want to be locked down to a specific teacher or type of class. I wanted the freedom to try anything, and I wanted it to be easy.

Today in addition to serving as founder and chairman of ClassPass, I’m also the founder and creative director of the Sa Dance Company. I’ve found that as long as I maintain dance in my life, I’m invigorated and able to succeed in the other realms that matter. With my love of dance nourished, I can succeed at almost anything; without it I’m flat and empty.

I also realise that I’m one of the lucky few. I found my passion at an early age and never let go. My wish is for everyone to continuously find passions that inspire them to conquer their dreams.

I encourage everyone to rediscover their inner child, to find those enriching experiences that feed their souls. We all deserve a little play - grown-ups included.

This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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