Lately I have been thinking a lot about playfulness and performance, which are two different ways we can approach the world. Both are necessary, but they must be kept in balance.
When we are playful, we become joyfully caught up in the moment, focused on what we are doing for its own sake, rather than focusing merely (or primarily) on what we gain from the activity.
The fancy word for this is autotelic. Something which is autotelic is an end in itself.
We are present with ourselves and the activity, enjoying the process. Our attitude is full of curiosity, openness, and joy.
In playful mode, we connect with our intrinsic worth and know that we are valuable for our own sake.
On the other hand, when we are in performance mode, we look ahead to the future. We focus on what we will achieve later through our current action. The activity we engage in is for the sake of some achievement, rather than for its own sake.
Performance mode focuses on the future and on specific outcomes. Some common characteristics of this attitude are calculation, strategy, and striving.