When you're a kid, you can't wait to grow up. You imagine days filled with absolute freedom with no one telling you what to do, zero homework and unlimited TV time.
But once you're an adult, your perspective shifts. You remember how simple life was when you were young. You may even fantasize about returning to a time without preconceived notions of who you should be and how you should behave.
While the answer to the question of which time of life really is best likely falls somewhere in between being a child and a grown-up, adults could stand to relearn a few things from their younger selves.
You may not be able to abandon all grown-up obligations, but rediscovering your childlike qualities could make your current adult life a lot more fun.
1. Believe anything is possible.
Ask a child what she wants to be when she grows up and you’ll receive an immediate response. Not only will she be able to answer in detail, but she’ll also possess an abundance of confidence in her ability to make it a reality.
A firefighter who’s also a part-time veterinarian? Bring it on! An orthopedist who spends summers performing with the circus? Sure! Why not? From the moment they’re born, children are told they can do and be absolutely anything they choose. And they believe it.
Somewhere along the way, though, adults forget to remind themselves that they're filled with unlimited potential. They also fear failure so much that they become paralyzed at the thought of attempting something new. Children don’t judge their ideas. They approach everything with a "this sounds so crazy it just might work” attitude and, as a result, it usually does.
From brainstorming sessions at work to seeking creative solutions to old challenges, choose to appropriate this optimistic, youthful perspective. And if anyone dares to suggest that you could be wrong with your new, sanguine attitude, make like a child and ask him why. Repeatedly.
2. Acknowledge the power of play.
Kids prioritize play over all else. While the type of recreation may change over time, its importance doesn’t. Lessening the focus on play is something that, instead of preparing people to thrive, holds them back. Adulthood may be serious business, but the most successful adults lead lives filled with an abundance of play.
In fact, Albert Einstein said, “Play is the highest form of research.” So get to researching!
Fancy yourself an athlete? Join an after-work sports team. Need something a little less traditional? Play is all around you just waiting to be discovered. Line dancing, board games, playing tag or watching silly movies — it all counts when done with a group.
Play fosters connection, relieves stress, stimulates creativity and builds trust. It reminds adults of the importance of cooperation in a way traditional, adult-targeted team-building exercises do not.
3. Don't think of anyone as a stranger.
Through the eyes of a child, strangers are simply friends they’ve not yet met. Think about it: When a kid arrives at the park to find it filled with unfamiliar faces, he'll walk up to a group, introduce himself and join in the fun.
Adults marvel at this scenario. “I can't believe he introduced himself that way! He’s so brave.” More than brave or even sociable, this child-like approach to others demands vulnerability. Vulnerability is a trait children possess in abundance. But grown-ups avoid experiences that require vulnerability and make them uncomfortable.
As a result, it's important to make conscious choices to re-acquire this child-like trait. Seek situations that will surround you with strangers/potential new friends (e.g. join a new club or attend a networking event), remind yourself of the importance of being emotionally available and seeking new connections and relationships.
4. Immerse yourself in the moment.
Kids don't simultaneously play with dolls, assemble a LEGO village and paint a picture. They select one activity, embrace that experience and don’t launch into something new until finished with the task at hand. They're masters at mono-tasking, and this full immersion in the moment results in increased happiness.
If adults evaluated their days in terms of productivity, mono-tasking would beat multitasking in that regard, too. At its core, multitasking is a form of distraction. By claiming you're too busy to fully engage in one task at a time, you've constructed a socially acceptable way to not be present.
So stop ruminating about yesterday’s events and pay attention to what’s happening around you. Stop obsessing over work deadlines and living in the future and take action with regards to one thing right now. Stop worrying about an endless to-do list and select one item to complete.
Being engaged increases the quality of any task you're working on. Focused, unwavering attention conserves mental energy you'd squander in the name of multitasking. But your inner child would insist it simply makes everything in life a whole lot more fun.
5. Shed some of your inhibitions.
Kids are role models when it comes to being comfortable in their own skin. From running around the house in their underwear to being fearless on the dance floor, there are myriad ways adulting would be easier if you tapped into this trait.
As adults, shedding inhibitions doesn't mean behaving inappropriately or avoiding responsibilities. It does, however, mean you're capable of tapping into your inner child and presenting your most authentic self.
Research indicates that during periods of improvisation, adult brains de-activate the region which self-censors and turns up the area from which unfiltered creativity flows. At its essence, a lack of inhibition equates to behaving in the manner that feels most natural. It’s refusing to change your actions or opinions out of a fear that you'll be judged.