In my ongoing quest to figure out this thing called adulthood, and, more specifically, what I’m going to be when (if ever) I grow up, I’ve read book after book, listened to hours of podcasts, and examined the lives of successful, influential people. While my methods have proved helpful, I recently realized I had been overlooking a gold mine of wisdom and inspiration, and it had been right in front of me all along.
I’m convinced that children possess some of the most valuable and essential qualities necessary for living an awesome, amazing life! We would do well to learn as much as possible from them, before they become too tainted by what we “smart” grown ups call reality!
It’s almost impossible to observe kids at play and not feel a little envious. Don’t we all secretly long for those days of innocence and child-like wonder? Remember back when everything was new and exciting? When every day was an adventure? When you really believed you could be anything or anybody you set your mind to? Remember when you had an imagination?
I’m convinced it is one of the most powerful gifts with which we are created. It gives us the ability to dream, to create, to challenge the limits of possibility. Paradoxically, when misdirected, it can also cripple us with fear and doubt. Nothing else can be as liberating or as limiting as what we believe.
Recently, one of our granddaughters was spending the night with us. My wife had sent her back to the bedroom to get her toothbrush and pajamas. She returned a minute later, empty handed. She said she couldn’t go in there because it was dark and she was scared. My wife lovingly explained that there was nothing in the dark to be afraid of, to which she replied, “Uh-huh, my imagination!” Even at 4 years old, she knew that what she could imagine was powerful enough to keep her from accomplishing her mission. Conversely, that same powerful imagination enables her to create amazing “just pretend” stories, and play for hours in whatever “make believe” world she can dream of. It also gives her the ability to say, with complete confidence, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a chef and a mermaid!” Somehow I believe her!
Somewhere along the way, we seem to lose this precious gift. Oh, we can still imagine the worst case scenarios in vivid, high definition detail. We label this as fear, anxiety, uncertainty, or worry. Call it what you will, the end result is still the same. We, like my granddaughter, refuse to go into that dark room. I shudder to think of the missed opportunities and dreams I’ve given up on, all because of misdirected imagination. One of my favorite writers, Andy Andrews, offers a great perspective on this principle: “What we believe is so powerful, it is absolutely impossible to achieve beyond it.”
On the other hand, what amazing things could we achieve if we could somehow regain that sense of child-like wonder? What if we were no longer afraid to ask “What if?” I think it’s possible to set aside our self doubt and insecurities, and start to dream again. If we’re going to tell these little kids that they can be anything they want to be, maybe we should also start selling ourselves on the same notion! At 51 years old, I started to imagine that I could make a difference in the world! I began to wonder, “What if sharing my experience could change someone’s life?” I decided I could pretend to be a writer! Crazy isn’t it?!
So what’s holding you back? What are you waiting for? Who told you it was ok to stop dreaming? Give yourself permission today to start playing make believe again! Come up with something crazy! There’s no telling what you could do…