Just Kidding

Are we smarter than 5th graders? Let me rephrase the question, are we more creative now then when we were kids? As the age-old theory goes, the older we get, the smarter and wiser we become. This theory makes a world of sense. Right?

Growing up means attending school and through that, getting an education. Growing up means experiencing what life has to offer and learning from the various obstacles we encounter along the way. Growing up means eventually having to take care of yourself by making enough smart decisions, and money, to get by. Growing up, especially post college, means entering the real world and enjoying suffering through it. Growing up sucks!

All of our lives, parents, teachers, coaches, employers, police officers, etc praise, or at least don’t punish, our increasingly grown-up behavior. Follow the rules, get good grades, complete work-out schedules, do your job, don’t speed (too much) and you’ll be rewarded. These rewards are generally pretty lame in that you often only earn the right not to be scolded but you like it nonetheless. Sadly, that makes you a grown up, so enjoy it(!) sucker….

Child’s Play

Fast-forward to today and think about the last time you were rewarded for acting childish. Was it the last time you attempted to be creative? Was it the last time you needed to approach a problem from a different angle and it required the lens of your inner child? Or, was it when you acted like a fool with your friends in order to show how fun and carefree you are, or at least wished you were?

The fact is, the reward of acting like the child you always weren’t supposed to be as a grown up is now encouraged. For example, whenever I cleaned my room as a 5-year-old, I was given the reward of extra play time. Now, as a grown up, I am equally rewarded for thinking like a 5-year-old, since that involves divergent thinking that is inherently childlike. How confusing!

Somehow we aren’t supposed to grow up too fast yet at some point we aren’t supposed to be so grown up that our inner child has been placed in a permanent time out. It’s a classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario. The only difference is that as a grown up you are increasingly aware of the world around you, so you must think through everything. Your curiosity has waned, your naivety diminished and your sense of wonder is fleeing as you act according to your age and reap the benefits struggles.

Foster Care

Since the past is behind us, the only option is to move forward and control what you can. It is important to foster whatever child you have left. Your child must be nurtured, paid attention to and, most importantly, taken out of the corner and given the spotlight. The ideas, thoughts, questions and foolish innocence are needed to break out of the boxed world we live in.

It is important to stop making checklists, ignore your routine and just let loose. Allow yourself to be foolish and reward yourself for being a child. Acting foolishly might be all the reward you need, but you won’t know until you try it. If you have small children, you likely already get a daily dose childlike exuberance, but never forget that YOU need to be the child as well.

Twinkle Twinkle little you

If you need a task to get you started, as most grown ups do, try any of the following. In cursive, write a letter to the 5-year-old you and in it promise yourself that you will be more childlike. Or, wake up early on Saturday morning and watch cartoons aimlessly for at least an hour – be immersed! Or just simply make something using only construction paper, scissors, crayons and tape. What you create is not important…

What is important for any so-called task is the process. Taking a break from your hectic life to focus on something, anything, that is seemingly unimportant is freeing. Ignoring the mundane to-do list will give your brain a break and give you an opportunity to think freely. The freer you are, the more likely you are to rediscover the innately creative child within.

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