“Some people discard their childhood like an old hat.
They forget about it like a phone number that’s no longer valid.
They used to be kids, then they became adults – but what are they now?
Only those who grow up but continue to be children are humans.”
― Erick Kästner
We all look back at our childhood as a beautiful period with no stress, no duties and no problems in general. Surely our memory isn’t totally realistic, we all know our mind manipulates the past enhancing the good things and putting apart the bad ones, but this certainly doesn’t mean that the whole beauty of childhood is just a myth.
What you see when you look back to your child age? I see a little boy making his first steps in the world, a boy full of hope and willing to get the best out of every situation. Every day was a new adventure, every place a mysterious land to explore and every situation a good one to be happy and smile.
As a child you enjoy fully all the advantages of your age: you have no duty, you can spend your time doing the things you really want and when you need something everyone tries to help you. Moreover since you rely fully on your parents you actually don’t have any responsibility and thus anxiety or worries.
Is all of this really gone forever? Of course we can’t go back to our childhood, time travel is not possible yet. What we can do instead is to look at the past and try learn from it. As we grow up we learn a lot, but at the same time we forget even more. So just take a 5 minute break and reflect upon your childhood, what can you learn from it? Is there anything you should start doing again?
After doing my own reflection I have found out some typical habits of childhood that I consider worth practising again, keep reading to know more about them.
- Savour life and be amazed by reality. Obviously it’s a lot easier to fully appreciate reality when you are a child, since everything is new, fresh and vibrant. When you see something new you want know everything about it and you pass the whole day celebrating your new discovery. As you see adults doing a strange job you want to imitate them in order to show that you are capable of doing it. You try to savour not only every situation, but also the passing of time: you want to get the best out of every sunny day, you get upset when you see the falling leaves in Autumn, you are amazed by the first snowballs and finally you get excited when you see the plants blossoming again in Spring. As adults instead, we take everything for granted. When we see that summer is getting over we just think “Oh, another summer is gone, I’m getting older”, when we eat our meal we give very little attention to what we are tasting, when we do our job it’s just to make ends meet. But by acting this way we just prevent ourselves from savouring our actions and feelings. Instead we should rediscover the pleasure of daily life. Even if we have lived in the same place for all our life doing exactly the same things there is no reason not to be constantly amazed by what surrounds us. So, when you see a running dog, just stop for a second ad exclaim: “Oh, there is a dog!”, when you eat something be aware of what you are eating, when you see the sunset call your friends so they can appreciate it with you. It’s simple and it takes almost no time, but it makes the difference.
- Don’t be shy, talk to everyone. If you watch a child you will probably notice that he is probably less scared than you by the idea of talking and interacting with strangers. While this can be sometimes dangerous, other times there is no reason to be scared of talking to people we don’t know very well or we don’t know at all. If you really think about it, new encounters are like fresh air to us since they help us growing and having a better understanding of reality. Moreover, if you talk with different people you can develop a wide range of knowledges and therefore become a better speaker. Furthermore if you don’t speak to someone you don’t know you won’t ever have the chance of starting new relationships and, as you perfectly know, relationships add value to our life. So why do we feel so uncomfortable when trying to start a new conversation? Why do we pay attention to the little voice that tells us not to approach a stranger, even if he seems everything but dangerous? The reason is we have grown up. Reflect upon it: in our lives we have faced a lot of different situations and we have learned that sometimes relationships can hurt a lot. Our level of attention is very high, the thing we want the most is not to be hurt again and so we reflect one thousand times before even considering a new approach. A kid instead is most likely fascinated by new encounters and sees them just as a great chance of learning something new. The two approaches are the opposite, the first one is probably too much restrictive, while the second one might lead to dangerous situations. The best solution would probably be in the middle: letting off some of our fears, being less shy, truly appreciating the chance of talking to someone we don’t know yet, while, at the same time, trying not to put ourselves in danger.
- Don’t worry too much about the future, live in the present. For a child the present moment is everything. When he is playing with his favourite toy there’s nothing in the world but that toy, when he tells you something it’s like it is the most important thing in the world, when he decides to start doing something he doesn’t check the time to see if he will be able to complete his task in time. What about us instead? Too often we live to just to fulfil our timetable, we always think about the following task, paying very little attention to what we are doing in the present moment. As we wake up in the morning we rush through our breakfast checking our to-do list, when we are working we think about things we could to during our free time, driving back home we decide what to prepare for dinner, and when we finally we go to bed it’s like we have done nothing but think about what we had to do next. Maybe just in our free time we really focus on the present moment, but that’s not enough. Living in the future is not the way life is meant to be lived. If you keep thinking about what’s next you will get stressed, exhausted, overwhelmed. For sure we all have responsibilities, duties and there are things we really need to get done through our days but this cannot prevent us from giving more attention to the present moment. You can of course check briefly your to-do and plan your following action but then try to focus fully on what you are doing, try to resist any urge to think about something else, try to live every moment as the most important in your life.
- Be creative. Think about it, Children are extremely creative. Every day they come up with a new game, when there is a problem they think about many possible solutions and as for imagination, no one can beat them. Their ideas are sometimes funny or even a bit stupid but of course the more you create, the more you imagine, the more chances you have to come up with something good. Think about you now, do you think you are creative? When did you last use your creativity to solve a daily problem or to overcome a though situation? You might even be very creative compared to your friends, but I bet you hardy use your creativity more than once a day. Don’t feel guilty about it, everyone is just like you. The problem is not in your mind nor in your brain, the problem is related to our lifestyle: we follow our daily routine, we know how to get things done and we have no reason to come up with something new. Moreover if we accidentally think about something different, the first comments that usually pop up in our mind are something like “it won’t ever work”, “if no one thought about it, that means it’s not good” and “it’s better to keep doing like everyone else, it’s safer”. This is one of the most evident differences between us and a child. As we grow up we learn a lot, we deal with many different situations and we start judging everything new as bad. A child instead knows very little and so he has no other way than using his creativeness to face new situations and to overcome new problems. Since he doesn’t know how things are meant to be, he doesn’t judge his ideas and he doesn’t fear to be judged from others. Fear is the real problem. Don’t be scared to come up with something new, don’t discard every new idea as it springs in your mind. Even if your first 99 ideas are rubbish, the 100th can be gold.
- Spend your time doing what you really love. We often complain that young children don’t help at home, don’t listen to our advice and that they should focus more on their duties rather than playing all the time. Nevertheless their behaviour is the most natural. They are aware that some activities bring them happiness, while other might be boring and frustrating and therefore they try to do for most of the time what makes them feel good. And if you watch them carefully, you will also notice another important thing: when they do something they don’t like it seems like they are rushing through it in order to start a more pleasant activity as soon as possible. While instead they are doing something they are interested in, they are deeply involved and there is no way you can get their attention away from it. Their behaviour comes from a very simple 2-steps process of self awareness. The first step is understanding of what makes us happy, of how we would like to spend our time. The second one is acting so that we can spend some time doing what we really love. The problem is that we are often overwhelmed by our work, by activities that we have to do but give us very little pleasure. We can’t even find a few minutes to do what we really would like to be doing and when we finally manage to get some time to do it we are often in a hurry, worried about our next duty. But this has to be changed. It’s not possible to devote our whole life to things that don’t give us pleasure, to keep doing the same things over and over again without any break. If you really like something, then get rid of something useless, start to say “no” to some of your duties, find some time to do it.
- Be genuine, show your emotions. If you agree with the previous points than you will probably realise that there is no reason to be always serious, to suppress every emotion and to constantly wear the mask of the merciless businessman. The ideal of the emotionless man devoted only to his work his pure madness. Imagine living in a world with no emotions: no friendship, no happiness, no love. Would you live in such a world? I won’t. Life would be senseless. And so, what are the reasons not to show what we feel? Why shouldn’t we share with others our feelings? If you are angry than maybe try to let steam off without yelling at people, but if you are happy, if things are going well then be as a child, openly show your happiness, let it spread all around. Smile to the world, you will feel even better.