10 September 2006

Connecting with childhood


This time of the year brings the inevitable nostalgia for going back to school. Sometimes we wish we were kids again, cycling through the seasons based on or school schedule. While you may or may not be a student (or wish to), there's good reason to become childlike.

Children share many of the traits that are necessary for creative types. It's ironic that we spend much of our childhood yearning for adulthood, and much of adulthood wishing we had the innocence of children.

Enjoy being an adult and having the best qualities of kids. Use my handy guide to connect with your - I won't say it - you know.

  • Be curious. Forget that you know everything and are the master of knowledge of all things important. Become enamored of questions rather than answers. Some good ones are: What's that like? What if I...? Not knowing is often a better place to be than knowing, and being clueless is an essential part of the creative process.
  • Forget time. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi popularized the concept of 'flow' in his book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Flow is the state where we are so focused that we forget the time. When we're engaged in our creative work, we often find ourselves outside of time. Kids are like this, playing for hours and becoming so absorbed that parents have to repeat their calls to supper. My clients report that this forgetting time is one of the best gifts of doing creative work.
  • Be playful. Allow yourself to be silly and lighthearted. Pretend that you don't have any responsibility and can just enjoy the play of the moment. Make play out of anything, not just games. What if your job were more playful? What would that be like?
  • Allow emotions. When I hear kids crying on the street, I often envy their ability to simply feel and express what's there for them. As adults, we learn to shut away our emotions in favor of looking good or coping. While you may not throw a crying tantrum because you can't have ice cream, you may wish to be more childlike and let yourself feel what you are feeling. Our emotions are a major part of our intelligence, and when we lock them in a dark dungeon, we deprive ourselves of a great part of our human experience.
  • Be limitless. Kids fall in love with new things every day. New interests, people, things to do and see - remember how vast the world was when you allowed yourself to dream? What would you do if you didn't impose limits of time, money and mores on yourself? Another irony is the freedom that seems to come to older people. I've talked to many people who, in the latter part of their lives, throw concerns about what others think out the window and just enjoy themselves. What would be possible for you if you started that right now?
  • Let others take care of you. Sometimes we shut other people out when they offer help. Remember how nice it was to be a kid and have someone else take care of the details? Try sitting in the back seat of control sometimes and let others run the show.
  • Get excited. Allow yourself to go nuts over even the smallest pleasures. When we become jaded and rush past all the good stuff, we lose the ability to savor life. Be excited about new discoveries in your art.
  • Be spontaneous. We're so over-planned these days, even the kids. Give yourself time each week - each day even - to let something unexpected happen.

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