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10 Ways to Be the Person You Wanted to Be as a Kid

Lori Swinging

“While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” ~Angela Schwindt

When you’re young, anything seems possible. Whether you want to become a school teacher, a ballerina, or an astronaut, it all feels within your reach.

And you so easily get excited by it.

You can visualize in vivid detail what it would be like to hold your roses at curtain call, or how proud you’ll feel when you save the day—as a fireman, a soldier, or maybe even a superhero. You pretend your way through different roles and stay open to different ideas of who you are.

You might know what you like and don’t, and you probably aren’t afraid to vocalize it, but you haven’t yet learned how to get stuck in your ways. You’re too curious for that. That would be boring.

Though you knew back then that sticks and stones might break your bones but names could never hurt you, you did get hurt sometimes. You cried when a bully teased you, or you couldn’t get something you wanted.

But the next day you were back swinging and giving underdogs at the playground, smiling and dreaming new dreams again.

Then life happened. Maybe time and experience taught you to worry, fear, and limit yourself, and you slowly became a person younger you wouldn’t want to play with. You started playing by rules that no one even gave you. You stopped imagining possibilities and believing that you could meet them.

And worst of all, you started thinking that it’s something the world did to you—not something you choose, moment to moment.

You might not be able to scale buildings or become the king of the world, but you can still be that person you wanted to be as a kid. You can still see the world with wonder. You can still believe in magic, and create it.

This is how you start:

1. Play.

That’s how you learned back then. You explored and tried on different hats, and rarely said the word “can’t” unless your mom was calling you in for dinner. If something sounded fun, you were game.

Open up to fun again. Be silly, playful, creative, curious, excited, adventurous, and open. Give your overworked adult mind a break and enjoy experimenting. Finding new possibilities isn’t a cerebral experience. The only way to create a life that will bring you joy is to use your joy as a compass.

2. Invite the new kid to your table at lunch.

Okay, maybe you didn’t do this one. We all wanted to belong back then, and that usually meant staying with the group. But sometimes it backfired on you. Sometimes the new kid was fun. Sometimes the new kid was a great friend. Sometimes the new kid had parents who rented bounce houses for their birthdays.

If you only allow yourself to interact with people you know and trust, your world will remain small, albeit manageable. You never know what experiences new acquaintances might introduce you to—and you never know when an acquaintance may turn into a friend that feels like home.

3. Don’t ditch gym class.

It was in the curriculum for a reason: it’s good for you. Shocker, I know! Dodge ball was more than just an opportunity to knock your friends out and be the last kid standing. It got your blood pumping, gave you an energy outlet, and increased your overall health.

You can’t do anything in life if you’re too sluggish to get off your couch. This is nothing new—we all know that exercise is good for us. If you need additional motivation not to sit on the bench, consider these hidden benefits of exercise: research has shown even moderate exercise can boost the immune system and prevent chronic illness.

4. Don’t jump off a bridge just because your friends are doing it.

You don’t want to think of people you love as negative, complacent, or stagnant, but many of them probably are. Thoreau said the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation—and as bleak as that may sound, there’s some truth to it. The majority of people don’t do what they want to do, and feel most comfortable surrounding themselves with similar people.

Don’t be a similar person. Love and accept them as they are, but decide to do it differently. There’s no good reason to be quietly desperate when you can be boldly satisfied. That’s not to say achieving what you want will be easy; but you will respect and admire yourself more when you’re actively living out loud, if not yet in results, in the process.

5. Realize you really can paint your bunny green.

Back then, you picked any color crayon you wanted just because you liked it. You experimented and got creative, even if everyone else went the traditional route. You didn’t know it was thinking outside the box because you never thought to stay inside it. You just did what was fun and exciting.

You might not have the luxury of picking the green crayon in all areas of your life. Sometimes you have to do work you don’t want to do to get you from A to B. But you can keep your crayon handy, and make little changes that allow you more freedom down the line. Believe in the picture you visualize and you’ll impress yourself making it reality.

6. Do your homework first.

You might not have loved that part of being a kid, but if you got good grades, odds are you did your homework after school. You put in the time, got it over with, and then said yes when your best friend asked you to come out to play.

Succeeding in life is no different. You have to put in the time, and consistently. You can’t crack open your book once in a blue moon and then expect to win the spelling bee. That’s just not how it works. Commit to the process you’ve chosen to seize your dreams. Whatever you say you’re going to do—write, network, make calls—do it a little every day. Consistency creates momentum creates magic.

7. Ask why the sky is blue.

My mother used to have a magnet on her refrigerator that read “Ask your teen now, while she still knows everything.” Before you hit puberty, you didn’t know everything, and knew it. You asked all kinds of ridiculous questions because you didn’t think they were ridiculous. Not asking and not learning—that was ridiculous.

Don’t be afraid to ask why, when, where, or how. You might not look all-knowing or genius, but the truth is, no one thinks you are. The jig is up! You can either pretend you have all the answers and annoy people, or acknowledge that you don’t and allow yourself to learn more of them.The latter gives you more opportunities to understand the world and grow within it.

8. Find excuses to have parties.

Nothing broke up the monotony of a school day like a punch-and-cupcake party. The kind that starts at recess and bleeds into the afternoon math lesson. The type that makes kids with hall passes poke their heads in and wonder why they’re not having fun, too.

As adults we immerse ourselves in striving and wait for reasons to celebrate—to pull out the good china, the good wine, the good life. Don’t wait. Celebrate a non-event whenever you can. Rejoice when you do something well and feel proud. Involve your friends when it’s a sunny day and you can’t wait to enjoy it. As John Petit-Senn said, not what you have but what you enjoy constitutes abundance.

9. Prefer not being punished.

I know, it sounds ridiculous. No one likes missing out or feeling bad, right? And yet we set ourselves up to hurt all the time as adults. We stay in relationships and situations that don’t serve us because it’s safer than walking away, because moderately painful and familiar is more bearable than the unknown.

Don’t punish yourself. Don’t stay alone, don’t stay stuck in a miserable situation, don’t stay because you’re scared to walk away. Don’t beat yourself up for mistakes you made. You don’t deserve to hurt, and you don’t have to. You deserve to let your pain go.

10. Believe in magic.

You can’t re-convince yourself that Santa exists, or pretend the walking mouse at Disney is really Mickey. And you shouldn’t want to. Real magic doesn’t lie in creating imaginary realities; it happens when you actively choose to create miracles right here, in the world as it actually is.

Miracles happen every day. People change for the better. People change their ideas of what’s possible. People change the world. Believe in yourself. Believe in your power. Believe you make a difference. You do. And you can do it more. You can leave the world a better place than you found it. You can be the magic that lit up your eyes as a child.

We may have dreamed of castles and flying carpets as kids, but what we really wanted was a lot simpler: We wanted adventure, possibility, fun, and a few good friends to share it with. Regardless of how your life looks now, you can have those things. It starts with how you choose to be today, and what you choose to do with what you have.

Want to come out to play?

Photos hereand here

*That’s a recent picture of me swinging away in Lake Tahoe. If this post seems familiar, you may have read it when I first published it in 2010.

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series and co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you change your life. She's now seeking stories for her next book, 365 Tiny Love Challenges from Tiny Buddha. Click here to share your story and follow on Facebook for inspiring posts and wisdom quotes.

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  • http://www.everydaylifeandbalance.com/ Jackie Lee

    What a great post. I have an almost 4 year old and it's STILL so easy to forget all these great lessons! I personally need to remember to play and paint things green. Thanks for the reminder!!

  • http://twitter.com/LaughterYogaPDX molly dilg

    So fundamental, so important, so quickly forgotten and taken for granted.
    I recently discovered the benefits of Laughter Yoga. What a great way to put PLAY into your day!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Awesome! It's so good for the soul to be around kids. I worked at an after school program all through high school and college, and I think I learned as much there as I did in the classroom.

    Thanks again and Happy Monday =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That sounds amazing! I practice, but I've never tried laughter yoga. I'm going to look into that =)

  • http://www.shelvialoveridge.com/ shelvia

    WOW! Such a well written article.. and so true. THANK YOU!

  • Deidra

    Amazing article!! Beautifully written truth! I leave it feeling inspired!

  • rolandosandor

    Very timely Lori…very timely! Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank YOU and you're welcome!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Awesome! I hope you're having a beautiful Tuesday =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I'm glad you like it Rolando!

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  • RawAction

    awesome

  • RawAction

    awesome

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  • remi

    I love you Lori

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Ha! Thank you Remi =)

  • http://www.essentiecoaching.nl Hans

    How inspiring, and all so true! In essence it all comes down to being open to everything life has to offer, and go through it as a joyfull playing child. Which writer ever said: “we don’t stop playing because we grow old, but we grow old because we stop playing”. Thanks Lori for sharing all your insights!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Hi Hans~ I’m glad you enjoyed this post! I love that quote. It’s one of my favorites. =)

  • http://www.bigiqkids.com/ Spelling Games

    Step # 11: DENIAL

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    Haha, interesting ways.

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  • http://twitter.com/narcos_88 MarcosAF Gonzàlez F

    you make my day THANKS A LOT :)

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  • Kelly

    Love this: “There’s no good reason to be quietly desperate when you can be boldly satisfied.” Eloquently stated and TRUE!
    Have you ever experienced resentment from the quietly desperate for being openly happy?

  • Gretchen

    This is one of the best, most genuine, most inspiring articles I have ever read, so much so that I am commenting and complementing for the first time, even though there are many Tiny Buddha articles that have a profound impact on me. My favorite line that left me in tears from being moved was, ” You can be the magic that lit up your eyes as a child.” That goes along with the idea that each one of us is important and can be superheroes in our own ways and attitudes that we choose. Thank you so incredibly much for this article and this website! :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome! =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Indeed I have–and I have also been that person feeling resentful (for most of my teens and early 20s). Nothing empowered me more than realizing happiness is a choice!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome, Gretchen. I’m glad this article inspired you to say hello. It’s a pleasure to connect with you. =)

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  • Thanks ,,

    When your a kid the biggest worry is just to go outside and play,, yes the good old days.

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  • friend forever

    wow Lori! Its an amazing article. I think children are the simplest beings of the world and their innocence is so magical. Children naturally exhibit and have all those qualities we lose as adults- curiosity, a sense of wonder, amazement, laughter. All these are such precious gifts in life!

    Thank u for sharing the article and reminding us about the magic and wonder of our childhood and being a child!

    Have a fun and magical day!

  • John

    Inspired. Thank you!

  • Bella

    I love this. Sometimes I feel extremely nostalgic about my childhood and wish I could go back to that simpler time of ignorance and bliss. I may not be able to erase the knowledge and understanding of the world that I’ve accumulated over the years, but, you’re right: it doesn’t have to govern the amount of bliss I choose to experience each day. Maybe I’ll go climb a tree after work! :)

  • Amna

    :))

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    I sometimes miss that childlike wonder too. My boyfriend told me one of his keys to happiness is creating and embracing “moments of awe,” and I think there’s something to that. Every time I let myself be curious about and amazed by the world, I remember what it’s like to experience life as a kid!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome! I love what you wrote at the end. I hope you’ve had a fun and magical day as well! =)

  • Elena

    Thanks for the inspiring words, Lori! I remember believing in having magic in me and that I can do just about anything if I just focus really hard and put my mind to it. Somehow, somewhere along the way in the 20 years that followed I managed to lose this magical power and I am now trying to slowly re-gain it back. Reading your article was a good reminder of what I would be missing if I neglect to let the magic back in!

  • Dochy

    Lori!!!! This is SUCH an A.W.E.S.O.M.E article!!! Something I swear by each day of my life! :) No, I wasn’t always like this; I’ve had my share of lows and downs in the 20 odd years on earth, but I realized quite sometime ago that all I need to do to be my best, is to live my mental age, without fear about what the people around me will think/say! My mental age being 6!!! :)

    This made me start doing a whole lot of things that the mature me wouldn’t have had the guts to try! Simple things to life chaging ones – like most recently (its still on!) I decided to create some fun at my workplace; what with it being March which is my financial year end and everyone being so caught up in super hectic work and not ahving time to even smile! So I decided to plant a smile on each one’s face, each day till the end of Mrch. What did I do? I printed out cute notes describing one awesome trait I love in each person and ananymously pin it up on his/her desk, without anyone noticing, each morning! (yes, I do come early for this!) For the first one week, not much hassle was created, but on the seventh day, GOSH!!! The whole office was talking about this sweetheart who was placing cute notes all over!!! And about how we can find out who it is! And how everyone wants a note soon!!!

    Believe me, it rocks!!! :) Being a kid rocks! And your article ROCKS! :) Thanks Lori for such a wonderful article! :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Elena. I’m glad this reminded you to keep opening up to that magic! =)

  • Vijayalakshmi04

    Lovely article Lori! Loved this one!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • friend forever

    I wish that every day of every person’s life is fun filled and magical one! :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    That’s awesome, that you do that for your coworkers. I bet they really appreciate that. YOU rock! =)

  • Vishnu

    hey Lori – yes, I think play is super important and we forget to do it when we grow up. And your last sentence about using joy as a compass is exactly what we did as kids. We did things that brought us joy and happiness and did more of that. We liked climbing trees so we did. We rode our bikes to feel the wind in our hair. Liked going swimming so we did and tried to fill more of our lives doing what we enjoyed. And we were encouraged more to do those things. Later, we and the people around us tell us to get serious and stop “playing” around. Ironic that our happiest times were when we were allowed and encouraged to play but then we are told not too:) and to take life more seriously.

    Thanks for this article which resonated for a lot of us.

  • http://www.sixsimplerules.com/ David Singer/SixSimpleRules

    Great article Lori. Excellent! thank you :)
    Best regards,

    David

  • http://twitter.com/Grownupkidsonly Joanna Warwick

    Lori, this one of those posts I wish I had written ;) I am all over this – Yes,yes, yes !!!

  • http://ponderthepreposterous.wordpress.com/ Kate Britt

    I do! I do! I do! (want to come out and play)!
    Thanks, Lori, for the reminder to be spontaneous and have fun.
    Love your 10 suggestions! They are echos of the parental advice I got as a child,
    when it was so easy to just be child-like naturally. Moment of appreciation for parents, now long dead but still greatly appreciated.

    One thing I’m enjoying about being a “senior” is that it’s so much easier to get away with being child-like. Fewer expectations from other people and the world around me provide the freedom to be more of Me and less of Should-Be. When I was middle-aged I fell in love with the poem ‘When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple’. Hung a copy of it on my wall. It stood as a reminder of who I really am inside and an encouragement to let Me out! I’m happy to report that I do now wear purple and I’m now leading a very happily SILLY life.

    As always, Lori, I’m so amazed and proud of you that you’ve come to these realizations, this knowledge, while you’re young and still have tons of time to reap the benefits. AND that the invention of the internet enables you to share all this wisdom with the world. How great (and fun) is that!!

  • http://ponderthepreposterous.wordpress.com/ Kate Britt

    Oh ya, and I really like that photo… it’s you, isn’t it?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tim.s.mcauley Tim Mcauley

    I love this one!!

    Now I’m going to brainstorm what to call tonight’s celebration.

  • susan

    Beautiful just beautiful!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thank you Susan!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Tim! Have a great night. =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome–and thank you! =)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Glad you liked it Joanna!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome! I love what you wrote here: “More of Me and less of Should-Be.” I think that’s a great way to live at every age! And as for wearing purple, it’s actually my favorite color. =)

    And as for the photo, that is me! I was in Lake Tahoe a couple weeks ago, and I loved that I could swing on a beach AND stare at beautiful snow-capped mountains.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Vishnu! I loved climbing trees and riding my bike…and I spent most of my summer days in a two-foot pool with my cousins. Being outside and being with them, I had everything I needed!

  • Arden

    Just what I needed today as I’m off on a bike ride. Lovely. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • KG

    Fantastic article. This will be printed out for the wall. Thank you Lori. X

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You are most welcome! =)

  • http://freehappiness.in/ Chetan Sharma

    Sometimes I read an article and all I do is, say a big thanks in my mind to the writer for sharing his/her thoughts with me. This article was one of them!
    Thanks a lot Lori.. :)

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re welcome Chetan!

  • http://seriouslymachine.blogspot.com/ Sarah

    Love this, and the photo! I have such wonderful memories of Tahoe and instantly recognized where you were!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks Sarah. I love it there!

  • randyh

    Great article!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    Thanks so much!

  • Brittany Purrington

    This is great! It made me realize why I feel so different than the people in my life. I already see my friends getting stuck in their lives. They’re picking the path that society wants, and since I haven’t done that, I’ve felt different, like a failure. Thank you for writing this. It gives me hope and confidence to continue being my curious self.

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Brittany! I’ve felt that same thing many times before, as I’ve often gone against the grain. I’m glad this was helpful to you! =)

  • Buta

    Thanks for this. I hope I can go on to use this advice effectively. I’m very bad at remembering how to play in the way that goes on to me becoming creative – something that I sorely miss.

    I love the green bunny bit btw. It bought a huge smile to my face.
    I’d paint it pink and yellow with cyan blue eyes. ;)

  • Buta

    Thanks for commenting Brittany. Like you, I’m surrounded by loved ones and acquaintances that lead very different lives to me which often leaves me feeling down because I then have trouble finding others to relate to. May we both find success! :) Best wishes!

  • Nik Jones

    Yes ! I DO want to come out to play. Seems most of the people around me aren’t free enough to enjoy playing, they’ve all grown up to a point where they won’t let themselves go. I love doing stupid things, drawing stupid pictures, saying the wrong things, learning how to skateboard at the age of 36, I don’t care – but I’d like some people to share it with :) Thanks Lori for this article, very liberating!

  • http://twitter.com/lori_deschene Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome, Nik! Drawing stupid pictures is one of my favorite things to do, and I’m a natural at saying the wrong things ;)