“Great is the human who has not lost his childlike heart.” ~Mencius
Remember when life was simple?
When your friends were the most important thing in the world. When a snow day was a perfect excuse to have fun, not a block of time when you felt guilty about being unproductive.
When the ice cream truck could make your day, no matter what happened before. Bad grade? Big deal—it’s snow cone time. Skinned knee—who cares, you have a screwball!
If only you could bottle that sense of freedom, fun, and enthusiasm for the little things, you could carry it in your responsible adult pocket and take a swig when you started taking everything too seriously.
I don’t know about you, but mine would be in a glass vial embellished with red, pink, and purple swirleys, topped with a water globe stopper that had a palm tree in it. (Yeah—that’s right!)
Maybe we don’t need some major departure from business as usual to stop being stuffy and start being childlike (which can actually help you become more innovative, in case sheer joy isn’t motivation enough).
I’ve compiled a list of ideas to be more childlike today. I chose thirty-three because it’s the house number where my parents live, and it’s because of them I am the best couch cushion fort maker on both the east and west coasts. Enjoy:
1. Read a book you loved as a kid. My book of choice: Oh the Places You Will Go by Dr. Seuss.
2. Figure out how something works, even if it’s irrelevant to your life, just because it’s interesting. Go ahead—Google “how fish breathe” or something you don’t fully understand.
3. Fill out your own permission slip to go to the aquarium, a museum, or a nearby tourist attraction. If something looks interesting, take a break and go!
4. Do something fun. Make a Lego village, pull out the coloring book, or jump rope.
5. Explore. Walk around your block without any intention. Just see what’s going on, maybe even using a big fallen branch as a walking stick.
6. Run or skip if you feel like it. Flail your arms, like Phoebe in my favorite episode of Friends.
7. Be silly. Look for funny things in your day—they’re always there—and let yourself laugh about them.
8. Try a new look. Think the kid from Adam Sandler’s Big Daddy, when he dressed himself, but a little less ridiculous.
9. Remember something awesome and call a friend to share it. (i.e.: ‘Member the time we made pizza for breakfast? That was awesome, huh?)
10. Tell someone they’re your hero. If you admire what they do, look right in their eyes and say, “I think you’re pretty awesome.”
11. Be a know it all. Tell someone about something you learned today and get excited about sharing it.
12. Tell it like it is. Don’t be a liar, liar, pants on fire. As Dr. Seuss said, “Say what you mean and mean what you say because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”
13. Be vulnerable. Tell someone how you feel or what you really want to be when you grow up, without making them pinky swear to take it to the grave.
14. Share a meal with people around a table, even if it isn’t a special occasion, like that Norman Rockwell painting families often recreate.
15. Tell your mom and dad (or favorite relative) you love them. Call them right now and say it for no reason other than it being true.
16. Make a spontaneous play date. Invite people over right now, for no reason but to have fun, even if you have plans scheduled for the weekend with them.
17. Eat lunch on a rock with a friend. You don’t need a restaurant or a cafeteria. Channel the good old days from camp when a little sand in your PB & J meant a lunchtime adventure.
18. Ask for help if you need it. Just like you used to pull your desk next to someone else’s to read along, walk up to someone you trust and let them be there for you.
19. Tap into your innocence—meaning give someone the benefit of the doubt, as if you don’t know yet to be cynical.
20. Make a card by hand to give to someone you care about. As Pablo Picasso said, “All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
21. Get messy when you’re cooking. Not tomato-sauce-on-the-ceiling-fan messy. The point is: let loose and enjoy yourself instead of making cooking a chore.
22. Start a piggy bank. Or a coin jar. You don’t need to save big to save, and you never know what little adventures you can have with just a little extra cash.
23. Try a hands-on project from the Be Creative! Adults section of the Creativity Portal, like gum wrapper origami.
24. Assume you’d be really good at something—piano, rock climbing, organizing a club—and then find out instead of assuming the opposite.
25. Sit Indian style in your chair if you’re able. Crossed-legged sitting is actually really good for your posture—an added bonus!
26. Surround yourself with your favorite color. If orange makes you smile, plaster orange pictures all over your cubicle.
27. Cry if you need to. If the day gets difficult, don’t try to be a hero. When you let yourself feel it, you’re better able to let it go.
28. Relax and do nothing. Don’t try to fill that empty pocket of time. You’ve been productive enough. Kick back, cut loose, and let yourself waste a little time. As John Lennon said, “Time you enjoyed wasting was not wasted.”
29. Forget what was tough about yesterday. Why dwell on that fight with your sister when you could be having fun today?
30. Change your mind easily. According to Alison Gopnik, a professor of psychology at the University of California at Berkeley, kids’ brains are extremely flexible, “so they can change what they think based on new evidence very quickly and easily.”
31. Visualize a tomorrow with endless possibilities. Not sure you can be the person you want to be? Read 10 Ways to Be the Person You Wanted to Be as a Kid.
32. Don’t take no for an answer. If there’s something you want to do, be persistent. You can make it happen!
33. Ignore something someone says if it limits you, your potential or your possibilities.
Have anything to add to the list? Go for it. I double dog dare you…