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We are born explorers. We don’t know the limit of our potential. We keep trying new things like breathing, crawling, grabbing, walking. We try and sometimes cry but we are persistent. We learn a whole new language and how to control the human body. We are fascinated by simple things like empty boxes and why leaves move in the wind or what happens when we chase birds or prod cats and dogs.

We grow up. We learn rules. We get put into boxes. We fit around other people, organisations and systems. We get told that doesn’t work here.

What does it mean to be child like?

child who survivedI think it means a passion to explore, the freedom to try and fail regardless, about having a go, about accepting yourself.

I’ve watched my nephews and nieces grow up. They have a sense of wonder – a smile delights them, they build wild and meaningless structures with lego, they mess with paint and dirt. They have no obsession with tidiness and structure or neat corners. They take pleasure in the simplest things. When very small they are remarkably persistent in reaching things you don’t want them to reach. They care little about consequences.

Of course children lack adult responsibilities and they need us grown ups for boundaries and consequences. But they know how to play and how to be free. They don’t get stressed. They don’t think in terms of measurable outcomes. They get frustrated but only for very short amounts of time. They have a go because they don’t believe consequences matter. They live by the moment and they give themselves time and space.

So what can we learn and how can we be child like?

Live in the moment – notice what is happening around you, smell the flowers, see the sunset, forget, if only for a while, your responsibilities. You are neither a machine nor an output producing being.

  1. Don’t worry what anyone thinks. Whether you are playing with lego, drawing, dancing or creating a new project, realise no one really cares how good you are or what it looks likes. Stop being so judgemental and self-critical.
  2. Let go. Find a place to shriek or let off steam. Cry, run, shout, scream. It works for toddlers. Probably not wise to bawl your eyes out in the office though…
  3. Get better at something without caring about the consequences. Learn something for the hell of it rather than because it matters. Enjoy the skill rather than the learning objective.
  4. Be you. No really. We are who we are. We can all be different or better but sometimes we just need to accept ourselves and stop worrying about self improvement for a while.

So that’s how to be child like. And kids, if you’re reading this in 15 years time, I’ve just called it as I saw you at the time.

By Dr Simon Davey

Childlike qualities

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