Provided they haven’t experienced powerful trauma, kids are naturally very skillful at enjoying life. In the healthiest situations they are excited by their fears; they want to stay up and hear the scary campfire story that will keep them up all night terrified. They believe they can do anything. And every experience is met with wonder. And they grow and grow and grow.
You don’t limit yourself to the expected when you’re a kid. You see more possibility. And we could argue that those odds are long, and yet it is also true that even long odds are ultimately true sometimes. So you can live in a boring world where houses get boarded up because people die, or you can live where kids live; where houses are boarded up because they’re haunted. Waves are sea serpents, basements contain boogeymen, and all meteor’s are spaceships. When we’re young we go into every situation anticipating adventure.
As we age repetitive experiences limit our imagination. If we’re abused long enough we’ll start to actually seek out abuse because that’s all we can fit into our highly limited imagination. And yet our child-mind is still alive within us. We still maintain the ability to see things another way.
Think of the people you know. The freest ones are the ones who are willing to offer the craziest solutions. They just never say die. There’s always good news somewhere and they’re just as pleased to search for it as find it. Other friends see gloom and doom at every corner. They see the worst in others. They see lots of limits, lots of reasons that things can’t happen.
If you don’t believe something’s possible you won’t take the steps to see that thing happen in your life. If you think you’ll never have friends because everyone hates you, then you’ll never have friends because you never met anyone–because you guessed they’d all hate you when only some of them would. But even they would only hate you out of confusion.
Your friends wouldn’t love you more than your enemies, they would just see you more clearly. So even friendship is a childlike thing that we do less of as we age. When we’re young we’re more prepared to assume someone might be the source of good experiences but by the time we’re older we just sit in judgment all the time and then wonder why we don’t have more fun.
Your life is a set of beliefs about things you think can’t happen or have to happen, but those beliefs are not the actual world they’re just your idea of it. People’s lives change every day, but in most cases it was because they actually began doing something different. The different thing you can do is truly monitor your judgments about things and find your own limits within those judgments. Again: those limitations are not the world, those are ideas you have and they prevent you from experiencing all that life has to offer. Be more childlike.
Study your own limits. Ask yourself how you’ve actually changed since you were a child. What things did you think were possible that you talked yourself out of? Open yourself up to more possibility. Imagine a life bigger than the current you could ever deserve. You can have something bigger than that. People certainly call Elon Musk’s dreams crazy but does he care? He doesn’t have the time/thought-space to think about their judgments: he’s too busy building a spaceship!
Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.