Over the years, I’ve had many people (co-workers, clients, friends, family members) who have said things to me like “you always seem happy”, “don’t you ever get stressed/tired?”, and my personal favorite – “what does it take to actually get you mad??”. Seriously, people would purposely try to make me mad (I think this may be my wife’s favorite game!). Early in my life/my professional career, I lacked the degree of self-awareness to actually know the “why” behind the answer to these types of questions. Thankfully as I’ve grown personally and professionally, it seems that as each year goes by, as more hair disappears from my dome, my level of self-awareness and grounded life perspective goes up! I know we are all capable of this growth – but do we all truly accept and embrace it?
Here’s my advice for effectively handling the trials and tribulations of life: Find the kid within yourself. Embrace your inner child while looking at life unjaded, open-minded, with a genuine eagerness to live, laugh, and learn. In my experience, taking this approach makes the “ups and downs” in life a whole lot easier to manage. It’s important to note that you can find and embrace the kid within yourself without sacrificing maturity and professionalism as an adult. I’m not telling you to throw things out of anger, or to slap the person next to you on top of their head after stealing their fruity snacks. When I say to embrace your inner child, I am referring to the concept of embracing the approaches to life that a child takes, not actually “acting” like a child. For me, the best part of any day is the time that I get to spend with my two children (currently 3 and 2). When I’m actively playing with them, as well as when I’m just sitting back and watching them, I continue to be amazed at how they go about life:
- They get upset over things (sometimes very stupid things), but are typically amazingly fast to “forget about it” and move on. Too many times, people hold on to something negative beyond the initial “reaction” period – especially when they overreact. Does doing this lead to closing your mind to something positive occurring in the near future? Think about it – do you allow one setback ruin your whole day? Don’t let it. You’re missing out on too much if you do.
- They absorb new knowledge like sponges, always eager to learn something new. My 3 year old son asks A LOT of questions, and yes, some of them are completely ridiculous. I still do my best to answer them. If I stop answering and feeding his hunger for knowledge, he may stop asking. Ask yourself – have you stopped asking questions?
- They gain enjoyment from some of the simplest things in life. For example, today one of my co-workers got a “Happy Meal” for lunch (you are never too old for a “Happy Meal”, especially now that they have apples!), and she thoughtfully gave me the “toy” that came with the meal to give to my son. It was a plastic cup. A silly, holographic plastic cup. When I came home from work and gave him that cup, telling him that my friend got a present for him, the kid flashed a smile and got excited in a way that you would have thought he just won an Olympic gold medal. And I’m willing to bet, in that moment, that orange juice he drank from it was the best tasting juice he’s ever had!
- They laugh A LOT. At each other, with each other, and even when they are by themselves while not realizing that somebody is watching. Right there above the sound of 107,000 fans going nuts in Beaver stadium – especially during our 4OT victory over Michigan this past season 🙂 – laughter is my absolute favorite sound in the world. I feel it is always important to have a good sense of humor, for laughter can be quite the powerful tool in many situations (this is actually one of my statements of professional philosophy!).
- They purposely try to make others happy, often times going out of their way to do so. When life is busy with lots of stress-inducing stimuli, it’s not always easy to continue to deflect those stress bullets. When we get caught up in everything negatively affecting us, we can lose track of what those around us are also going though. In my experience, changing my focus to others during trying times has shown win/win outcomes. Do not only embrace your own inner child, but also attempt to bring it out in others. This can be challenging, as it takes a certain degree of self awareness, situational awareness, empathy for others, and self confidence. As we all have seen, some people are easier to bring it out with than others – but that doesn’t mean we can’t try!
You may have seen my previous blog on identifying your professional philosophy and personal mission statement. As I mentioned in that, it was the fall of 2007 when I first took the time to deeply and humbly self-reflect and develop a list of personal philosophy statements and a personal mission statement. It was around that time that I truly became aware of the “whys” behind the answers to the questions I mentioned in the beginning of this blog. On a daily basis, I aim to embrace my inner child while looking at life unjaded, open-minded, with a genuine eagerness to live, laugh, and learn. As a leader, I also aim to embrace the inner child in all of those I come in contact with. But don’t worry – I won’t throw a matchbox car at you if you steal my fruity snacks.
Questions, comments? Hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below!
Ryan Stevens, MPS, LAT/ATC, CSCS