We are all born with the gifts of creativity, imagination, play, exploration and curiosity. Children act on these valuable attributes freely, discovering happiness, belonging, connection and community through them.
Playing, imagining and curiosity served you well in childhood and can again be renewed to enhance your quality of life, well-being and, ultimately, your happiness as an adult.
"We are intended to remain in many ways childlike," anthropologist Ashley Montagu once wrote. "We were never intended to grow up into the kind of adults most of us have become. We are designed ... to grow and develop in ways that emphasize rather than minimize childlike traits."
It's no surprise that a UCLA study documented what we already assumed: On average, at age 5 we engage in creative tasks 98 times a day, laugh 113 times and ask 65 questions. By age 44, the numbers fade to two creative tasks a day, 11 laughs and six questions.
I want you to decide to reverse the slide in these numbers in your daily life. A good place to start is by asking questions. Questions will lead you to use your curiosity, rethink what you're doing and find new ideas. And asking questions won't take a lot of time—you can ask yourself questions wherever you are: in the shower, at breakfast, driving your car or commuting home on the subway, bus or train.
Is this the way I want to do this, or is there a different way?
Is the fastest way always the best way?
What's my purpose in doing what I want to do? What's the message I want to send?
Am I wanting to make someone smile or give a helping hand?
What rule am I observing by doing what I'm going to do, and what am I breaking by doing it differently?
You were born with the drive to play and to create. You might have forgotten the impulse, but it is still there inside of you. As Ashley Montagu suggested in his book Growing Young, adults learn from children about the essential nature of fun and abandon in order to prevent "psychosclerosis," the hardening of the mind. He prescribed the following traits of the child to avoid this dreaded condition:
The need for love
The need to think soundly
The need to know
The need to learn
The need to work
The need to organize
A sense of wonder
A sense of humor
Laughter and tears
Honesty and trust
Creativity and play help you gain confidence, self-understanding and self-esteem. They increase your concentration, help you learn to take risks and create balance and order. You can make mistakes more freely and solve problems with increased flexibility—skills that enhance all your relationships. Play supports innovation, invites you to savor a moment, engages your senses and helps you see the beauty in all things. It leads you to imagine unlimited possibilities.