This is the second in a series of lessons designed to help you find your verb. These lessons were prompted by a few readers who said to me, “hey, this Live Your Verb idea is inspiring, it’s good stuff – but how can I live my verb if I don’t know what it is? What’s my verb?” So if you aren’t sure what moves your soul, body or mind, follow along and find your verb… You can do it, I know you can.
Don’t worry if you missed the first lesson – you can catch up with just a few minutes of reading. Click here to read Find Your Verb, Lesson 1: You Are Not Your Job.
Okay, here we go: Sooo you are not your job. Great. Who the heck are you then? And what is your verb?
I can’t tell you the answers (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) – only you can do that. But I can recommend a mindset that will help you figure it all out: Think like a kid.
Yes, like a kid. A mess-making, toy-toting, fun-loving kid.
Why? Well, for starters, kids don’t filter much; they’re little pillars of truth. They express their emotions openly, ask questions without hesitation and call you out on stuff when they see a disconnect between what you say and what you do. And, most importantly, kids spend their time being who they are and doing what they want. Seems like they’re pretty in touch with themselves, doesn’t it? Exactly.
So here’s how to think like a kid and get one step closer to finding your verb.
4 Ways to Think Like a Kid
1) Think about the enjoyment you get out of something, not its end result.
Whatever kids do, they’re in it for the fun. They’re not concerned whatsoever with whether they can add that class project to their resumes or if putting a swing set in the backyard will increase property value.
Somewhere along the way to Being Grownup, we all start making decisions based on the results rather than the process. It becomes less about whether we enjoy something and more about what tangibles we think we’ll get out of it. Big mistake. Because what happens is that most of us end up spending the bulk of our time doing things we don’t enjoy so we can bolster our reputations at work, add bullet points to our resumes, impress the neighbors and bloat our retirement funds.
Not that any of these things are inherently wrong, but placing the focus on the end game means that we’re missing out on Right Now. Does it seem like a good idea to spend your whole life being sensible and bored and even miserable at work so you have a solid possibility of having a fun retirement in forty years? What if you don’t make it to that retirement? What if you do, and you’re so burned out and uninspired by the time you get there that you don’t have any gusto left to bother living it up?
Have you considered that enjoying the ride the whole damn way might make all those grownup things we have to do go down a little easier, because they’ll be nicely balanced with all the time spent having fun?
Is fun overrated? (No. It isn’t.) Kids know that fun is all it’s cracked up to be. You should know that too.
So focus on the fun. Take that architecture class because you’ve always been interested in it, not because you think it will round out your resume. Invite your new coworker out for drinks because you think it will be fun to swap stories, not because you want to build your client list. Go bowling so you can relax and share a few laughs with your friends, not because you’re hoping to meet an attractive single man while you’re out.
Do it for the fun, and for no other reason. The fun is reason enough.
2) Be yourself. Like, completely.
Kids typically like themselves; it doesn’t occur to them that there might be any reason that they shouldn’t like themselves until they become older, or until older humans start planting seeds of doubt. Kids don’t feel awkward about ordering dessert, taking some time off to play Nintendo Wii, wearing their favorite pajamas to the store or hanging out with dirt on their faces.
When I was a kid, I wore a pair of red rubber rain boots with my shorts for an entire California summer. Just because I liked them. It didn’t occur to me that anyone else might not agree with my own assessment that I looked fabulous. My mom mentioned a few times that my boots didn’t correspond with my summer clothes or the weather, but I didn’t care. They were a rockin’ pair of boots. They were comfortable. They had Hello Kitty on the side. I was going to show them off. (Thanks to my mom for giving me room to be myself and show off those boots.)
How many times have you ordered the salad instead of the cheeseburger or decided not to buy that sweet Star Trek t-shirt because you were worried what other people would think of you?
When did someone else’s opinions, even a complete and utter stranger’s, become more important than your own? (Seems ridiculous when I put it like that, huh? That’s the point.)
Stop STOP STOP boxing yourself in to please other people. Be yourself. In all your geeky fan merchandise-wearing, cheesy Lifetime movie-watching, Tom Jones music-listening glory. Own it. Do more than own it. Advertise it. Show it off to the world like I did with those red rain boots.
Because the more you focus on being yourself, the more you will like yourself and be comfortable in your own skin. And doesn’t that sound like a great place to be? Doesn’t that sound like a way to get one step closer to finding and living your verb? Doesn’t that sound like a much more fulfilling way to live life than trying to be someone you’re not?
Now go find whatever your version of those red rain boots is and flaunt it for all to see.
3) Be curious about the world.
Kids ask questions. A lot of questions. Both my favorite and least favorite phase of the kids I know is the Why Phase. You’ve experienced this one, right? If you haven’t yet been privy to the Why Phase with the kids you know, here’s a sample:
Kid: Why do we have to go to the dentist?
You: So we can make sure our teeth are healthy.
Kid: Why do we need to make sure our teeth are healthy?
You: Because we need healthy teeth to eat nutritious food, so we grow big and strong.
Kid: Why do we need to grow big and strong? Why can’t we stay small?
You: Because it would be hard to reach the stuff on the top shelves.
Kid: Why do we need to reach stuff?
You: So that we don’t always have to ask a grownup for help.
Kid: Why can’t we just keep asking grownups for help?
So take a cue from those teeny inquisitive creatures and let your curiosity lead you. Read a book, watch a TED Talk, schedule an interview with someone you admire, use a guide to map the constellations while you stargaze. Follow whatever sparks your curiosity, because that’s how you’ll learn more about what inspires you, which is a pretty good indicator of how you should be spending your time.
4) Don’t doubt; believe in the possibility of, well, everything.
Kids are gullible. We can tell them storks bring babies and the tooth fairy collects their bicuspids, and they believe us. Cool. Makes things easy for us. But what it does for kids is better: it instills them with a sense of belief in things that seem impossible to you and me, wondrous things like time travel and pixie dust.
We smirk when kids take our word for it because we know better, but Being Grown Up and Knowing Better has a negative effect: cynicism. That’s where that smirk comes from. So quit it.
I’m not recommending that you be gullible. But I am recommending that you give people the benefit of the doubt when you talk to them. Assume the best. Assume that they’re not putting you on, that they actually like your new haircut and really do think you can ask out that girl without losing your cool.
Better yet, give the whole world the benefit of the doubt. Start believing. Believe that you will finish your first marathon, that you will get the exorbitant salary you asked for, that you will stop smoking once and for all, that you will finally master how to use chopsticks. Whatever it is. Believe it. Because when we believe something is possible, we hardwire our brains to accept the idea that it will happen, and thus we hardwire ourselves for success.
No great hero ever slayed the dragon by muttering to himself, “this is ridiculous, it can’t be done, I’m going to fail and feel like an idiot” the whole way. Heroes are heroic because they believed enough that they could do something considered insurmountable and fairly ridiculous, and then they did it.
The first step is believing. You need that belief to be able to muster the gumption, the courage, the optimism to take all the steps that come after.
There are four ways to think like a kid. Now go forth and be childish. I’ll be here, wearing some red boots and cheering you on…
Coming soon: Lesson 3. The third lesson in the Find Your Verb series will give you insight into blocking out the noise of everyone else’s voices and focusing on your own. In the meantime, take a moment to tell me your favorite kid-like quality and how you think we could all benefit from cultivating it as adults.
If you liked this, why not share it?
Remember, share is a verb too.