Learn to Thrive at Work and in Life

When you were a child, what did you love to do most?  What were you going to be, when you grew up?  This weekend when I gave the workshop at a women’s event, one participant remembered – with some surprise – that when she was little, she couldn’t stop tap dancing. 

She’d tap dance on top of their wooden kitchen table, she’d tap dance from one room to another, she’d tap dance down the street, until eventually her mother would scream “would you please just stop tapping for ONE second!?!” Another woman attended modeling and etiquette classes as a child – after each class, she would gather the neighborhood children together and “teach” them everything she’d learned. It’s no surprise, then, that this woman’s adult dream is to lead workshops.

Our childhood memories are a treasure trove that we can cull for clues to what might give us passion, or calling, in our adult lives. When you’re eight or nine years old, you’re quite an original and hopefully not yet too affected by outside inputs.

When I was nine, I loved to pretend that I was either a reporter or a “Solid Gold” dancer. I’d work on my news reports by day (sourced by sitting under the kitchen table and eavesdropping on family conversations) and choreographed endless disco dance routines to my ABBA records in the basement at night. I also would frequently put a fake crown on my head, sit on my “throne” on the living room, and dispense wisdom to an imaginary crowd. (a little scary, but cute nonetheless)

I wish that someone had known to pay attention to and nurture that little kid who loved to dance, write and teach.  Luckily, we all still have that nine-year-old inside.

Some people, when I ask them what they loved to do when they were little, can’t remember. They’re numbed out by the demands of life and from living on auto pilot for so long.

Rediscovering play and your innate creativity can have a significant impact on your physical and mental health. When I was depressed I thought something was fundamentally wrong with me and that I’d never pull out of it. I rediscovered dance during a trip to Cuba while on stress leave, and went back home and signed up for salsa dance classes, which years later led to flamenco classes. As soon as I started dancing, the depression began to lift, and I began to enjoy improved health and energy. I got into writing as well, and photography, and suddenly life felt alive again. No prescription medicine, or even a month-long spa retreat, could ever have worked the same mood-altering wonders.  We are creative creatures. We are designed to play, create, move and dance.

Maybe you think creative endeavors are for artsy types or anyone who doesn’t have a “real” job. Maybe you don’t think you have any talent. Every single person possesses some kind of creative ability or passion, and our lives really aren’t complete unless we acknowledge and experience our creativity, however that expresses itself. (As I write this, though, I’m reminded that this is a privilege of wealthy, secure people…we are so privileged to enjoy lives that enable us to ask these questions, when so much of the world only has time to focus on survival. It’s important to keep things in this perspective, so that we don’t get too worked up about our “rights” to luxury items in life like creative time)

For fun, make a list of twenty things you love, or loved, to do, no matter how silly. Include things you liked to do as a kid, if you want: build a sand castle, or buy a big pack of giant sparkly felt pens (the kind you always wanted but your mom wouldn’t buy for you). Commit to picking one activity from your list, at least once a month, and do it. Sign up for that watercolor course you’ve always wanted to do. Go to a play or an improv theater show. The next time you’re bored and don’t know what to do with yourself, consult your list and pick something on it to do.

When you give yourself permission to play, your world becomes sweeter. You’ll find that you laugh more and develop a taste for play and new experiences. Friends, family and colleagues may comment that you’re a lot more fun to be around. You may even make some new, cherished friends through your new activities.

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