Lessons from Your 5-Year-Old Self
My five-year-old son is full of questions, as five-year-olds tend to be. “How do you make the metal that creates the car door? How hot does it need to be to bend? Where does it come from? How do you stitch denim? What is porcelain made of? What are the ingredients in trees? Why doesn’t milk have gluten in it if cows eat wheat?” This kid is a MAKER, in a serious way, and fielding his questions has made me take a good hard look in the mirror.
Coaches and career gurus love to ask questions revolving around our five-year-old selves: “What did you love to do when you were a kid? What did you gravitate to? What do you remember most?” And the more I see how a real, live five-year-old thinks and acts, the more these questions make a lot of sense. When we’re small, we’re uninhibited by what problems might be difficult or even unsolvable. We don’t have concrete ideas about what we should be doing or how we should be acting or what we should be saying. We just are. We let our curiosity guide our minds and our emotions guide our bodies. We’re unfiltered.
As we get older, we learn more about the shoulds and the shouldn’ts and the musts and the musn’ts. External pressures creep in. It’s easy to lose sight of what our minds naturally asked and our bodies naturally did when we were younger. But those things are still inside, and it’s worth taking time now and again to drift back to our five-year-old selves. This simple view of childhood doesn’t need to drastically change our lives and our work; I’m not sure that’s realistic. But it can change our focus, sparking ideas and possibilities we may not otherwise see.
According to my parents, when I was five, all I wanted to do was play outside, read books, and write stories. Some things never change. And while none of these things are central to my livelihood, all of those things are core to my life. A view into my five-year-old self has helped me embrace these things and make room for them in simple ways: weekend trail running, adventure races, reading stories, and writing this blog. As a person, it reminds me of what to move toward, and as a parent, it’s a cue to follow my kids’ lead versus show them the way.
If this resonates with you, I urge you to take a few minutes this week and think about what you loved when you were five. If you can’t remember, ask a parent or sibling or neighbor or friend. Think about how those things show up in your life today; and if they’re not there, consider making some room.