The Lessons of Youth Become the Foundation of Our Lives


How to strip away the barriers keeping you from fully immersing in life

“Sometimes you have to grow up before you appreciate how you grew up.” — Daniel Black

As youngsters, many of us thought we were geniuses. Living in our small contained worlds, we had little to compare ourselves to. And while our individuality was still in the formative stages, our open and unbridled perspective often led us to experiment a bit — usually by fearlessly trying new things.

In our semi-innocence, we tested the edges of our boundaries, the innocence of our youth encouraging our free-spirited nature and inquisitive minds to wander into unknown territory.

But it wasn’t all flowers, frogs, and butterflies. In some cases, our optimistic explorations resulted in consequences we hadn’t considered.

In blissful ignorance, we fine-tuned our intrepid skills of hiding our blunders and mistakes. Occasionally, our rambunctious curiosity left behind a few clues better left unfound. So we devised methods of concealing our mishaps, like burying the antique vase we broke while tossing a ball in the house, or cutting our own hair thinking no one would notice, or sneaking quarters from our mom’s purse — or dollars from our dad’s swear jar.

And without a thought that we might be found out, we trusted our juvenile endeavors were crafty enough to bypass the all-knowing eyes of those who were in charge. Because our naiveté convinced us to believe our parents were totally oblivious to all our secrets.

In truth, on many occasions, most of us felt a little nervous and scared — unsure whether our actions would be exposed. While we hadn’t yet learned the meaning of guilt or accountability, in time, we eventually discovered the result of our choices always arrived — front and center. And in those moments, the lessons of our youth created the foundation of our lives.

There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in.” — Graham Greene

Fast forward to adulthood — when we evolved into mature human beings …

Personally, looking back at the emotional uncertainty of adolescence seems minor by comparison to my current reality. And I’m grateful that my misty memories of those wonder years have seasoned into poignant and irreplaceable treasures.

I often imagine what it would be like to return to a less complicated state of mind — a place where curiosity, excitement, and child-like confidence carried me through the day and night in hopeful anticipation the next morning would bring new surprises, new adventures, and new friends.

I realize the past resides behind the door of time and experience. Still, I decided there’s room for some attitude adjustments I can make to lighten the mental load of my current life. Here are a few approaches I’m trying — reminders of those early years that may offer you some small respite on days when the issues you’re dealing with threatening to consume your sanity.

  • The eyes of a child accept what they see without judgment, comparison, or opinion. I’m working on following this example and allowing life in without preconception, bias, or suspicion. Because opportunities appear every day, and I wouldn’t want to miss any possibility that could make my life better by bringing new thoughts and insights my way.
  • Children ask a lot of questions simply out of curiosity. Many of us utilize an inquiring strategy to extract a specific answer, determine the reasons behind someone’s actions, or to elicit a confession. Instead, I’m becoming more conscious about using questions as a method to learn rather than legitimize a viewpoint or force others to explain. The answers I receive may teach me a few things I thought I already knew, but had never considered from a different viewpoint.
  • Youngsters make friends with little effort — almost instinctively. Children are more open and approachable. They smile easily — naturally — and often ask others to join in and play. As adults, we’ve established a few safeguards —self-installed boundaries that create hesitation in our receptivity and acceptance of people we don’t know. And our cautious mindset may prevent us from finding out more about the world and those we share it with. By adopting a positive attitude and friendly disposition, I’ve become more approachable, and others are willing to open up and be themselves.

Our state of mind dictates our thoughts and actions every day. Why not choose to strip away the barriers holding you back from fully immersing in the possibilities life has to offer?

Who knows, you may wake up tomorrow with a whole new outlook — and a lot more friends.

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