We walk through our lives day in and day out, fulfilling roles and wearing hats. We are mom, teacher, CEO, grandma, doctor, and countless other titles, and those titles and roles become our identities.
It’s not always a bad thing. Identifying as “mom” and doing the things that an excellent mom would do is terrific and incredibly important. Yet so often, I hear women say, “Who was I before I was somebody’s mom?” or, “Who was I before I was my job?”
Many times we think the “before I was...” refers to the person we were in our early 20s. I don’t know about you, but that’s not the person I want to get back to be any time soon. Maybe for you, that period was a time of independence, freedom, exploration, and there are parts of that person who are exactly who you want to remember.
Feeling lost? Feeling like you don’t know who you are or what you enjoy anymore?
I want you to think back to your childhood. For some, childhood was not a happy time, and if this is true for you, see if you can think about any times in your childhood when you felt safety or freedom.
Think back to what you use to play.
Maybe you were outside from breakfast until it was time for dinner, and maybe you used your imagination to go on adventures in your yard, or to build obstacle courses. Maybe you loved riding your bike or building forts.
Maybe you lined up your stuffed animals in classroom formation, and pretended to be a teacher. Perhaps you danced and twirled and imagined yourself as a ballerina. Or maybe you pretended to be in a rock band on your toy guitar.
Think really hard about this. Where did you use your imagination? Where did you lose track of time in play?
These are the clues to what brings you alive.
As adults we forget, yet there is nothing more magical and refreshing than getting back to that place of wonderment.
I was a kid who spent every waking moment outside going on imaginary adventures. I remember one winter when we had about 3 feet of snow, I found myself outside (probably about 8 years old) and imagining I was on an epic expedition in Antarctica. I mounted the boulders of snow pushed up by the plows, and went all over my yard exploring.
As an adult, the thing that brings my soul the most peace, joy, and excitement is going on adventure. It’s amazing to go on hikes and to see places in nature that I would imagine as a child.
Maybe for you, it looks like attending the ballet, learning guitar, or exploring areas in your company or life where you can take on an educator role (for those of you who loved to play teacher).
I know that even contemplating such things is a privilege, and that many of us do not have the time or energy for such contemplation as we fulfill our various roles. I challenge you to take a moment to just consider it. How can you incorporate some of that childhood excitement into your daily life? How can it make you a better CEO, mom, or wife? How can you share that excitement with those you love, parent, and lead? Can you build forts with your kids? Can you take them exploring as you think of what you would have loved back then?
Your energy is contagious, and when you find something that excites you as an adult and stirs your soul, you bring that light to those around you. So if you’ve got a few minutes, sit back and try to remember. You might be surprised by what you find.