How embracing our inner-child in the workplace can help us rediscover our passion
What would you give to turn back the clock, and live a day as your five-year-old self? For many of us, the life of a child looks not just fun but easy, especially when compared with the pressures of adulthood. Instead of dealing with bills, appointments, and endless meetings, playing in the sandbox and taking naps seems like a far better deal.
The funny thing is, you connect with your inner child more often than you think. Have you ever played a harmless prank, or doodled to pass the time? As humans, we need an element of play in our lives to manage stress and release endorphins, and once you allow yourself to act like a kid again, you’ll want to do it more often.
Contrary to popular belief, bringing playfulness to the workplace isn’t an excuse for employees to skive off. It boosts productivity and can induce a flow state; that in-the-zone feeling when you’re concentrating hard on something you find challenging, but also creatively stimulating. A study published in The Tohoku Journal of Experimental Medicine found that the simple act of laughter can mitigate the effects of stress, strengthen teams, and build better relationships. Adults who prioritise play may be able to find more happiness, fight off depression, and lower their risk of dementia.
Now we’re not suggesting you surprise the team with a bouncy castle in the office car park, but we do have some ideas to help tap into your inner child at work.
1. Ask questions
As an adult, you’re expected to be the fount of all knowledge for children. If you’ve ever witnessed a child descend into a ‘But, why?’ spiral, then you know exactly what we’re talking about. Try stepping out of your adult role from time to time, and lean into the fact that you cannot possibly know everything all of the time. Explore the idea that it’s OK to admit you don’t have all the answers, and instead try asking questions to figure out a way forward. Try posing open-ended questions, such as: ‘What seems to be the problem?’, ‘What else do I need to know about this?’, and ‘What’s holding you back from succeeding?’
2. Talk to someone new
Have you ever noticed that children are experts in making new friends? They don’t think twice about inviting newcomers into their space to talk or play games. We adults are a different breed entirely. According to a YouGov poll, just a quarter of older Britons report having made a friend in the past six months, and only 18% over the age of 55 have made a new friend in the past six years. But reaching out to a colleague could be the ticket to boosting job satisfaction, because – according to a study in Social Psychological and Personality Science – small talk has been shown to improve executive functioning; the area of the brain related to focus, prioritisation, and organisation. The next time you try to avoid that after-work event, consider what your inner child would do.
"Try stepping out of your adult role from time to time, and lean into the fact that you cannot possibly know everything all of the time"
3. Gamify your tasks
Reward charts are common in academic settings because they are brilliant motivators to get kids engaged in learning, but this can be applied to modern workplaces, too. Say you’ve got a stack of boring paperwork to complete. Why not split it between you and a colleague, and whoever finishes last has to buy the other one a coffee? Alternatively, set yourself a deadline and reward yourself with lunch from your favourite sandwich place. You could even bring health and wellbeing goals into work and get others involved, trying to walk 10,000 steps every day, or taking short meditation breaks together.
4. Be curious
As children, we’re endlessly curious and encouraged to make mistakes. There isn’t a person on Earth who learned to speak without a whole lot of garbling and gobbledegook beforehand. No one figured out how to walk without stumbling and crawling along the way. Your inner child chooses curiosity over ego every time, so try to accept that failure might occur when you try new things. That said, having a curious mind doesn’t have to involve big scary challenges. Something as simple as switching up the time you have lunch will offer up new experiences, such as hearing an interesting radio show or bumping into an old friend. Take on that new project, volunteer to do something you’ve never done before, and embrace being a beginner.
To connect with a life coach to discuss the importance of play and curiosity, visit lifecoach-directory.org.uk