Did you ever wonder why we went from the kid who couldn’t sit still, to the adult who can’t get moving?

I asked myself this when I recently took my 3-year-old daughter to the playground at a fast food restaurant. She loves to play on those things and I love nothing better than to watch her. (I’ve even been known to climb in with her.) As she continued at a frantic pace to scale every inch of the equipment, I started to look around at all the other kids and their moms. The action was either mom trying to wrangle her kids to finally go home and leave the echo of the interior jungle gym, or other moms trying to get their little ones to sit still and finish their food so they could go and play. No where in the room did I see a child sitting in their chair choosing to watch the action instead of taking part in it.

Now I know there are those kids who are shy and timid, I was one. But the overwhelming instinct of children is to want to jump in and participate in any way possible, even at the expense of putting fuel in their bodies. There seems to be no fear of looking weird or not fitting in, especially the younger they are.

So what happened? When did we start to become afraid? When did we shut off the kid in us? When did we decide we had to grow up?

One of my favorite professors in college taught directing. An actor himself, he remarked one day that he hoped he never grew up, that your childlike instincts are what keeps the joy and wonder in your work. That sense of play and make-believe is a part of any good actor and we’d better not lose it. I remember being personally freed by what he said. I always felt like a big kid inside and now I realized that my childishness could be my best friend.

Now more than 20 years after that comment, I believe that growing up is dangerous. It robs us of the freedom and the determination to miss nothing in life. It makes us doubtful and insecure. It makes us look at new people as strangers instead of new friends. And most importantly, it keeps us from living to our full potential.

So what was it? What made the change start to happen? I believe it was something called expectations and more specifically, other people’s expectations of us. When we’re little, from birth to say 3 or 4 years old, our only care in life is to have fun. Our only job to that point is to be lovable and adorable. What could be better? But then, as we get older, we start to have expectations put on us. We have to make our bed, we have to go to school, we have to finish our homework, wash the car, get a job, etc., etc. Then we get older and have our own families, career, responsibilities, debts---and pretty soon our own sense of daring and wonder is lost in what we’re supposed to be.

Worrying about what we’re supposed to be suppresses the child in us who has no doubt that their purpose on the planet is to enjoy life. I’ve read stories, as I’m sure you have, where older folks are talking about “feeling like a kid again”. Who said they ever had to stop feeling like that? Who said you couldn’t live your entire life with that beautiful energy of daring and fun? Growing up should not mean giving up our purest spirit. We shouldn’t be controlled by our fear of not living up to other people’s expectations.

Now, in no way am I saying to ditch your commitments and responsibilities in favor of doing whatever feels good in the moment. What I am encouraging you to do is to make choices that bring you joy and fulfillment. Choose a career that fills your soul as well as your wallet. Love your family and those around you and cherish all the relationships in your life. And remember to live life on your own terms. Live your own truth. When other people’s expectations become the master of the choices you make, you give away the power to determine your own happiness.

One of my favorite quotes is from a guy named Gil Bailie, and he says, ”Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and go do that because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Make it your mission in life to fully come alive. You and the world will be better for it.

Author's Bio: 

Mike Pniewski is a successful actor who has appeared in projects like Out of Time, Runaway Jury, Remember the Titans, Law & Order and CSI:Miami. Plus, hundreds of TV and radio commercials. He is also a sought after motivational speaker and creator of Act to Win, a motivational plan designed to help people take maximum action to succeed. He can be reached through his website at www.acttowin.com.