George Bernard Shaw quipped that, “Youth is wasted on the young,” but I disagree. I think the young utilize youth quite well. Can you imagine navigating all of the new and difficult challenges of childhood (let alone adolescence) without the tools of youthful exuberance, unrestricted curiosity, and a passion for play? If we were not young, open, and fully engaged in every moment, we never would have been able to master the physical and psychological functions required to grow; learn all that the world was trying to teach us; endure the lack of control over our circumstances; nor be so willing to accept the persistent care-taking of those around us. Coincidentally (or not), my adult clients face similar trials-and-tribulations, yet their struggle is made greater because they view life through the lens of maturity where hurdles are obstacles to overcome as opposed to an opportunity to leap. As adults we often adopt an attitude of, “I should know better,” which can generate guilt and frustration, making it seem like whatever we do is never enough. When we respond to others as if “they should know better,” well, that is even more frustrating and can lead to them feeling shamed and becoming defensive.
I wonder how external actions and internal responses might shift if we looked at life through a more youthful lens. Could we see that the unknown is not only exciting, but to be expected? Would we recognize opportunities to be curious about what might be, instead of focusing on what is missing? What if feeling a lack of control did not immediately trigger angst, but helped to make us more receptive to the insight and support of others?
With age comes wisdom – now we just have to incorporate it as a compliment to, and not a replacement for, our youthful enthusiasm, sense of discovery, and delight in surprises. One of the reasons I incorporate so much of Carl Jung’s depth psychology in my work and writing is that his theories help to not only expand the capacity to tolerate the tension of life’s many paradoxes, but to integrate them in psychologically healthy and emotionally fulfilling ways. This includes:
- Finding balance between the desire to be self-sufficient and independent, yet longing to have intimate relationships and belong to a supportive community;
- The need to develop discipline and responsibility, yet wanting to remain care-free and flexible;
- Being analytic and decisive as well as emotional and reflective; &
- Setting conscious intentions while staying open to unconscious instinct.
These are not easy challenges, but neither is learning to walk, talk, or use the potty. Fortunately, all we have to do is dust off some of the old tools and toys from our youth and we can move forward with wisdom that is expanded by whimsy, intelligence that is enhanced by instincts, and decisions that are made from a place of possibility rather than predictability.
Even though our bodies are older, our brains are filled with excessive information, and our perspective is clouded by experience, the lens of youth is still available to us. As adults we have the power to look at life any way we choose – now we just have to try the different lenses and decide if the view is better like this, or like that.
With much wisdom & whimsy,
Peruse thecoach4you.wordpress.com for my posts on: Accountability Balance, Choice, Discovery, Energy, Fun, Grace, Humor, Integrity, Joy, Knowing, Love, Meaning, Nourish, Opportunity, Passion, Quality, Recognition, Stress, Truth, Understanding, Variety, Wonder & eXtraordinary.