Why I Want to Work & Play Like A Child in 2016

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An open mind is important! / via

For a lady in her 40s with two kids, I lack many a basic life skill. My husband likes to tease me saying, “There are just some things you should know from being alive. I shouldn’t have to teach you these things. It’s not like I married a child bride.”

He may be referring to how I learned to ride a bike (then promptly forgot how) and drive a car in my very late 30s. I still struggle to iron dress shirts. As a former teenage English learner, I still wonder when to use “the” instead of “a” in my sentences. I have often felt like a child in a grown up body. As I get older though, I have begun to discard shame, and try to turn these insecurities into new experiences. And that has been fun.

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Insecurities on Overdrive

In 2013, however, these insecurities were magnified when I left a nonprofit job that I loved—and had become my identity for over twelve years—to try “something else.” It’s not like I was starting a whole new life or anything. I had the same family, same house and same friends. Though I have learned over the years to accept my quirky weaknesses as endearing qualities and to ask others for help when I need it, it felt incredibly scary to give myself a sabbatical year to figure out what the next big thing was going to be for me.

A career in coaching was something I had wanted to explore for many years but never dared to. With some time, hard work and the support of my friends and my own coach, I slowly learned to become an executive coach, focusing on nonprofit leaders as my clients. When I showed up to my coaching certification program earlier this year with more than a year of coaching experience and an amazing roster of clients under my belt, I was excited. And I was proud. I felt that I had managed to step over some of my biggest fears and insecurities to reinvent myself.

Over the last couple of years as I was building my practice, I saved money to invest in this coaching certification, waiting to pursue it until I knew coaching was something I loved, I was good at and was sustainable. As I finally signed up for the program, it felt like I was taking my practice to the next level. “I am not playing around anymore,” I thought.

Whatever that next level was, it was going to be more serious, more important and maybe even more prestigious than I what I had been doing. I thought about the necessary “pain” and extra work I needed to be willing to take on to get to that next level. I thought about partnerships, a new website, a newsletter and referral programs, maybe a podcast and whatever else a serious, big-time coach might jump into.

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We could all be more like Einstein.
We could all be more like Einstein. / via

But as I thought of all these possibilities, I felt almost somber. Rigid. Tense. Heavy. I don’t want to be that person. That’s not who I am.

Honoring The Child In Me

After 60 plus hours in my certification program, during which I opened myself up to big, bold questions from the other coaches in my program, I now realize that instead of getting more serious, intense and strategic with my goals, what I really want is to have fun, explore new avenues in my practice as I feel inspired, and enjoy the path that I have chosen for right now. I want to allow my childlike curiosity to guide me.

I want to show up every day without any hidden agenda, and just do the very best I can to serve. I want to work hard without weighing myself down. I want to be open to new opportunities without overthinking what they mean and where they will take my life and my practice.

I want to try things out without worrying so much about how I will look or what people will think. This might take the shape of using a new coaching technique I learned in class involving body movement. Or it might be belting out a karaoke song with all my heart, instead of humming along in my usual hesitant voice. Or it might be daring to dream up my own small solutions to big problems in the world.

I want to read something, and if I like it, I want to write about it, talk about it with friends and my kids, and feel the new insights, or even fun facts, run through me. When my son reads a good book sometimes, he‘s inspired to draw it out, create a board game and make up a song about it. I want to learn like that.

I want to let my imagination soar when time allows for that. In work and life, I want to imagine what’s possible without immediately shutting down my own ideas or feeling limited by where I am now. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s middle school principal once told him: “Keep your head above the clouds, and your feet firmly planted on the ground—then move step by step.”

In 2016, I don’t want to box myself in with overly rigid plans or goals. I want to stick my head above the clouds and leave it there for awhile, from time to time. I want to bring the child in me front-and-center, and let my curiosity and openness guide me to new opportunities.

I want this to be fun.

What do you want for yourself?

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Caroline Kim Oh
Caroline Kim Oh is an executive coach to nonprofit leaders. She dove right into the nonprofit world after college and spent twelve years running and growing iMentor in New York City prior to coaching. Frequent speaker and advisor on a variety of nonprofit management issues, she’s also a cheerleader for all who experiment to find and tweak the optimal work-life-happiness mix. Find her on LinkedIn and on Twitter, or send her an email.