By Michael J. Zappa, MD, FACEP
Stepping outside just before dawn over the past few weeks there is a sensation, a smell, a feeling that quickly floods my brain producing a state that is most accurately described as the perfect balance of contentment and excitement. What is this magic that is happening in my mind? It’s the triggering of my childhood memory of the beginning of summer: another school year was done, and I had an entire summer to do whatever I wanted! It took me a couple of days to figure it out, but I quickly recognized there was no reason not to approach this summer, and in fact every season, with that same sense of opportunity – it would simply require listening to my inner child.
There are many things adults can learn from children. Paulo Coelho states: “A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.”
Children are excited about the future; as adults we often dwell too much on the past. Dreams of a child are unlimited; adults often stifle their dreams based on past failures or their current situation. Children are naturally positive; they believe people are basically good – adults often let skepticism distort their perspective.
Daydream back to your childhood and add these childish traits to your personal profile: honest, open-minded, questioning attitude, imaginative, energetic, and enjoys naps! Your inner child knew how to enjoy the simple things – from the secret clubhouse that was actually a cardboard box to the excitement of just being allowed outside. Many times you were told: “Walk; don’t run!” In retrospect, that may not have been the best advice – adults actually need to run more (at least figuratively speaking): approach everything with the energy and enthusiasm of your younger self!
As a child you were not afraid to be yourself; you didn’t hesitate to just stand up and dance in a public place, wear your superhero pajamas everywhere, or shout out in the middle of church that you were hungry! Children are naturally courageous; they desire to be heroic. Falling was not looked at as failing, but just another way to get a scar to show off – remember band-aids as a status symbol or fashion accessory?
Albert Einstein reminds us: “Play is the highest form of research” – it is essential to feed our minds, bodies, and imagination. Whether you are entertaining yourself with a favorite hobby, relaxing with friends, or creating solutions with your co-workers – remember to enjoy that playtime.
Starting with this summer, lead like a child: be yourself, be fearless, wear your scars with pride, enjoy the simple things, play often, and above all: “Run, don’t walk!” – your best life is waiting!
About Michael J. Zappa, MD, FACEP
Dr. Michael J. Zappa is the president of Highsmith-Rainey Specialty Hospital, and Cape Fear Valley Health System Vice President and Associate Chief Medical Officer. He balances business acumen with clinical expertise, and shares his thoughts on leadership and the healthcare industry at mikezappa.com.