My four-year-old daughter was sitting doing her homework with mom. The work required her to color a particular set of shapes that made up a path she needed to follow.
As is customary with our toddler, she tends to get wild with her coloring. So as her mom encouraged her to stay within the shapes, she blurted out in frustration what we already suspected:
It’s too boring to color inside the lines
As a Type A person, I’ve always struggled to understand why she won’t follow instructions (she’s only 4, I know). Her cousin, just a year older, is more my speed. She’s a perfectionist with her coloring, making sure not even the slightest of colors seep over the lines. I feel for her when she colors with my daughter who promptly spoils her masterpieces with her wild strokes.
But with my daughter’s declaration, I couldn’t help but smile. In the coming decades, it’s her ability to color outside the lines that will serve her well. I also felt a bit of fear. For all the people that will tell her she can’t. Those who will put her down. Mainly because I did the same with her coloring. Discouraging her from expressing herself with her crayons to keeping in the spaces provided.
Finally, a bit of regret and envy. Regret for the many times when I knew I should have expressed myself. Expressed my feelings. Gone balls to the wall. But out of fear and perceived diplomacy, I held my tongue and stood in place. It’s good to color out the lines sometimes. Nay as much as you can. Is it weird to envy a 4-year-old? What I will do is never discourage her again. If you’ve been procrastinating, fearful or self-sabotaging yourself from doing the things you want to do, here’s what you can take from my daughter’s simple statement:
You only get one chance
Life isn’t a video game. You don’t get 1Ups like in Super Mario. So you have to take chances to be who you want to be. It may take some behavior or action different from the norm. What does your gut say? Most times, that gut feeling we ignore for logic might be just the thing we need to take us to the next level.
Quit being boring
I remember all the times I wanted to let loose.
Ask a girl out.
Or just run away for a day or two.
Life becomes pretty boring if we don’t enjoy ourselves from time to time. That spontaneity is what makes our story pretty cool. Tim Ferriss often says that the opposite of happiness is not sadness. It’s boredom.
If life isn’t going the way you want, rate your state of boredom from 1 to 5. Try it in each part of your life and start doing simple things to make it a little more exciting.
As parents, we’re expected to keep our little ones on the straight and narrow. But it sometimes could affect us from being the type of person we really want to be. Despite her mother’s instructions, she still persisted to be herself.
Be yourself and don’t apologize for it. There’s no need to be just like the hundreds of thousands on social media. There’s no need to take the same conventional life path. We all end up in the same place eventually.
Old and full of regret.
How old you feel and how much regret you harbor depends on the chances you were willing to take to go against the grain.
But understand why there are lines
The Type A in me wouldn’t be satisfied if I didn’t talk about caution. There’s a difference between being wild, creative, or opposing and being reckless. Understand that the lines built up in life are there for a reason. Acknowledge them, but don’t disregard or disrespect them. It could really keep us from hurting ourselves and others. And that’s a great starting point when you want to go against the grain:
Will I hurt myself or others?
We all aren’t built the same (my daughter and I case in point). So having that degree of empathy while we get creative and do different things keeps us down to earth.
Will you color outside the lines?
Despite my temptations to the contrary, I’ll work hard to nurture her need to color outside the lines. I’m sure it will keep her happy! And who knows? Maybe by coloring outside the lines, she will discover something about herself or the world that would not have been possible had she stood in line like everyone else.
Despite your temptations to stand in line, wait your turn, and disregard your creative juices, make a change today. Do something different. Life isn’t only boring if you only color inside the lines. It’s way too short.