It’s amazing what you can learn from children. I have a 1 year old (14 months old, to be exact). Being a father has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It isn’t always easy, but I wouldn’t trade the world for my daughter. As I’ve been trying to teach her, though, I can’t help but find myself being taught by her. So, in honor of her, I’d like to share 5 lessons I’ve learned from my 1 year old.
- Stay curious
Children are naturally curious, and my daughter is no exception. She is fascinated by dogs, music, toys, people…pretty much everything. It’s a daily occurrence for her to point at something and ask, “What is that?” It never ceases to amaze me how she can find joy in the smallest things and how excited she can get over discovering something new. She really loves to learn.
As we get older, we tend to lose our curiosity and enthusiasm for learning. Often times we create limiting beliefs that keep us from pursuing or even seeing opportunities to learn. One of the most wonderful things about the brain is that it has plasticity. This means it literally can change and learn throughout our lives! We can rediscover our child-like curiosity and cultivate a love for learning. If my daughter is an example, staying curious makes life even more beautiful.
- Say, “Hi”
If you ever pass by my daughter, there’s a good chance she’ll wave to you and say, “Hi!” She is not timid at all to go out of her way to make sure people see her waving. Her tactics constantly cause people to laugh, smile, and/or wave back when we’re out and about. My wife and I have talked about how open and friendly she is, and we realized that the reason she is so comfortable with people is because she hasn’t built prejudices against anyone. She doesn’t care what someone’s race, religion, political background, favorite sports team, or anything else is; everyone deserves a wave and a smile.
Unfortunately, most adults don’t do this. Whether due to stress or built up prejudices (which all of us have to a degree) it’s very common to go to the store and not smile or talk to a single person. Often people won’t even make eye contact. We create walls and build up fears that keep us from reaching out to others. Prejudices cause us to avoid those who are different than us. Life can be much sweeter if we relearn to see people through a child’s eyes; to recondition our minds to see others as friends, brothers, sisters, people with divine potential.
- Fall and get back up
I was amazed when my daughter tried walking at 4 months old. By the time she was 11 months she could walk with no problem; she was running (and running fast) a couple of weeks later. How was she able to learn to master this skill in a short period of time? The answer is persistence; she never once quit. What’s interesting about watching my daughter learn to walk (and watching any child learn to walk) is how often they fall down then get back up. It would not be an exaggeration to say my daughter fell down a hundred times before she learned to walk.
This seems to be the “magic” formula to learning and achieving change. There is no doubt that when we try new things we will metaphorically fall; we will not be great at it at first. But that’s okay! We learn a step at a time. The key is to get back up and try again, then again, then again, learning each time. The concept of falling may seem scary, but it’s the only way to learn and master a new skill.
Too often we see “falling” as a sign of weakness or a sign from heaven that we shouldn’t pursue a certain course, but that simply is not true. I have no doubt that with each fall, my daughter learned something new about walking. Little by little those lessons compounded until she was running. That’s the way to learn. Little by little, and when you fall, learn and get back up.
- Love yourself
Nearly every time my daughter sees herself in the mirror or sees a picture of herself she smiles. In fact, she often waves to herself. She seems to love everything about herself. This isn’t the reaction many adult have, though, when they see themselves in the mirror. Too often what they see is someone who is overweight, or skinny, not successful, or ugly; in short, someone who isn’t good enough.
There is nothing wrong with wanting to improve our lives (such as losing weight to be healthier), but when we see ourselves as anything less than a divine individual with enormous potential, we end up labeling ourselves as something undesirable; fat, stupid, slow, forgetful, etc. These labels make it hard to love ourselves as it creates insecurity, fears, shame and leads to negative thought about ourselves and others. When we remove the self labels and see ourselves as we really are, divine, then we will see what my daughter sees every time she looks in the mirror- someone beautiful.
I’ve never seen someone who loves to dance so much. Maybe it’s because we were dancing with her since she was a newborn, but every time music turns on, she has to dance. It can be at home, outside, or at the grocery store; she loves to dance. What I love about it is she doesn’t care who is around. When she wants to dance, she’s going to dance.
When we get older, because we worry about what they may think, we let others keep us from dancing (literally or metaphorically). There are things our inner child wants to do, like dancing or laughing, or being playful, that we keep back for fear of ridicule. Thinking and worrying about what others will think causes unneeded stress. Dance. And don’t let worries keep you from doing it.
All these lessons really boil down to one main thing; change the way you view the world around you, and everything around you will change. The reason my daughter is so happy and joyful, with no prejudices, is because of the way she sees things. She sees and acknowledges the beauty of the world. She doesn’t worry or get stressed easily. It’s true that she doesn’t have the responsibilities of going to work, paying the bills, raising other children, and all the other things that comes along as you get older. But who ever said that having responsibilities means you need to be stressed and worried?
Every time I apply these and similar lessons, I’ve found myself incredibly happy no matter what is happening in my life. I know for myself that you can have financial struggles and still be happy. You can have someone ridicule you and still love people. You can fall and still get up with a smile. No matter where you are in your life, you can change the way you think, act, and see the world. We can all develop a more childlike view of the world. The first step is changing the way we view ourselves. Look for the divinity inside yourself. Look past the self-made labels. As you do, you’ll begin to see yourself as children see themselves; you’ll be able to see the beauty of the world because you’ll be able to see the beauty and potential inside yourself.