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10 Life Lessons from an Unlikely Source

Photo by JUCO
Don’t postpone joy until you have learned all of your lessons. Joy is your lesson. ~Alan Cohen

Twirling in her pink tutu, slightly tattered and always a little dirty, my 3 year old niece opens her arms wide, calling for all of us to get up and dance with her. She wants to hold hands while we jump, spin and leap around the room.

She shouts along to the music, reminding each of us that we should be joining in. “Papa sing! It’s your turn Papa!” Panting and out of breath, we try our hardest to match her undying energy.

After the music starts to fade, she drops our hands and holds out her arms again. “Ok everyone, it’s time for a group hug!

We haven’t purposely partaken in a group hug for years now, but we oblige because her smile is contagious and her enthusiasm is impossible to tame.

Three years ago, she struggled her way into this world, red-eyed and out-of-breath. We thought she was in distress, but seeing her now, in full bloom, I believe she was just eager to get started, eager to dive in to what each of us were already taking for granted.

In the beginning she had a certain calmness about her, we marveled at her sweet demeanor and ability to bend and adjust to new routines. But she quickly picked up speed as she sprouted her own personality and undeniable sassiness.

Yet, as we’ve all stood around her taking note of new milestones and doing our part to shape the person she grows into, she’s been molding and shaping each one of us in her own way.

In truth, she has changed us more than we could ever hope to change her.

She’s taught me to listen more and talk less, to marvel at nail polish colors, to run instead of walk, to dance for no reason at all…

…to laugh when it’s appropriate (and sometimes when it’s not), to compliment others with enthusiasm, to kiss often and to find new playmates anywhere and everywhere.

My mother said it perfectly — she puts each of us fully in the “now,” allowing us to release any thoughts of the past and the future.

She puts us smack dab in the present simply by demanding that we pay attention to all the little things we so easily miss.

We may believe that we are teaching children things they don’t know, but often times they are taking us through the process of relearning all the things we’ve forgotten, all the things we pushed aside to make room for other “more important” thoughts and belief patterns.

They are there to remind us who we are at our core, both as individuals and as a collective spiritual race.

But often times, we measure knowledge against age and take ourselves more seriously as time passes, believing that the only wisdom we can gather is from those who have lived more physical years than we have.

Only in abandoning this belief can we learn from those who are often times physically, mentally and emotionally closer to a higher being than we are — our youth.

Here are the lessons we can take from children in order to live more light-hearted, happy and spiritual lives.

Lesson #1: Don’t Worry About What Others Think

Don’t let your perceptions of what others are thinking stop you from doing what you want.

Children don’t start paying attention to what others are thinking about them until they are trained to do so by society.

They begin their lives willing to be silly without a second thought as to what they may look like, and that is an incredibly freeing way to be.

Lesson #2: Time to Play

You always have time to play. If you don’t, it’s not a priority.

You might have been told that playtime is not necessary. That is a lie.

Children are happy because they allow themselves quality time with their imagination — something that should continue into adulthood.

Lesson #3: Get Over It

Not every fight has to be long-winded. Say you’re sorry and move on.

When children are hurt by someone they are often easily pacified by two simple words: I’m sorry.

Once those are said, they are able to hug it out and move on. This tends to be far more productive than the adult way of skirting the issue and holding a grudge.

Lesson #4: Find Joy Every Day

Excitement should be an everyday occurrence. If it’s not, something isn’t working.

While adults reserve excitement for vacations and holidays, children can be overcome by excitement multiple times throughout the day.

Why? Because they don’t take the little things for granted.

Lesson #5: Sensitive to Feelings

Other people’s feelings should be tended to and cared for.

Many children are incredibly in tune with the way that another person might be feeling and they are generally interested in bringing that person to a better-feeling place.

Adults are more likely to see feelings as secondary, leading to more misunderstandings and larger fights.

Lesson #6: Big Dreams

Dreams are meant to be grandiose, that’s what makes them worth fighting for.

Children think big when it comes to their dreams, and they have all the faith in the world that it’s all possible — until we try to steer them in a different, more obtainable direction.

Where would the world be if we never had any big dreamers?

Lesson #7: Self Expression

Self-expression is essential — like breathing or eating.

We might have been encouraged to express ourselves when we were in school, but many of us abruptly stopped after graduation day.

Yet, in denying our own need for self-expression, we fall into utterly unfulfilling lives. It’s up to us to continue to foster our own voice.

Lesson #8: Give & Receive Love

Giving and receiving love should feel natural, not like a scary leap of faith.

Children give love freely — often times without thought as to whether it will be reciprocated. That might seem terrifying, but it’s the only way to live fully, deeply and authentically.

Lesson #9: Live Spontaneously

Spontaneity fosters growth and keeps life flowing. It should be celebrated.

Plans keep us from fully experiencing the fantastic things that life has to offer because we are blindsided by our own rigidity.

Children, on the other hand, are constantly growing and learning because they are open to the natural flow of life.

Lesson #10: I’m Great!

We are all fantastic beings — we should be open to saying so.

Children are great at sharing the things they’ve accomplished throughout the day and they don’t feel the need to be quiet about it.

Imagine the self-esteem we each would have if we were willing to do the same.

*** What do you think? What lessons can we learn from the little people in our life? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below. See you there!

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About the author

Kayla Albert is freelance writer intent on living life deliberately. You can follow her at Confessions of a Perfectionist. If there's a writing project you'd like for her to tackle, visit her website at kaylaalbert.com

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12 thoughts on 10 Life Lessons from an Unlikely Source

  1. Great article! yeah i guess we all have a inner kid inside and we burry it under the worries,tension and seriousness of life.we can learn alot from the kids and live the life with love,joy and peace.its time to be childish again and enjoy!

  2. Learn from older people by listening to them more; learn from the children by worrying less.

    :)

  3. Give and receive love. that is so important thank you for this!

  4. Very cute post indeed. I hope your niece continues to live this way well into old age.

    My guess is that she will teach you even more lessons in her teens :).

    Thanks for the wisdom.

    Best,
    Tim

  5. Joy

    So true, especially the part about children being closer emotionally, spiritually and mentally to the source. I’m 27 and have to deal with what most my age does. Bills, work (which i love), goals and life in general.
    At times these things require planning so it can be hard to have that balance. To try and live free from constraint, what other people think, what you think of yourself and worry. I’m lucky and have a big extended family and when I can get to spend time with kids who remind me to chill out.

  6. Kayla,

    This post really resonates with me. I have a 3 year old baby girl, and she continuously amazes me with her wisdom. Today I was getting frustrated with her and the dog – neither were doing what I wanted them to do one of our multiple daily walks – and she looked at me and literally told me that I did not have to be so mad, and that saying Cinnamon (the dog) was being stupid was bad behavior.

    And you know what? She was right. I was getting caught up in the way I thought the world should be, instead of enjoying the way the world actually was at the moment. My little girl, on the other hand, was just happy to be outside having a walk with her daddy and her puppy. What freedom and wisdom that little girl has! Time to rethink what is really important in life….

    Thanks again,
    Chris

  7. Your post truly lights my way! Children are brilliant beaming lights that will always lead us to truths about your inner souls. We must listen and learn to LIVE IN THE NOW!!

  8. I truly enjoyed reading this post. I’ve been a little under the weather this week and have been forced to slow down and just be. I’m excited to get back to work in full throttle next week but the past few days have truly reminded me to stay in the present and just appreciate everything and everyone around me.

    thanks for a great post and reminder to embrace the things that truly count

  9. Love it Kayla!

    I may just show this inspiring list to my 11-year-old daughter. She’ll get alot out of it.

  10. A great post to read on a Saturday morning!

    I agree that self expression is important. Don’t be afraid to express yourself. Who cares what people think?

  11. Amazing post! Just so much we can learn from kids! I have a 9 month old girl and am already in awe of how wonderful she is. I marvel at her energy levels and her attitude to explore and seek out interesting stuff. She may cry for a moment when she falls down or gets hurt, but the next moment she will be smiling and laughing like nothing happened! This is the wonderful thing about kids – no baggage from past. :-)

  12. The little things children do so naturally that make so much more sense and teach us much about how to live life – full of enthusiasm, devoid of any grudge, hopeful about the future, excited about the opportunities in the present and always looking for fun :-)

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