10 Life Lessons from an Unlikely SourceDon’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!