We talk and write a lot about what we are teaching our children and what they are learning from us – but if we only focus on one side of this teaching/learning relationship, we are missing some of the greatest examples of our lives. Following are my 12 most important lessons we can learn from children:
1. Be yourself
Be exactly who you are, not just a replica of someone else, or a filtered-out version of who you think other people want you to be. Authenticity (the real you) is what builds connections and relationships – why bother with anything less?
2. Just be happy
Children default to “happy” … and you can too. Your mood is actually up to you– it is a choice you can make any time of any day in any situation.
I’m not kidding! Need to drop the stress from a frustrating workday or find a way to put yourself in that “happy” place? Skip! I’m pretty sure it is impossible for you – or those around you — to stay angry or stressed after a skip around the block (plus it’s great exercise).
4. Make friends
“Will you be my friend?” While we might not ask exactly the same question in our grown-up lives, the sentiment is the same: we need to reach out and make connections – in business and in the rest of our lives. Friendships always matter because it really is all about relationships!
5. Say what you mean, mean what you say
After a certain age, we call this “integrity.” Did you make a commitment? Stick to it. Did you twist the truth? Straighten it out. Did you deliver what you promised, when and how you said you would? Don’t give yourself the option for any answer other than “Yes!”
A smile is a powerful little movement: it relieves stress, reduces blood pressure, can change your mood (see #2 above — start with the smile), and my personal favorite, it is one of the few contagious things we actually WANT. Give away a smile and it comes right back to you!
7. Relax… take a nap
I recently did a whirlwind trip to Bogota Columbia (for SMWBOG), and when I returned I only got a short night sleep before I was back to work, beyondexhausted. All it took was a nap to get me back to myself and ready to work again. I say it’s time to bring back the nap! It’s free, it’s easy, and it WORKS.
8. Be fearless
When did our lives shift from fearlessness to playing it safe and basing our decisions so heavily around mitigating risk? If we let fear get in the way, we trade innovation for stagnation… genius for mediocrity … adventure for boredom. Which sounds better to you?
Singing is a wonderful form of expression, even if it is just you singing along to a song in the car when nobody else can hear you. Don’t you love when you pass someone in traffic who is “dancing” and singing, in their own world with the music? Be one of those people!
10. Wonder about everything
Wonder is one of the most important tools we have in our lives, no matter what age we are. When we wonder about everything, we remain curious and interested in everything and everyone around us, always looking for possibilities. World-changing innovations grow from wonder (Steve Jobs, anyone?).
Exploration is a fantastic way to get new perspectives, both literally and figuratively. Get out of your everyday physical, mental, and emotional environments, and you might be surprised at what you discover about yourself, your work, and your relationships!
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, and no fun to be around, and not very effective at work. Play is not a frivolous waste of time; it is essential in keeping our energy and creativity going. Take your “recess” every day for a week and see what a difference it makes!
As a dad, I will always be grateful for what I have learned from my two amazing daughters, and for what I continue to learn as they grow (quickly!!!) from children to adolescents. The ROR (Return on Relationship, #RonR) here is off the charts! At each age, children can teach us. Let’s not miss those lessons!