As adults, we’re often preoccupied with thoughts on how we should shape our children: What techniques can we use to influence their behavior? How can we effectively guide their attitude towards others? What examples should we set for them?
Rarely do we pause to consider the lessons children can teach us. Simply observe a child, and you’ll learn several of the most important instructions on life and love.
Here are 7 simple ways to live as joyously as a child:
1. Seek Out Life’s Simple Pleasures
They splash through rain puddles with glee. They dig under rocks with awe. They can play contentedly with a wooden spoon for hours on end. Children have a natural ability to discover surprise and delight in the mundane, reminding us that our capacity for finding joy resides in our imaginations. Engage in the simple pleasures in life, and you’ll discover that magic and happiness are everywhere you look if you’re willing to open your eyes.
2. Live Squarely in the Moment
Time is an abstract concept to children. The day after tomorrow could feel as long as a month, while an hour can pass by in the blink of an eye. In turn, children have a tendency to exist entirely in the present. The benefits of living in the here and now are plentiful. We listen with keen interest. We focus more intently. We observe with clarity; we enjoy ourselves on a deeper plane.
Children think not of the past, nor of the future; they concentrate on what’s directly in front of them—and they give their all to it.
3. Strive for Honesty
Children lack the filter adults possess after years of observing and absorbing what is deemed appropriate. As a result, they see no reason to lie, omit, or soften the truth—and it’s wonderfully refreshing. Ask them a question and they’ll respond from the heart; don’t ask them a question and they’ll still speak from their gut.
As adults, how many times have we accepted an invitation, told a white lie, or brushed off a problem out of fear of rocking the boat, hurting someone else’s feelings, or seeming improper? If you’re anything like me, the answer is often. Apply the same clear-eyed candor children possess to your communication with those closest to you, and your relationships will become more meaningful and authentic.
4. Leap In
Children are game for just about anything, whether it’s introducing themselves to a potential new friend or jumping in line for the swings. Blame it on the self-consciousness that arrives with age and experience, but as adults we often shy away from attempting new things out of insecurity, fear, and anxiety. Dive into new experiences, friendships, and opportunities with the zest and freedom of a child, and you’ll be rewarded in spades.
5. Love Unconditionally
The son of a jailed man will love his father just as intensely and genuinely as a daughter will love her perfect homemaker of a mother. Children see beyond the attributes adults immediately assess—namely, appearance and social status—and recognise the true character underneath. Reticence, passive-aggressive behavior, and censorship of their feelings have yet to become a part of their vocabulary; they love freely, and without question. Focus not on the flaws you find in your loved ones but on who they are on the inside, and love them without restraint.
6. Treat Food like Fuel
Eating is a complicated issue for many adults. We rewards ourselves with food, attempt to quell our anxiety by snacking, or abstain from eating in an effort to lose weight or gain control of our lives. Children view food in a much more straightforward fashion: It’s fuel for their existence, consumed in equal measure to their needs. They eat when they’re hungry and stop when they’re full, just as they sleep when they’re tired and wake when they’re refreshed. Listen to your body, attend to its needs, and you’ll have the vigour and enthusiasm of a five-year-old.
7. Create with Abandon
Children tap into their imaginations when they create, while adults are consistently encumbered by their inhibitions. Think of the possibilities of what you could do and what you might discover if you approached your creative endeavors with the wonder and spontaneity of a child. Dance as if no one is looking. Sing as if no can hear you. And write, draw, and paint without reservation. You might create a masterpiece in the process. You might not. The important thing is that you give yourself license to express yourself with recklessness and exhilaration.
Leo Buscaglia once wrote, “I am often accused of being childish…I still get wildly enthusiastic about little things. I tend to exaggerate and fantasize and embellish. I still listen to instinctual urges. I play with leaves. I skip down the street and run against the wind…It has been after such times of joy that I have achieved my greatest creativity and produced my best work.” Is it any wonder that the title of his book is Bus 9 to Paradise? Now, follow me. Let’s get in line for the swings, and pump our legs towards Eden.