Remember the last time an infant gazed innocently into your eyes and smiled? Those wide, uncritical eyes have the power to elicit a bliss that eludes us most of the time. For an instant, life feels beautiful and worth living. As we grow older, the worries and concerns brought forth by life prevent us from enjoying our natural state of happiness.
Learning to maintain that natural state of happiness by emulating a child should not be a euphoria. As Henry James puts it in “Live all you can; it’s a mistake not to. It doesn’t so much matter what you do in particular so long as you have your life. If you haven’t had that what have you had?”
Following, are the five basic childlike characteristics that we can learn from our children for a happier, fuller life:
1. They are amazingly inquisitive
If you have ever been in the company of a child, you are used for their constant questioning. Asking questions is a deeply ingrained biological blueprint allowing a child to make sense of the world around them. A study conducted by Ranganath, a psychologist at the University of California, found that curiosity can increase our memory.
Curiosity is directly associated with the hippocampus, a small organ located in the temporal lobe responsible for information processing and long-term memory. Cultivating childlike curiosity can decrease internal inconsistencies and conflicts with others. An inquisitive mind instead of a lockstep mind will lead to human beings embracing diversity which will, in return lead to a happier life.
“Play is the highest of form of research.” – Albert Einstein
2. They are playful
Being playful has a host of benefits that most of us are simply not aware of. The greatest thinkers of our time have embraced being playful as being one of the main tenets of creativity and inspiration. David Keller, founder and chairman of IDEO admits that the time he spent playing, making and breaking things were the most rewarding.
The American psychologist Abraham Maslow is perhaps the greatest proponents of playfulness. Playfulness has been found to increase focus, humility, courage and more importantly flexibility.
Playful people have a positive life outlook that give them more resilience to face the adversities of life. They are fully-functioning beings with low degrees of self-conflict and with more maturity. Remember the last time you were playful? How did you feel? Wouldn’t you want to experience to that happy state again?
Have you ever noticed a child performing a task? Regardless of how mundane the task is, they get so caught up, that time seems to stand still. They are fully present. Being fully present means having your focus, your attention, your thoughts and feelings all fixed on the task at hand.
Mindfulness originated 2000 years ago exemplifying the importance of being fully present. Since its inception, it has helped countless people fight anxiety and stress and increase focus among others.
Life is so full of worries and regrets that compete for our attention, that “being fully present” represents an unattainable goal. Just like a child, being fully present can make us better listeners, build a tougher immune system and have more happiness. From today you have the duty to bring your undivided attention to whatever task at hand. This is one of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves and those around us.
4. They are not afraid of judgment
I have had the opportunity to teach public speaking and English to preschoolers. One of my biggest realizations is that my preschool kids improve faster than their older counterparts. Why? As a child grows older, they become self-conscious, and consequently become less willing to practice.
This is analogous to adults; the plurality of the expectations placed upon us makes us become less expressive, we don’t take risks, get complacent and laziness starts to set in. Like a child, we have the right not to let others’ perception or self-imposed limitations prevents us from failing, learning and improving.
Learn to fail and fail to learn as if there was no tomorrow. What have you been putting off because of fear of failure? A quick challenge for you. Think of a task you’ve been putting off. Now, use a fresh, naïve, childlike approach, act as if fear of being judged was not on the table, how would the situation change? Chances are a change of perspective was all you needed to breakthrough.
“Our children can be our greatest teachers if we are humble enough to receive their lessons.” – Bryan McGill
5. They forgive and forget
Ever see a child fret after being reprimanded? How long did it take them to get back to their natural, happy state? Children have the amazing capacity to regain their initial level of joy almost immediately after being punished. They hold no grudge, they forgive and forget.
As is with any skill, this is a skill we can learn with practice. While it may be reasonable to be angry when offended, sometimes we hold to the anger more than necessary. We talk about it, we think about it, we even lose sleep over it. Unknowingly the problem becomes a priority.
We forget that people don’t do us wrong because of who we are but because of who they are. The best we can do is to let it go…forgive and forget. We cannot afford to carry a grudge around, as it will do more harm than good. Think of someone you need to forgive, call them right now and forgive and see how you feel.
I am confident the same reason that drew you to this article will also motivate you to take action. The principles may sound simple, but they are not easy. The commitment to a fuller, happier life for yourself and those around you is well worth the cost of trying. May you enjoy a happy, fulfilling life that I believe is yours by right.
What is something valuable that you have learned from children? Comment below!
Image courtesy of Twenty20.com
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