I’ve been watching our little baby grow and develop from a helpless newborn to a baby who’s just figured out how to crawl. It’s been fun to watch, but I’m also struck by what little babies could teach adults, if we’re paying attention. Here are a few life lessons from our little child.
A Thirst for Learning
Our little one has a genuine thirst for learning. Everything is fascinating to her, and she’s constantly looking, touching, tasting, and experimenting to learn more. You can see the excitement at learning something new in her eyes.
Us adults already know so much, which makes it easy to fall into the trap of thinking we know it all. Or, we get too caught up in day to day activities to pay attention to what we could learn. This leads to stagnation, because we stop growing when we stop learning. I’m sure everyone has fallen into this trap from time to time; I sure have.
Do you feel stuck in the same old routine? Or feel that you’re no longer growing as a person? Perhaps its time to rekindle a thirst for learning.
Being Clear About What You Want
When our baby wants something, she isn’t shy to go after it or let us know. In particular, it’s very clear when she wants me to pick her up, or when she wants Mama. This is in stark contrast to countless people I meet who live life aimlessly. They’ve either forgotten what they wanted and why. Or, they’ve convinced themselves that they can’t have what they want, so they gave up.
Comparing a baby’s wants and goals to those of adults is a bit unfair. A baby’s life is much simpler, and they have Mama and Papa to look after them. As adults, we need to consciously think about our goals and our whys. We also need to check in with ourselves regularly to reevaluate our goals and make sure we’re still headed in the right direction.
Are you clear on what you want to do in life? What are you passionate about? And what do you find fulfilling? You need to know your destination before you can go there.
Fearlessly Pursuing Goals
I’ve got to be careful with this one, because too much fearlessness can easily get you into trouble. Indeed, my wife and I have had to repeatedly intervene as our baby fearlessly pursues goals with complete disregard of safety. Fearlessness needs to be tempered with prudence, or it degenerates into recklessness.
Nevertheless, our baby will fearlessly go after what she wants, and is willing to take risks. There’s no fear of failure; she’s to young to have learnt embarrassment yet. We’ll be working hard to make sure she continues daring to fail, because failure is one of our best teachers (if we choose to listen & learn).
Our baby has achieved so many goals thanks to her fearlessness, and that should be a lesson to us. We achieve none of the goals we’re to scared to strive for.
Do you have goals you want to pursue but have been too scared to strive for? Scared you’ll fail and be laughed at? Put that fear aside, and pursue those goals like a baby. Dare to try, and treat every “failure” as a lesson that’ll help you succeed.
I’m use every parent has times when they’d wish that their kids would just give up, and accept no for an answer. However, persistence is an essential life skill. Just watch a baby.
I can clearly remember when our baby started trying to roll over. She’d try and fail, try and fail again, and again, and again… She kept at it every day until she finally succeeded. This pattern has been repeated with skill after skill that she’s learnt. If she’d given up, then she’d still be lying on her back all day.
How often do we give up too quickly? How often have you given up when you were close to succeeding? How often have you given up thinking it’s not possible, only to see someone else succeed with the very same goal? Believe you can succeed, and persevere.
Babies can get distracted easily, but they also have periods of intense focus. You can see the concentration on their faces as they try to perform a new task such as picking up a ball (which our baby has recently mastered, by the way). I’ve occasionally tried to distract her during some of these periods of intense focus, and usually get ignored. I’m glad, because I want her to be able to focus on one task when needed.
Like so many, I suffer easily from “shiny object syndrome,” when I really should be focused on finishing and releasing my current project. I end up starting yet another side-project, and spreading myself too thin. Then progress on everything slows down.
How many projects do you currently have? How many different tasks are you taking on at once? Which are the top one to three that would deliver the most impact in a reasonable timeframe? Try to focus on those top one to three…
Asking for Help
Our baby regularly tries to take on tasks that are a bit too hard. There have been things she can’t quite reach, and she’s managed to get herself stuck in corners. It’s at that point that she’ll cry out for help.
We won’t always help her immediately because we want her to develop her own problem solving skills. Nevertheless, we’re always there when she needs us. More importantly, she wouldn’t receive the help if she didn’t ask.
Too often we’re afraid to ask for help when we need it. We’re worried others will see how weak we are. Or, we’re afraid of looking stupid, or simply expect that we’ll get rejected.
If you dare to ask, you’ll be surprised how many people are willing to help.
How often do we let fear of rejection or looking stupid stop us from reaching out for help? Ask and ye shall receive. Seek and ye shall find. Both “ask” and “seek” are verbs; you need to take action to receive and find… and also have some persistence and patience.
Pivoting (a.k.a., Knowing When to Quit)
A lot of success literature focuses on the perseverance side. “Never give up” we’re told, “and you’ll succeed eventually.” That’s not entirely true. Persevering at something that will never work is a fool’s errand, and a gigantic waste of time.
I’ve watched my daughter get herself stuck. She’ll have her shoulder against a chair or table leg, and be trying to move forwards. This is one of the times where we don’t run to her aid. She needs to be able to figure this one out on her own. Eventually, she’ll realize that it won’t work, and try moving in a different direction. And, just like that, she’s able to move again.
This is called “pivoting” in lean startup terminology. After persevering long enough to see that something won’t work, you pivot to a new strategy. Metaphorically, you pivot on your heel, and change direction (just like our little child did).
NOTE: Pivoting is not the same as switching to something completely different. Instead, you “spin on the spot” and head in a new direction (or strategy). For example, you may go around an obstacle instead of trying to bash your way through it.
Is what you’re currently doing clearly not working? Have you persevered long and hard, and it’s now clear that it’ll never work? What could you pivot too?
There’s Always Room for Joy
Life can be tough. Everyone has their ups and downs; their struggles; their crosses to carry. My wife got diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis, which has certainly been tough. It’s easy for the struggles to get you down, and I’ve met far too many people who are angry and bitter about their lot in life.
Our little baby has her struggles too. She regularly gets frustrated, or accidentally hurts her self (e.g., falling over and bumping her head). Or, she’ll get upset that she can’t see Mama or Papa. Or, she’ll suddenly feel hungry or tired. Sure, these troubles sound trivial to us, but to her they’re big dramas.
Nevertheless, she manages big heartwarming smiles. Sometimes seconds after crying. Her face lights up when she sees Mama or Papa, and everyone gets a smile from her. There’s genuine joy in her face, with no attempts to hold it back like us adults tend to do.
In short, our little baby takes great joy in little things, and it’s something I could do more of myself. I’ve often finished one task after another without taking the time to enjoy the little successes. Life will always throw you challenges, and taking the time to enjoy the little things in life, makes getting through the hard times so much easier.
What are three things you’re grateful for today? Ask yourself that every day, and you’ll start seeing little things to be grateful for everywhere. Yes, you’ll even end up grateful for tough life lessons, because they helped you achieve a greater success.
These are some of the life lessons I took from observing my little daughter. Many of them I’ve learnt before, but need periodic reminders. What lessons have you learned from your children? More importantly, did you put those lessons into practise? Knowing and doing are two different things, and the power is in putting knowledge into action.
Cover photo credit: Image by DivvyPixel.