We’re in the midst of the summer doldrums up here in the Northeast U.S. and, due to a week-long shutdown at my day job following Independence Day weekend, I’ve got a lot of time to spend with my 2 sons. The older boy is 5 (and a half!) and the younger is just turning 1.
While spending time with my children this week, I’m reminded of a few experiences they’ve given me that have taught me far more than I’ll ever be able to teach them. Consider this:
A couple years back, while on a hike in the woods with my son, we were trying to get to the end of the trail in order to skip stones at a pond tucked way back in the woods. As he dawdled along, picking up rocks and sticks and moving very slowly towards our destination, I chastised him for his dilly dallying and encouraged him with every step to move a little faster. As he resisted me entirely and continued to explore the sticks and stones, something occurred to me: the only person actually enjoying the walk was him. It didn’t matter where we were going, as long as we enjoyed the journey.
That was the first time I realized that my children would teach me to appreciate a great many things.
My younger son, even though just an infant, has always been a holly-jolly kind of kid. As long as his basic needs for food, attention, and sleep are met, he smiles and laughs constantly. Such simple needs, and yet, they form the core of what we all need to be happy.
As we go about our daily lives in the world of work, we’d all do well to remember these simple lessons:
1) Enjoy the journey. You might never get to your intended destination, so there’s no reason to hurry yourself just to get halfway there. You’ll see more and learn more if you just pay attention to what’s going on around you, which makes the whole trip worthwhile, no matter how far you get.
2) Attitude is much more important than determination. You can put your most focused effort into your for just so long. Eventually, you have to back off or risk depleting all your energy. Plus, working hard and long at something you really don’t like makes you grumpy. Approach every task as a learning opportunity, and work as long as your energy and focus can carry you. Make sure to mix in a little fun every now and again.
3) Laugh. There’s always something funny in every situation. Sometimes, humor might be inappropriate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not funny. Humor, afterall, is in the eye of the beholder. Also, it helps you to remember that you shouldn’t take yourself too seriously.
4) Ask questions. No one can claim to know everything, and there’s no embarassment in trying to learn. While we all encounter people who roll their eyes or grow frustrated at our lack of knowledge sometimes, the problem lies with them, and not with us. Seeking information is something that should be habitual. Providing it should be habitual, too.
5) It’s OK to make a mistake. As long as you learn from them, mistakes can be a good thing. Experience teaches and, if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying anything new. You have to have a few errors in order to get something right. Ignite your sense of adventure and a love of learning by giving yourself permission to screw something up a few times before you get it right.