“Return to the wonder of childhood, to the intensity of play, to the love of ourselves and our bodies, to growth and creation and self-discovery.” – Dr. George Sheehan
“Learn from the small children, behave like children, and treat all people on an equal basis, with love and tenderness.” – Leo Tolstoy
A great way to feel and achieve what we want is to model the behavior of the people who are already doing it. We can learn from their existing wisdom and practices, rather than having to reinvent the wheel. It allows us to grow faster and further over time. As Isaac Newton famously stated, “If I have seen further, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.”
Personally, I’ve identified and learned from awesome models in every area of my life. For example, to practice creativity and tap into the vast potential of the mind, I model Leonardo Da Vinci and Elon Musk. To surround myself with wisdom and implement positive habits, I model Ben Franklin and Brian Johnson. To perform efficiently, optimally, and with authenticity, I model Tim Ferriss and Leo Babauta.
For learning how to live with pure joy, health, and happiness, I’ve been trying to model children.
Why Model Children?
Present and engaged in whatever activity they’re doing, not worried about the weight of the world, and smiling more often than not, most children seem to have life figured out. My memories from childhood aren’t perfect, but the things I do remember are mostly awesome – and the pictures I’ve seen of that time seem to support that view.
Kids are also great at growing – it’s what they do. If life is inherently about growth, that means supporting growth is really important, and we can learn a lot from the natural behavior of rapidly growing human beings.
We were all children at one point, so their wisdom is still inside of us. We already know what to do and how to do it – we simply have to tap back into it. “The aim of education,” writes Dr. George Sheehan,” is to help the child become an adult. But, at the same time, to find the secret of allowing the adult to remain a child.” And according to another “doctor,” Theodor Seuss Geisel, “Adults are just obsolete children.”
Even great spiritual leaders direct us towards children for guidance. In the New Testament, Matthew, 18:3 reads, “And He said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Here are a few of the “child-like” behaviors that I try to model and embody.
10 Lessons Learned From A Child’s Wisdom
- Breathe. Living and breathing are intimately intertwined, and few adults breathe as well as the average baby. “I strongly suspect that all children engage in ‘advanced’ breathing/healing practices,” writes breath expert Michael Sky, “only to forget them as the habits of age literally take the breath away.” Gay Hendricks adds “If you want to see healthy diaphragmatic breathing, watch the way a baby breathes.”
- Play. The word play might be closely associated with childhood, but there’s no need to ever stop playing. In the words of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, “In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”
- Be Courageous (Don’t Fear Failure). Children learn to walk by falling again and again and again. They learn to speak by babbling sounds until parents offer encouragement. If this behavior was done by an adult, these Initial attempts would likely be viewed as massive failures. But with children, those “failures” are celebrated as progress towards an eventual future outcome. Courageously fail, and celebrate progress.
- Eat + Sleep (Honor Your Body’s Needs). When we first come into the world, we’re good at two things: eating, and sleeping. When we’re young and don’t get enough of those things, we get cranky, and we try to communicate (by crying). When we’re older and tired or hungry, we still get cranky, but instead of communicating or taking care of our needs, we often take it out on those around us. Next time you’re experiencing a negative energy state, ask yourself, ‘When’s the last time I ate?’
- Go All Out. Running, getting dirty, creating, screaming… kids give life everything they’ve got. They’re not holding themselves back or wondering how they look to others, they’re in the moment and full out. ”I saw that young children always give life their all,” writes George Pransky in The Relationship Handbook. “When adults approach life the same way they seem to get a lot more out of it.”
- Move. Along with eating and sleeping, our bodies need to move. Kids know this, and they’re constantly in motion – because it feels good! For some reason, we tend to make it more complicated as we get older, but it doesn’t have to be. As author Charlie Hoehn suggests, “Exercise is simple: Recall as many of the fun activities that you repeatedly and voluntarily turned to during your childhood, and write them all down.”
- Create. Crayons and markers cover the walls, or an empty box becomes a rocket ship. We’re fundamentally creative, and growing older is an opportunity to create in bigger and better ways, not to come up with excuses about why we can’t create. “Every child is an artist,” said Pablo Picasso. “The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
- Laugh. Deeply and often. This video1 of laughing babies (embedded below) has almost 28 million views. I dare you to watch it with the sound on and not laugh – or at least smile. I couldn’t.
- Grow. Growing into greater versions of ourselves is a fundamental need. Kids understand this. “The five-year-old,” writes Dr. George Sheehan, “seeks his own truth, his own perfection, his own excellence. [… He] is more than an aristocrat; he is the worker Thoreau commended. He is the artist the Greeks saw no need to define. He is the athlete we all wish to be. And the saint we will never be. Every five-year-old is a success, just as every consumer is a failure.”
- Be You. As part of a Silicon Valley partnership between leading technology, education, and consulting firms, Salam Ismail leads a late night conversation on the meaning of life. A recent participant2 gave the following summary, “In your heart of hearts, at the very core of your being, you are a soul glowing with the energy of life. When a baby comes into the world, only the soul shines through. […] Your mission in life is to live (and act) from the center of your heart or the energy of your soul.”
“Laugh a lot, and sincerely, because that is the pure sound of your soul.” – Michael Beckwith
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L49VXZwfup8 [↩]
- Dragos Bratasanu http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dragos-bratasanu/what-silicon-valley-entre_b_7945496.html [↩]