Self Improvement

I’ve Got Friends in Low Places

Sometimes, the very things which define us as being adults, such as reliability and consistency and stability, work against us.

We come to a place where we think we know all we need to know, and we end up failing to notice many of the details in the world around us anymore. And that can lead us right into a rut – to a feeling of being stagnant, of apathy, of a sense of entitlement. We are so familiar with the details of our daily lives that we no longer see them anymore. And we can’t see any alternatives in our life, either.

But kids tend toward the opposite: they notice every little thing in their environment, and they tend to see them in terms of what they could be, not simply what they are right now. There’s a lot we can learn from that.

Here’s a couple of tips I’ve used to gain a fresh perspective on life, thanks to my friends in low places:

  • Get down on your knees. My youngest child is just shy of two years old, and every time he comes into my office, he picks up and plays with anything within his reach, points out the dust bunnies under the chair, finds dropped items behind the desk, and often urges me to sit down on the floor with him. When I do get down on his level, I see my space in whole different way, which inevitably leads to a deep clean or rearranging, and in turn, a fresh look at life.
  • Touch things often. When they’re young, our kids don’t know how to look at things without touching them – it’s a big part of how they learn. But we try to train them to keep their hands off of things, in order to keep our fragile items safe, and their hands clean, and so on. By the time we reach adulthood, we’re much less likely to be hands-on, to pick things up and play with them, and as a result, our experiences aren’t as complete as they could be. So run your fingers through the wet grass, feel the texture of tree bark, rub a smooth stone between your fingers, prick your finger on a cactus, or wiggle your toes in the mud.
  • Turn over stones. To really explore a place, kids know that you need to look under things, into nooks and crannies, and behind things. You need to pick things up and see what’s hiding there. When is the last time we did that with our lives or our house or our office? Today is a good day to get started. You owe it to yourself.
  • Tell the story. There’s no shortage of imaginative storylines from kids. They’re almost always interested in talking about where things come from or where they’re going. Unfortunately, as adults, we sometimes get so carried away with maintaining the status quo that we forget our own story. But we can stop and take a look at the people, things, and habits in our lives and see them as players on our stage. We can either picture them as essential to us as we move forward, or we can see that they no longer serve us and can edit them out of our story.
  • Improvise often. Children don’t wait to get started until they have everything they need for a project, they just substitute and jerry-rig and then make-believe the rest. We, on the other hand, will put off all kinds of new ventures, simply because we don’t think we have everything we need, and we’re really good at coming up with a justification for why we haven’t done something. Maybe we ought to simply begin, with only some string and some duct tape, make it up as we go, and see what happens.

Got any other tips from kids about gaining a fresh perspective? Please share with us in the comments!

Image: taylorkydd at Flickr

Derek Markham

Things I dig include: simple living, natural fatherhood, attachment parenting, natural building, unassisted childbirth (homebirth), bicycles, permaculture, organic and biodynamic gardening, vegan peanut butter cookies with chocolate chips, bouldering, and the blues. Find me elsewhere at @NaturalPapa, @DerekMarkham, Google+, or RebelMouse.

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