Watching my 7-month-old nephew discover the world has taught me that "Adults can learn as much from children as children can learn from adults" This idea is powerfully expressed in a TED Talk by Adora Svitak, a young author and speaker who argues that adults should listen to and learn from children, rather than just assuming that they have all the answers.
In fact, many of the best teachers learn as much from their students as their students do from them.My nephew has been no exception to this. It feels like part of his purpose is to teach everyone in our family to be softer, happier, more curious, and wiser. Here are some of the most valuable things I've learned from him:
Wake Up Every Morning and Smile
When my nephew wakes up in the morning and sees a family member, he lights up the room with what my dad calls a "1000 Watt Smile." The only time he's not smiling is when he's hungry, sleepy, or needs a diaper change.
A smile is a powerful tool that can positively impact not only your own mood but also those around you. Starting each day with a smile can be a simple yet effective way to cultivate positivity and openness to new opportunities.
Challenge yourself to wake up every morning and smile for the next 7 days. You might find that it changes the tone of your days, conversations, and experiences.
Look for the Magic in the Mundane
A few weeks ago, my dad hung up some new paintings in the entry to our house. Because I've walked through the door a thousand times, I didn't even notice them until he pointed them out. By the time most of us reach adulthood, we're operating on autopilot. We take the same routes to work every day and become somewhat oblivious to the world around us.
My nephew, however, is anything but oblivious to the world around him. He notices everything. When you see the world through his eyes, the mundane becomes magical:
For example, when we sat him on the washing machine, he was so excited that he had an ear-to-ear smile on his face. He was mesmerized by the sounds. And if you think about it, it's pretty magical that a machine can produce enough water to clean your clothes with the push of a button. At my parents' house, my nephew will stare up at the ceiling fan with delight. Nobody would ever think watching a ceiling fan turn is magical.
Babies are insatiably curious, but as we age we become less curious about the world around us. In her book "Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness," Ingrid Fetel Lee explores how we can find joy and happiness in simple things. By paying attention to our surroundings and finding beauty in everyday objects, we can improve our overall well-being and bring more joy into our lives.
Allow Yourself to Be Awe-Struck
A few weekends ago, my sister, dad, and I took my nephew to the beach. When we took him close to the water, he became very quiet. As we both stood there staring at the waves, I realized that he wasn't scared because he didn't cry – he was deep in thought. I gently said, "Buddy, I know it looks big and scary. But the truth is that it's beautiful, and when you're big enough, we can get in the water and you'll understand why."
Nature is the ultimate enriched environment that allows us to experience awe. Whether it's staring at waves from the beach, taking a walk through the woods, or climbing a tree, we can tap into the power of awe to enhance our well-being and expand our perspective. Awe-inspiring experiences such as witnessing a stunning sunset or gazing up at the stars on a clear night can evoke feelings of curiosity, wonder, and transcendence.
By seeking out opportunities to be awestruck, we can deepen our connection to nature and tap into a source of inspiration and renewal that can enrich our lives in countless ways. So take a moment to step outside and immerse yourself in the wonders of the natural world – you might be surprised at what you discover.
Learn to Be Self-Directed
Annaprashan is an Indian ceremony that symbolizes the introduction of solid food to a baby. During the ceremony, different objects are placed in front of the baby indicating potential career paths. The job of the maternal uncle is to feed the baby their first bite of solid food.
When I picked up the spoon to feed my nephew, he grabbed it from my hand and fed himself. Due to his strong will, my sister says he even gives himself strawberry and banana facials when she tries to feed him.
As someone who has spent my life on an unconventional path, my nephew reminded me of the importance of being self-directed. It's easy to get caught up in societal expectations and the paths that others lay out for us, but ultimately it's up to us to choose our own direction and make our way.
Self-direction requires a strong will and a willingness to take risks, but it also provides the freedom to pursue our passions and carve out a unique path that aligns with our values and goals. Let my nephew's determination to feed himself be a reminder to all of us to take charge of our own lives and forge our own paths.
Keep Learning New Things Every Day
Almost every other day when my sister calls me, my nephew has learned a new skill. Of course, these are simple skills that you and I take for granted. Or in the case of learning to put his feet in his mouth, a skill that most of us can't develop in adulthood.
He's also a curious explorer. When my sister or his grandmother sets the table, he observes every detail.
The intrinsic desire to learn and improve is something that many people lose as adults. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2019, around 27% of American adults reported that they hadn't read a book in whole or in part in the past year.
Most of us create perceived limitations and use them as excuses for why we can't learn something. But if there's one thing I learned from Steven Kotler's book "Gnar Country," which documents his process for learning to park ski at the age of 53, it's that we can learn far more than we think regardless of our age.
Watching the world through my nephew's eyes is a great reminder of the value of learning new things every day.
Have and Express Your Opinions
Adults often play it safe when it comes to expressing their opinions because they fear it may upset others. Babies, on the other hand, are unafraid to express themselves boldly and confidently because they haven't yet learned to care about what others think.
For example, my nephew hates wearing hats. Whenever my sister puts one on him, he immediately tries to take it off.
Don't be afraid to express your opinions boldly and confidently, even if it means ruffling some feathers. It's better to have a strong connection with a smaller group of people who share your point of view than a lukewarm connection with a larger group who doesn't really care. Embrace your opinions and let them shine through in everything you do.
Babies can Teach Us Just as Much as We Teach Them
As we get older, we tend to become more closed-minded. However, if we keep an open mind, every experience and person can teach us something.
Even though babies don't come with instruction manuals, they can teach us a lot. My nephew teaches me and my family something new every day, whether consciously or unconsciously. He reminds us to keep learning new things every day and to pursue our interests with self-direction. We should approach life with curiosity and a willingness to explore new skills and interests.
We can learn from the simplicity of his actions and his ability to find joy in the mundane. By staying open-minded and embracing our inner child, we can continue to grow and learn throughout our lives.
As I reflect on the lessons my nephew has taught me, I'm reminded that life is full of wonder and beauty, even in the most mundane moments. We often get bogged down by the stress of daily life and forget to appreciate the world around us. But we can change that by embracing a childlike curiosity and openness to new experiences.
Let's wake up each morning with a smile and a sense of wonder, eager to discover the magic in the mundane. Let's allow ourselves to be awestruck by nature and the world around us. Let's pursue our passions with self-direction and boldly express our opinions, even if it means ruffling a few feathers.
By doing so, we can create a life that is fulfilling and meaningful, and make a positive impact on those around us. So let's all take a page from my nephew's book and approach life with joy, curiosity, and an open mind. Embrace all that life has to offer, and let's make every day an adventure.