This is the first part of the Mind of a Child series, which describes how children remain in a near-constant state of presence and flow, and how you can emulate them.
The greatest men in the world have had enormous respect for children. From Jesus to Gandhi to Thoreau, the inherent wisdom of children has been cherished by truth seekers the world over. But what do we have to learn from children? And how can adopting the mind of a child make you a better man? Follow me for a series of articles and find out.
Take the good with the bad
Children have no preformed concept that the world should be a certain way. The world just is to children, and they respond accordingly. When the good times are rolling, kids are rolling right along too, laughing it up and making the most of what they have. When times are tough, little ones fully accept that and respond the best way they know how: crying, kicking, screaming, and histrionics.
Many of us look back and wish for the joyful life we had as children, but we forget that kids have it rough too. Kids are mostly bound to the will of their parents, for better or worse. When they want to do something, their card is trumped nine times out of 10. Then there are a host of benign fears that cause terror, bullies in the playground, authoritarian teachers and parents, and sometimes not getting the particular flavor of ice cream they want.
But the main difference between kids and adults is a flow from high to low and low to high that is mostly uninterrupted in children. Children stay present to their reality until they are fully programmed to do otherwise. Adults, on the other hand, adopt the idea that life should be this way or that, and so when things are bad, adults are rarely present to the emotions that keep them in the flow. And when things are good, often we are fearful of the evil around the corner that will take our high from us.
Sure, we can’t kick or scream like small children, but we can be present in responsible ways that keep us in the flow of life. Too often adults exchange their emotions for a sterile certainty; sometimes it is so hard to take the good with the bad that we would rather take nothing at all, and that is what takes the flow from life. Children don’t have it any easier than adults, but they haven’t been taught yet to escape the flow of life to prevent pain. This is distinct from adults, whose primary motivation is to escape pain.
Acknowledge your emotions
You can get back to the childlike flow of life that accepts good and bad as a complementary pair if you acknowledge all of your emotions. You can practice this by checking in with yourself throughout the day. Ask yourself how you are feeling and why you are feeling a certain way; set an alarm for it. Men especially have been taught to disconnect with their emotions, so getting back in touch with them is paramount for anyone who wants to be in a relationship. You can use this handy list of emotions to help broaden your emotional vocabulary and to better relate with yourself.
Adults have more responsibilities than to kick and scream, and we have other ways of acknowledging how we feel. Keeping a journal is one of the best outlets for your feelings. You can write anything you want to when you feel like exploding, and when you see those words streaming from your pen, you’ll know that you can handle it and that suffering can be equal to the highs of life.
Children stay with their emotions naturally, while adults develop a habit of repressing emotions, which is the same thing as rejecting themselves. Taking full ownership of the ups and downs in your life will reintroduce you back into the child-like flow of life where things are golden and make sense. Staying with your emotions throughout the day will help you to be more accountable for your mood and more present to the needs of family and friends.
Stay tuned for the next two installments of this series, which will reveal how curiosity, questions, dreams, and role models are critical to being the best man you can be.