This past weekend I had the pleasure of meeting my very first nephew. My prior experience with babies is limited, to say the least, which is perhaps why I did not realize before just how special it is to welcome a new child to the world. I’m not only talking about the miracle of life here (did that human really grow inside a human?!) but also the instant and deep love and unwavering faith in potential that we adults feel for the new children in our lives. It is magical and inspiring to look down at a baby in your arms and realize this tiny human will grow and develop, learn, discover, and aspire to do anything he chooses. The world is at his fingertips, and the potential is overwhelming.
During my visit, I heard my mom coo a particularly interesting insight while rocking her grandson. She told him, mostly lovingly, for the next fifty years he will get to experience and learn new things each and every day. This sentiment struck me. Why fifty years? Have we done and seen all there is in this life by that time? Are we so limited in means and imagination that our hunger for new experiences evaporates by the time we reach middle age? Do we get so stuck in our day to day routines and making ends meet that we forget to open our eyes and our hearts to the simplest treasures this life has to offer? Do most of us even make it to age fifty with a new experience each day?
As these questions arose, I realized that many of us, myself included, are likely not living fully and maximizing our life’s potential. If we were, we would have new experiences each and every day, not just until age fifty, or whichever arbitrary number of years when we have lived and learned all there is. So what can we do? How can we regain the youthful enthusiasm and hunger for life we were born with, and that our loved ones wished for us from the very first instant our existence was known? A shift in mindset to practice viewing and experiencing the world as babies do might just be what we need. Below are the four most important lessons I learned from my nephew that should be applied to our adult lives:
- Feel and express emotion. Babies cry when they are upset and smile and laugh when they are happy! They do not bottle up discomfort, nor do they mask enjoyment. For many reasons (fear, social acceptance, pride, guilt), adults have adapted to lessen the feeling and expression of emotion. Practice vulnerability.
- Love first. Babies do not arrive in the world with hatred, angst, and distrust in their hearts. Rather, they are open to people and experiences. There is no doubt that we are hurt repeatedly as we grow, and the negative experiences can taint our optimism and faith. Practice staying positive and approaching each day from a place of love.
- Restore and nourish your body through proper nutrition, movement, and quality sleep. Naturally, babies sleep a lot, consume the highest quality nutrition to meet their needs in the form of breast milk, and practice muscle movement and control through squirming, flailing, and learning to hold their heads, roll over, sit up, crawl, and eventually walk! When we are first born, we are helpless. We need nutrition, movement, and sleep to progress, grow, and become self-sufficient. It only makes sense then, that to continue to grow in life, we will need sustained quality in these most basic human needs. Practice nourishing your body with whole foods, activity, and sleep.
- Ask for help. Infants can do very little on their own, and though they cannot talk, they are very good at letting their caretakers know when they need to be fed or changed or comforted. As we grow and become self-sufficient, it is easy to forget that we sometimes need help. By communicating our needs, whether physical, spiritual, or emotional, we can ease stresses and burdens that may very well be preventing us from living and experiencing life fully. Practice asking for and accepting help, and being okay with needing support.
By being mindful of these lessons and applying them to our day to day lives, we can start to regain that sense of wonder, curiosity, and potential that is so often lost in adulthood. When was the last time, on a typical day, that you experienced something new? Whether it was six months ago, two weeks ago, or even today, I encourage you to take these lessons and enjoy each and every day for the new opportunity and experience it brings.