The lessons we learn from playing with children.
“A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.” -Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist.
I love the intuitive wisdom of children. In fact, my six year old niece just told me that she is the wisest person I know.
Athletes can learn a lot from kids. Here are just a few things I've learned from my little niece:
- A child doesn't train, she plays. She is building fitness with no intent, simply by getting out there and playing. It's only when we get older that we stop playing and start "training". For many people that is where the joy of the game stops as well.
- A child plays without ego. She does not consider if she is good or bad at something, she just plays. When she is learning to ride her bike, she does not care how she looks, she does not care that the neighbor boy is faster than her, nor does she care that her balance needs some work. She just rides her bike. As adults our ego makes us intimately aware of our lack of experience or skill, and this can prevent us from getting out there and trying.
- A child lives completely in the moment. When she decides she wants to ride her bike, she wants to ride her bike NOW! She does not say, "I think I'll ride my bike at 9am on Saturday...weather permitting." When descending a hill she squeals with delight, and when she is tired she stops, knowing that she has had enough for one day. At some point we stop living in the moment and begin thinking about what we need to be doing next. Or even worse we dwell on the past. This only prevents us from gleaming the most from the present moment.
- A child does not create imaginary barriers to action. When she decides to ride, she simply jumps on that bike and starts pedaling. She does not busy herself with non-riding tasks like matching her socks with her shorts and shirt, lubricating her chain or optimizing her tire pressure. Nothing will stop her from getting out there and having fun. As adults we often procrastinate on taking action by building imaginary barriers to getting out there.
- A child refines technique through trial and error and unstructured observation. She never says, "Tell me what I'm doing wrong?" She just keeps trying until she gets it *about* right. She learns from everyone around her, regardless of age, gender, or ability. She fails fast and often, and without ego tries again. She celebrates the wins and forgets the failures as if they never happened. Most importantly, she believes in herself and her ability to learn, adapt, and play with the big kids.
This week I hope you play like a kid, and remember that a great athlete can learn from anyone and everyone, even a kid.