Kids must be taught how to think, not what to think.
Today our son, Mac, started Kindergarten. The experience of dropping him off for his very first day of school struck so many emotions in me. As every parent of a school-age child can attest, the very first day of school is a learning experience in and of itself. It’s one of those little milestones you anticipate and always remember.
Anyway, I awoke this morning thinking about the whole experience—of childhood, parenthood, and everything in between—and two thoughts immediately came to mind:
- How in the world did Angel and I suddenly become parents to a kindergartner? Whoa! Time flies!
- There are so many things I want to tell Mac as soon as possible, before he’s in high school with his friends and too cool to hear my little nuggets of wisdom. And before Angel and I go from “mommy and daddy who both know best” to “mom and dad who couldn’t possibly understand.”
So in no particular order, here are 40 things I intend to tell him and his little friends, repeatedly, over the next several years:
- Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. – Don’t base your attitude on how things are. Choose your attitude so it supports and expresses the way you wish to be. Frustration and stress come from the way you respond and react, not the circumstance themselves. Adjust your attitude, and the frustration and stress is gone.
- What you experience starts with your perception. – In almost every case, nothing is stopping you… nothing is holding you back but your own thoughts about yourself and “how life is.” Your perception creates your beliefs. And your beliefs create your behaviors. And your behaviors produce your experience.
- Let go of the need to complain about life. – Spend your moments actually living its beauty. Change the phrase “have to” to “get to.” So many things we complain about are things others wish they had the chance to do.
- Positivity always pays off. – Your thoughts do not end when you finish thinking them. They continue to echo through your life. Choose wisely and intentionally. Be outrageously and unreasonably positive. Be funny and creative and ridiculous and joyful all at the same time. Smile as often as possible. A smile actually changes the vibe of your body. It alters, physiologically, the chemistry of your being. It will make you feel better and do better.
- Negativity just shortens your life. – Before you waste it on anger, resentment, spite or envy, always think of how precious and irreplaceable your time is.
- Worry is the biggest enemy of the present moment. – It does nothing but steal your joy and keep you very busy doing absolutely nothing at all. When you spend time worrying, you’re simply using your imagination to create things you don’t want. (Read The Power of Now.)
- Don’t run away from things; run toward them. – The best way to move away from something negative is to move toward something positive.
- Nothing is as bad as it seems. Nothing. – There’s a benefit and a blessing hidden in the folds of every experience and every outcome.
- Gratitude helps every situation. – How can you transform suffering into joy, and struggle into peace? GRATITUDE. Start being grateful for all the problems you do NOT have.
- Everything is falling together perfectly, even though it looks as if some things are falling apart. – Trust in life’s process. Happiness is allowing yourself to be perfectly OK with what is, rather than wishing for and worrying about what is not. When life is “falling apart,” things could actually be falling together… maybe for the first time.
- Change is necessary. – Change is the process of life itself. In fact, everything is changing every second of our lives. However good or bad the situation is now, it will change. That’s one thing you can count on. So never assume that you’re stuck with the way things are. Life changes, and so can you. Take a breath of fresh air. The past is long gone. Focus on what you can do, not on what you could have or should have done.
- You are capable of handling far more than you think. – Accept each moment, without judgment or anxiety. Remind yourself that all is well, and that you can handle whatever comes along.
- If you’re having problems, that’s good. – It means you’re making progress. The only people with no problems are the ones doing nothing.
- It takes just as much energy to waste your time as it does to use it wisely. – It is far better to be exhausted from lots of effort and learning, than to be tired of doing absolutely nothing.
- There’s a big difference between being busy and being productive. – Don’t confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but never makes any forward progress.
- You can’t achieve what you do not attempt. – Everything you achieve comes from something you attempt. Everything! Make the attempt. The path between wanting and having is doing.
- The right thing and the easy thing are rarely the same thing. – Do what matters, not just what is convenient. Do what is fulfilling, not just what is easy. When faced with a choice, choose the path that strengthens you. Choose to learn, choose to grow, choose to more fully become who you are.
- You can’t be your best without first being yourself. – Be highly effective by being highly authentic. Take a moment to pause and remember who you are and what you stand for. Take a moment to reflect on the ideas and principles that have real and lasting meaning in your life.
- Meaningful work is important. – You are at your best when you are moving toward a meaningful, positive and ambitious goal. So never follow goals you’re reluctant to pursue. Find ones that will keep you awake at night with excitement.
- Always realign yourself with your highest priorities. – If you’re being pulled in every direction by forces beyond your control, take time to realign yourself with what you value most in life. What is important in your life is what you decide is important, and this decision will ultimately create who you are. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Passion & Growth” chapter of the NEW volume of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Set your sights high. – Make your dreams big, exciting and undeniable. They’re the ones that will push you forward. Whatever is beyond your reach right now will not always be beyond your reach. Keep going.
- Miracles happen every day. – If we think that miracles are normal, we will expect them. And expecting a miracle is the surest way to get one.
- If you’re going to do something, do it with enthusiasm and devotion. – Hold nothing back… In life. Or love. Or business. Or anything at all. Every morning, ask yourself what is really important and then have the courage to build your day around your answer.
- Focused effort pays. – An attitude of “whatever is convenient” won’t accomplish much, ever. An attitude of “whatever it takes” is impossible to stop. So remember, effort does not cost you – it pays. What you invest in effort is never wasted. Sincere, focused effort always brings something of value – an outcome that teaches you what the next step is.
- What you are capable of achieving is heavily based on how much you want it. – When it means enough to you, then you can do it. When you are willing and committed and persistent, you will get yourself there, every time.
- You can always take a small step in the direction of your dreams. – There is absolutely nothing about your present situation that prevents you from following your dreams, one step at a time. Use each setback, each disappointment as a cue to push on ahead with more determination than ever before.
- Set time aside to celebrate your progress at least once a month. – Look at how far you’ve come. You have made progress. And now, imagine how far you can go.
- Other people’s opinions don’t have to be your reality. – Let the opinions of others inform you, don’t let them limit you. Learn to value yourself and what you stand for. Allow yourself to be yourself. If you don’t want what the world says you should want, have the courage to say so.
- Break the rules sometimes. – Don’t break the law, but break the rules. If all you are doing is following someone else’s rules, then you have not grown, you have only obeyed.
- You alone, get to choose what matters and what doesn’t. – The meaning of everything in your life is the meaning you give it.
- Listen to your intuition. – When something feels right, that means it is right for you. When something feels wrong, that means it is wrong for you. Pay attention to your authentic feelings, and follow where they lead.
- Own and embrace your imperfections. – Because once you’ve accepted your flaws, no one can use them against you. (Read The Gifts of Imperfection.)
- Every mistake is a step forward. – You cannot make a mistake; you can only make a decision that will be your next best step.
- Every day is a clean slate. – Don’t you dare give up on Today because of the way things looked Yesterday. Don’t even think about it. Every day is a new day to try again.
- No moment is wasted when you live it with presence and purpose. – Value and enjoy the journey, even when there are detours along the way. Appreciate every moment, whatever each moment may bring. From the genuine appreciation of these little moments will come a remarkable life.
- Treat everyone, especially yourself, with kindness and respect. – Treat yourself as the most important person in the world, and treat others as you treat yourself. Do not miss a single chance – not one single opportunity – to tell someone how wonderful they are, how beautiful they are inside and out. Live so that people will enjoy your presence when they’re with you, and appreciate you just as much or even more when they’re apart from you.
- Accept important apologies you never received. – If you love someone and you want to forgive them, relieve them of the need to apologize to you, for anything.
- True love is freedom. – Love lets go. Let go of expectation, let go of requirements and rules and regulations that you would impose on your loved ones. The gift of pure love allows you to bless others and accept them without condition, granting them freedom to make their own choices.
- Everyone you meet can teach you something important. – In fact, the people who are the most difficult to deal with can also be your most valuable teachers.
- No matter how much you know, there’s a whole lot you don’t know. – In almost every situation, a little more willingness to acknowledge that there may be something you do not know could change everything. Go somewhere new, and countless opportunities suddenly appear. Do something differently, and all sorts of great new possibilities spring up. Keep an open mind.
Above all, I think the best thing we can do for our kids as they grow is to allow them to do things for themselves, allow them to be strong and responsible, allow them the freedom to experience things on their own terms, allow them to take the bus or the train and learn from life firsthand… allow them to be better people, allow them to believe more in themselves.
What would you add to the list?
What else do you want to tell your kids before they’re “too cool” to hear your wisdom?
We love hearing from YOU. Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
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This is such valuable wisdom, Marc and Angel. It so beautifully highlights how I’ve learned to live better over the past few years, with the support from your coaching and live seminars. Many thanks.
And, as a mother of well-adjusted young adults, I would add:
1. Don’t be afraid to reach for horizons beyond your parents’ horizons. Mom and Dad may have wishes and plans for you, but let your dreams and options be wider and bigger than theirs. One day you will be fully grown and broaden their horizons.
2. Learn from Mom and Dad how to admit when you’re wrong, and to say sorry with grace and sincerity.
Darlene Anderson says
Love others as you wish to be loved.
All of us want to be loved. Some never attain this love because we don’t open our hearts to ourselves first. So, love yourself first and all the others will come to love you.
Francesco T says
Your emails and books…they always set my mind straight…always such wonderful reminders. And this list here is no exception. Thanks very much for sharing this today as we all get ready for another year of school.
I am a father of 2 boys (17 and 12). I have done the best i can promoting the list you outlined, as i am strong believer in all those teachings.
I just wanted to share my experience and add a thing to the list.
My eldest son has passed the ‘too cool’ age and my youngest is just about there. But i can say that regardless of their ‘too cool’ stage, i have experienced them in a state of humility. This normally comes when i am alone with them and i strike a conversation that is emotionally loaded. Having said that, the only way i can gauge how successful i was, is in the actions they will take.
I think that the most fundamental element is that both my boys know that they can come to dad for anything. That security that i have given them, will be the determining factor at a later stage when they are in need for some advice. Knowing that ‘dad’ will be there for them for anything that crosses their path, as they know i have been through it before. That bond and security is, for me, the most important element in our relationship to allow for life teachings to happen.
Humility is a powerful virtue, but one that’s overlooked and often neglected entirely. This is something life has taught me that I have tried to pass on to my kids.
The greatest leaders are usually the most humble. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. When we check our ego at the door it opens up an entire world of possibilities… because those who already know it all can learn nothing new.
Thanks for another thought-provoking read. And congratulations to your little guy and his big first day of school.
PS. I just bought both your books for my daughter as part of a back to school gift. She’s heading into her senior year of high school. I can’t believe it!
I love these 40 things, as much for myself as for my daughter. She is almost 14, so I think I’ve missed the “before they’re too cool to listen” window, but that just means I will deliver them in a variety of formats: spoken, written, sung, yelled, rapped…whatever it takes, I’ll mix it up and am not afraid of being obnoxious.
And to Christian, who commented above about humility, thank you. Humility was not on my radar until I had a child. I look back now and wonder why it wasn’t and I think it was because of my personal insecurity and my perception that I was expected to be perfect.
I made, and make, certain that when I’m wrong or even disappointed in my behaviour that call it out for my daughter to see and hear, and aplogize or recognize accordingly. I probably apologize at least once a week to her and it’s been like that since her birth.
I try to be the first to laugh at my mistakes or foolishness. When she was nine years old I heard her say to a friend, “you need to learn to laugh at yourself.” I think her friend missed the message but I was so happy that my daughter grasped the concept.
But I understand humility is more than what I’ve described and it is not something I decided to incorporate into my life with concerted effort until my late thirties. I find it very fulfilling though, now as I learn more about humility and what it means to me personally. It is a peaceful feeling to me and one that I try to model, and discuss if I can find the right words, for my daughter.
As person I wish I could have embraced the concept of humility much much earlier in life but likewise am so grateful for my eventual realization.
So thank you M&A, and thank you Christian, your wisdom is so very true.
Your list is great! I just want to add that as parents, we need to show them how it should be done, because kids seem to learn through our action and not necessarily through what we tell them. So it’s important for us to be the role models of how we want our kids to become.
Monkeys do what monkeys see
Peter Belau says
Thanks for the excellent life lessons in your list of 40 things that we all should learn. My suggested item:
Virtually all your limitations are self imposed. If you think that you cannot do something, (you can’t afford it, you don’t have time, whatever), please, think again.
My relationship with my 23 year old son is evolving and I need to work on #37 and #38. He forgot my birthday this weekend and I was going to give him a hard time about it until he called me to apologize and told me he loves me. That was really all I needed to make my day!
Krissi Miller says
To My children.
Simple kindness to others can break the fear of rejection. When someone is being cruel or seems to be avoiding you, be nice. They most likely are fearful of you as well. One nice action or comment could completely break down that wall and allow a new relationship to flower.
HI Marc and Angel,
I love reading your articles and I always leave a bit more inspired and a little bit happier and more positive. As a mother of 3 young men, I particularly enjoyed this article and reflecting on how it had or had not been applied on our situation. You can’t get them all!
I would also add that This too shall pass and that every teacher might not be the best, but they need to respect them and they can handle anything or anyone for one school year or term. They should always be respectful of the teacher. Just keep the communication lines open.
I always appreciate the wisdom that you and Angel share, and these nuggets are good reminders for those of us who are still working on being better people (since I don’t have any children, and I myself am a work in progress). Thank you!
Jane Wajja says
Thank you Marc and Angel for educating the world. On parenting, I have noted the challenges you met on the first of school for Marc Junior.
How old is he? From picture he looks young.
Jimmy Mozz says
I would do everything I could to help them learn that they are stronger than they think they are, and most importantly I would hope they come to learn that they are truly never alone…. Faith, Family and Friends.
Simon Doughty says
I value your emails so much! I also purchased the 1000 things book ,excellent. On the Road !
Thanks marc for the article I found it very useful to become a better person.
Renée Campsall says
I always say win people over with love. It worked in my life and then my older son saw it when he was young with a neighbor who didn’t like children, or dogs, etc. on his own he begin taking their newspaper up the driveway every morning to their door. Acts of kindness goes a long way. It works when you’re young or old. 🙂
Seadimo Gasennelwe-Gabakgore says
Thank you for the 40 pointers. I believe that the most valuable thing for me to teach my child is to have a quiet time to recharge and reflect in the morning and in the evening he can reflect on the day ahead, plan and piece things together. it can be 5 minutes or 30 minutes at the beginning and the end of each day to recharge and reflect and plan for the next day.
Jane Wajja says
Excuse, I left a comment on how best to make people learn. Sorry the theorist is John Dewey not marxist Charles Darwin my apologies please.
Phoebe Fallins says
Great list – with so many gems. I like the idea of being conscious of not taking things too seriously – which I guess is having perspective. Being able to take things with a smile and laugh off whatever the current “disaster” may be is a real skill.
It helps to lighten the mood – especially with kids lost in the panic of not being able to find something in the moments before leaving for school.
I have three daughters in prmiary school and seeing them off each morning with a smile instead of “grim concern” is one of my goals.
João Mattos says
We always want the best for our child, but sometimes we forget that we must be parents, not simply friends.
Don Tjader says
“Listen to all, but follow your heart”. When my daughter is too cool to hang out with me anymore, I hope she just follows her heart.