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?
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