Learning from a Two-Year Old
My wife and I have been blessed with a lively and spirited daughter. She is a bundle of joy and vitality. She keeps us entertained but there are also incidents of frustration and impatience through the growing pains. She loves singing, dancing and running. She continually reminds us of never missing out on the little moments of life.
Personally, she has taught me the importance of patience and that to reach her I must get down to her level and then lead her up to where she needs to get to. It calls for a shift of pace and mind to go from 8 hours of work with adults to an evening with a toddler. She has also tested the team spirit between my wife and I a few times but we have withstood the waves and our state of union is stronger than ever. Teamwork does make the dream work! In our instance, it is the dream of raising our child to be a God fearing, Christ following, life appreciating, purpose driven individual.
And then there are times when I wonder who is raising who. For example, when it comes to celebrating, our daughter has been the teacher and we the students on many occasions. But first, let’s look at the relationship between celebrating and the brain.
Endorphins are chemicals released in the brain that produce a positive feeling. This feeling is sometimes referred to as “runner’s high” caused by endorphins released after lengthy exercise. Some doctors even recommend regular exercise as an approach to mitigate stress, anxiety, and depression because the endorphins released due to exercise block them from having a breeding ground in your mind. When we establish a culture of celebration, the same thing takes place in our brain as well. Our daughter is not a neurologist (yet) but here are three lessons she is teaching us about celebrating which are applicable to everyday life.
Little Moments, Big Celebration
From learning how to chew, to being able to feed herself and finish her food, we have learned to clap our hands and celebrate boisterously to let our daughter realize that she has accomplished something. By celebrating, we form a demarcation to let her know that she has made notable progress. It takes about 20 seconds to clap our hands but the delight on her face is like MasterCard: priceless. Since then, she has grown into her own cheerleader and sometimes prompting us to celebrate with her. Recently she started using the “thumbs up” expression as a means to indicate approval for progress made.
It is not uncommon to be bogged down by what is not working right that we seldom take occasion to pause and celebrate the little things that are going right. There have been days I have run eight miles and then a mere two miles a few days later. I end up beating myself for not staying up to par with my previous run. To beat this, I started clapping after every run no matter how small or big to remind myself that getting out there to run is a win worth celebrating no matter the distance.
Big moment celebrations come easy for us. Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, job promotions, retirements, and graduations are all part of what we are supposed to celebrate. But most of them only happen once a year. That is too long to celebrate life. Find a way to get a win early in your day and celebrate that whether by clapping hands or thumbs up. The difference in your day will be visible!
Reward Systems Do Work
“Waterpop please?” Waterpop is the two year old version of lollipop. A lollipop is the reward that our daughter gets when she successful goes through a potty training session. This reward is small to us but huge to her and acts a motivation to learn what she would otherwise not be eager to do without a reward system in place.
In the workplace, employee retention is as important as ever. Employees who are valuable to a company are best retained through an effective and established reward system. Most employees who leave an organization do so because of a lack of appreciation, poor conflict resolution, and lack of work that is meaningful. Where incentivisation is ingrained in a company’s culture, you will find employees who are productive, and motivated. Appreciation is a basic human need and creating a system of recognizing what others do and celebrating them should be meshed into the culture of an individual, home, church, or organization. As a rule of thumb a reward system should be simple, cost effective, yet meaningful.
Give What You Want
“Good job daddy! Good job mommy!” These are words we have heard often and they always touch us deeply. Whether it’s coming back from a run or helping our daughter to clean up before bed, these words bring a smile to my face and seem to wash away any worry or frustration that was on my mind. My daughter learned to say this to me because we told it to her as often as we could. Learning to appreciate others is the easiest way to receive appreciation yourself. We want to be appreciated and celebrated but we don’t really want to give any of the same to others. There is a great reciprocity that happens when we take time to appreciate others first. By celebrating others, we free ourselves from jealousy and competition while at the same time communicating our ability to acknowledge the good in others as small as it may be. Healthy relationships thrive on this.
In living from a give first mentality, you also release endorphins in your brain. If you want encouragement and appreciation initiate the process by finding ways to give encouragement, appreciation, and assistance as often as humanly possible. You will notice that your own quality of life will rise even without getting any of those things in return immediately. Eventually, you will attract what you want by first giving it.
Final thought: You cannot celebrate what you don’t first appreciate. And in order to appreciate we must recognize where we have blind spots in small moments we overlook but we need to celebrate. As a challenge, find two or three things that you can celebrate at the end of your day make it a habit of choice to do so going forward. Practice it until celebration becomes a nature and culture in your life. Whether big or little, celebrate. Your mental fitness and quality of life will benefit from it.
Keep on Keeping On!