Andy Smithson, at TRU Parenting, recently wrote an inspiring list, titled “10 Things I Need to Teach My Children Before They Leave Home,” and it got me thinking.
If I sat down to compile a list of the 10 most important things that I, as their father (not just their parent in general), would want to leave them, not just by the time they leave home, which would be ideal, of course, but as lifelong lessons that will stick with them and be passed on to the next generation as well.
So, I did. I’m sitting here now, reflecting on those 10 most important lessons, and here they are:
1. Listen – Of all the things in life we are taught, from reading & literacy to math & science, few things in life are as important as learning when to hold one’s tongue and truly, deeply listen to someone else. Listening is a gift of love to another person and is often the beginning of healing when relationships go wrong. Listening provides us with a frame of reference and insight into how to respond, but most importantly, it demonstrates to others that we are willing to spend our time and energy on them, a favor that often returns later.
2. Appreciate – All too often, it becomes too easy to take things and people for granted, but when we remind ourselves of what we have as often as possible, we can begin to appreciate those things and people for the beauty that they offer. This especially goes for people who have differing views than ourselves. Appreciate their views and where they are coming from before judging.
3. Reflect – Never underestimate the power of time spent alone, in quiet reflection. Calming oneself and learning to listen to what the patterns of thought are trying to tell you can be a priceless amount of time well-spent.
4. Accept – That which cannot be changed must be accepted and let go. We spend far too much of our time railing against things and people that we have no control or influence over, and at some point, it becomes necessary to simply accept a situation and let it be.
5. Don’t take yourself so seriously – No matter what your title, career, or degree, remember what it is like to live life with reckless abandon – the life of a five year-old. It is important on occasion to forget what others think of you and just go with the flow.
6. Limitations are not always bad – When someone tacks on another rule, regulation, or limitation, don’t get discouraged, because, as the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and without limits, how would we ever learn to be creative? Look at limitations as a form of lens through which you can focus your creative energy and harness the imagination.
7. Each new day is the greatest day of your life – It may not always feel that way, but if you tell yourself this when you wake up, you will remind yourself that you have the opportunity to use the next 24 hours to try again. Each day is yet another chance to get it right.
8. What’s your hurry? – Slow down. There will be enough time to get everything done that you need to. Let the rest of the world rush and stress and worry itself to an early grave. The old saying, anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time, is pure wisdom, so put some thought and effort into everything you do, and refuse to settle for less than your best.
9. Always tell the truth, so you won’t have to remember as much – Lies build up a web of deceit, and if you weave one of these orbs, you will eventually trap yourself. Honesty may not always be the most attractive option, but it is the most liberating. However, remember that your tongue is also your most deadly weapon, so always speak with respect, wisdom, and compassion.
10. Be the first person in any conflict to admit you are wrong – While some may view this as showing weakness, when I think back on the people throughout my life that I have admired the most, they were also the most willing to be vulnerable and reconcile quickly. I never viewed them as pushovers or weak, but as possessing a strength I envied. It takes work, though, so start now.
Well, there’s my Top 10, and I don’t doubt for a moment that there are probably many more lessons that I didn’t include, so what would you add, if given the chance?