Some of us approach life thinking that we need teachers of the highest order before we can learn something. I have been guilty of seeking out spiritual gurus who I thought knew more than me and who could teach me universal truths. I have sought lessons for proven business practices from those that claimed to have made millions using their proprietary techniques. The outcome of all this seeking has been a mixed blessing at best. While I have learned some valuable things, I have also subjected myself to a bombardment of emails from individuals touting the newest guaranteed 6-figure business practice.
Yet nature and children have been a source of infinite learning for me; we can learn from the smallest of beings if we are open to receiving the lesson. I am humbled by this and have rethought my urge to seek advanced learning. Instead, I have learned to relax and allow life lessons to flow.
Last week, I learned a profound lesson about choice from a seven-year-old. I read a story to a group of 2nd graders in a school library. We were seated in the reading alcove with four bean bag chairs and a tiered seating area. I encouraged the children to be on the floor, where they could readily see the pictures in the books I read. Unfortunately, with more children than available bean bag chairs, it was a situation ripe for conflict.
One of the boys was upset; he wanted to sit in a bean bag chair, but no more were available. The one he wanted was occupied by a girl cradling a giant stuffed bear. I asked the two to share the bean bag, but they could not agree. So, I kept on reading, taking my attention off the pair, leaving them to settle it between themselves.
A while later, there was a scuffle; I returned my attention to the children. She was now out of the chair, and he was in it. Yet looking at his face, I could see he was still unhappy. The boy complained that the girl did not give him the stuffed animal; he wanted it. I reminded him that he wanted the chair and now had it. The girl with the stuffed animal moved to a different area.
For the next few minutes, I observed the boy’s behavior while I read the story to the kids. He pouted and carried on, clearly unhappy that he did not get everything he wanted. However, his focus of attention was not on what he had gained, what he had initially expressed as his desire, the bean bag chair. Instead, he focused on what he lacked, the stuffed animal. I could see that he chose to focus on lack rather than the fulfillment of his previously expressed desire.
What a beautiful life lesson that our happiness is a choice we make based on what we choose to focus on. The deep truth is our happiness is an expression of the focus of our attention. That little boy could have been happy to be finally sitting in a bean bag chair. He could have been grateful for the opportunity to be more comfortable. Yet his time was spent being unhappy, focusing on why he didn’t also have the stuffed animal.
I was able to see how this lesson applied to my life. I could see where I was choosing to focus on things that made me unhappy, rather than the gifts I have been gifted.
I have read some of the great influencers; I know that I receive what I am focused on. I know that being grateful creates more opportunities for me to be grateful. Yet at some level, my inner child was having a fit over what I didn’t have. I needed to see it in action to truly understand it. Thank you to the young boy who so beautifully showed me the depths of this life lesson.