My daughter has recently turned one. It was the opportunity to celebrate her young life and for us, her parents, to celebrate the achievement of that milestone. We made it. But what a year it’s been. And I am not only talking about the challenges with the inevitable sleepless nights, constantly changing routines, a tone of additional tasks every day, endless piles of dishes and laundry. I am talking about the challenges that have come from within me – of overcoming own barriers, blockages and limiting beliefs.
Why this blog post now?
I have spent years study myself and others, trying to understand human behaviour, looking for the ingredients to self-acceptance, happiness, self-confidence and self-awareness and all of this to answer the question: What makes us truly happy and successful?
And whilst I have been busy juggling being a new mum with working and researching those subjects in the last year, the answers have been right there, in front of my very eyes. Every day being presented to me.
My daughter has been showing me the way of life, which I believe - if I allow it - to be the truly joyous and happy one.
Here is what my one-year-old has taught me (so far):
1. Letting go of expectations. Acceptance.
I have talked about acceptance and non-attachment to outcomes previously. In all honesty, depending on the importance of the matter or object we cling to, it is always difficult to let go off something. And I don’t think it is ever possible to completely let go off not having any expectations. Like with self-talk though, the trick lies in catching oneself being attached to something, when that happens. When anger or frustration kicks in as we cling to an outcome and don’t achieve a set goal, we need to say ”ahhh-aa” and then let go. That is good enough.
2. Paying attention. Being mindful.
With little ones we constantly need to be on alert, pay attention to what they are doing to ensure they don’t hurt themselves. As a mindfulness advocate and its regular practitioner, I truly appreciate the benefits. No one is ever able to be fully present all of the time though. The moments our brains wonder, tend to be the very moments when we are required to stay put – here and now. Being a mother, I have witnessed the benefits of mindfulness, not only to protect my child, but also, and more importantly, to truly delight and enjoy the special moments. And those special moments can never be planned, they always happen randomly.
Children are the best teachers of mindfulness, they are always present and they always expect us to be present. They don’t understand the concept of the past or the future. Children don’t know that there may be two conversations happening simultaneously – one in real life and another one – in mummy’s head. And finally they don’t know that mummy’s thoughts may very much impact her moods and behaviours, which in turn impact the children.
3. True joy, curiosity and openness
One of the greatest things I have been able to witness has been my child’s uninhibited joy, curiosity and openness to everything around her. Not only do I love seeing another perspective through her eyes, but also love being reminded that there always is another perspective. As a leadership facilitator, who educates in areas of communication, relationship building and emotional intelligence, I always emphasise the importance of applying curiosity in interactions with others. Only then are we truly able to avoid judgement, be open and build strong rapport. But not only can those strategies be applied when interacting with others, they very much relate to our own circumstances. By asking ‘how can I look at things differently here?’ we open ourselves up to new possibilities and the possibility to be grateful and happy.
4. Asking for help. Vulnerability.
Asking for help does not come easily, and especially when we feel vulnerable. I have felt very uncomfortable asking for any help, worried that I would come across as needy or not copying well…enough. So many people nowadays suffer from deficiency in copying mechanisms’ strategies, language or behaviour to demonstrate that they need help. I have personally struggled with the idea that if I need help, I need to ask for it. It is my personal belief that social norms have deteriorated in that respect. And perhaps, living in Australia without any family, I have felt more vulnerable believing that no one is obliged to help or understand.
Despite my personal inhibitions, I have been the advocate of practicing vulnerability in leadership. I know that by admitting to failure, to imperfection, to having a need for something, a leader invites others to do the same – be imperfect and perfectly O.K. with that. A leader who is vulnerable has to let go of control, too. My new life circumstance has presented the new opportunity for me – to be more vulnerable and ask for help at the risk of being turned down (unlikely).
And the biggest lesson of all
We all are surrounded by people who show us a different way, who if we let them, can teach us something. You don't have to be a mother to be exposed to new perspectives. Whatever we see does rarely reflect the other person, and it is most often the reflection of the self. If we find ourselves angry or frustrated that the other person makes us be or do something, pushes us to be in an ugly way, the chances are it is not about them. And whilst we are busy asking why they are that way, or wishing they changed, we often miss the opportunity for our own growth.