Have you ever thought to yourself: “I’m on a round object which is spinning and flying through space.” A few evenings ago as I was sitting outside reflecting on life, I noticed the movement of the stars and constellations over the hours I was outside. Then a thought hit me; we're moving! I was sitting in the same spot in my yard, and I know that stars don’t move, yet they seemingly were moving. The constellations weren’t in the same spot they were when I first sat down as they were a few hours later. Of course I know, intellectually, that the stars aren’t moving, although I have never reflected on the implication that if the stars aren't moving, yet they seem to be moving, then it must be me who is moving, even though I am sitting in the same spot! “I’m on a round object which is spinning and flying through space.”
According to my research, the earth is spinning, at the equator, at a speed of roughly 1,000mph! While at the same time that we are spinning, we are moving forward at an estimated speed of 67,000mph! At all times, no matter what we are doing (like reading this article), the ground below us is spinning and moving forward at a rapid speed. We are on a giant ball which is spinning and moving through space! When was the last time you thought about that?
As I was contemplating the fact that I am riding upon a giant moving ball, my mind wandered to the tea cups amusement ride. As a kid I used to love that ride! As the cups moved along the track you could independently spin your cup as fast as you wanted. Now, as an adult, spinning in that way is not so much fun for me. Not that the ride scares me, but in that my body no longer handles the fast spinning motion. As I'm contemplating the celestial bodies and the movement of the earth, I realized that like an amusement ride, our ride through life is quite similar.
A child at an amusement park tends to enjoy most of the rides, and the scarier the ride the better; the more the ride made your stomach turn the better; the faster the better. As we age, those experiences no longer excite us as we tend to avoid those areas in life which seem to be scary, stomach-turning, and too fast. Rather, as adults we tend to look for experiences which are predictable, safe, and slow (I'm not talking about pace, I'm talking about challenges). What happens to us as we age which causes this change in attitude?
Let’s take a moment to think about some of the endearing qualities we find in children. Generally, they tend to be:
- Live in the moment
- Ask questions when they don’t know
Now, take a moment to recall that you once had these qualities. Some of us in adulthood still have these qualities, but generally speaking, we lost many of these qualities as we aged. As I reflect on myself, I realize that I lost these qualities as I came to understand that adult society, in general, frowned upon these child-like qualities. Like it or not, if I wanted to be accepted as an adult, I had to “act” like an adult. Or, at least, in the way society presented adulthood.
Children are usually happy and free because they don’t yet understand societal conventions, so they live their life in the present moment. I am not implying that we need to give up societal conventions and so do whatever we want as that could lead to chaos (or to a peaceful planet. Hmmm). What I am suggesting is that we remember what made us happy and peaceful as a child, and now as an adult find a way to bring back that feeling.
Let’s reflect on the list above from the eyes of an adult:
- Curious: Take the time to slow down to notice the world around you. Look at your world from a new perspective, similar to my reflection that we are living on a spinning moving ball. What does your curiosity say about you? What can you learn from your curiosity?
- Adventurous: When was the last time you took a risk? What stops you from taking a risk? I’m not advising you do anything dangerous, but try something outside of your comfort zone, or something completely different from what you typically would do. Afterward, reflect on what you learned from the experience.
- Risk-takers: Similar to my caveat above, I am not suggesting you try anything dangerous or damaging, but when was the last time you acted without thinking it through or planning the action? What about spontaneously taking a day trip or surprising someone with a visit.
- Live in the moment: Honestly, it is my experience with children wherein I learned about the peace you feel when living in the moment. I spent a several years as a chaplain at a children’s hospital, and regardless of the outcome from the child’s condition, they chose to live in the moment instead of dwelling on the future. Children who were dying, and knew what that meant, would say to me that dying will happen later and invite me to play with them. It was myself and the family of the child who dwelt on future thoughts of losing the child, all the while missing the opportunity in the present to enjoy time with the child.
- Play: What is the purpose of play time? To have fun, relax, be creative, learn skills, socialize, etc. Find opportunities which will result in those qualities being realized.
- Nap: Mexico, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Spain, Italy, Greece, the Philippines and Nigeria all take siestas, or naps in the afternoon. Maybe we need to find their wisdom and do like-wise. If you aren’t able to take a nap, can you find 10 minutes to close your eyes, or 10 minutes to walk around your office, building, etc. Just 10 minutes away from the stress and busyness of the day will refresh you mentally and emotionally.
- Creative: In his TED talk, Sir Ken Robinson shared a story about a young child who was coloring. The teacher asked the child what she was drawing, and the child replied “a picture of God.” The teacher said “but no one knows what God looks like.” The child replied “they will in a minute.”
- Ask questions when they don’t know: Many years ago, when starting my first teaching experience in a high school, I was given this advice: ‘if you don’t know the answer to one of their questions, make it up. They won’t know the difference and you won’t look stupid.’ Even as a novice teacher in my early twenties I understood how wrong that piece of advice was. How is it that when we reach adulthood we are expected to suddenly know the answer to all questions about everything? Yet, in the workplace, how often have many of us made up an answer so as not to look stupid among our colleagues? I have. But doing so tends to cause us stress, yet a child who asks when they don't know doesn't feel stress because they are being honest in their not knowing.
I challenge you to join me tonight watching the stars. As you do, reflect upon your ride of life and on the ride on our ball through space. Do we fear the ride or avoid it? Are we willing to raise up our hands and scream or grab the person next to us? Can we simply let ourselves enjoy the ride?
Ed note: This article was originally published by me at Your Tango. Reprinted with my permission.
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