Here’s what I learned about three simple life balance rules by observing my three-year old on the playground.
Life is about striking the right balance, like when we are on the seesaw; you can’t always expect to be down, yet it’s not fun if you are stuck on top. Life is about finding stability in the everlasting movement of things, social relationships, self-improvement, and passage of time.
I was reminded of that just the other day, when I was observing my three-year-old at the park the other day. It occurred to me that the way he was navigating the intricacies of social life while also balancing on the seesaw with a newly acquired friend resembled the equilibrium we all try to achieve as adults.
Be Kind, but Don’t Let Others Take Advantage of You
Being kind can mean lots of things to different people. A pretty basic definition is when you smile, acknowledge others, show that you care, you are considerate and helpful.
“You wanna go to the slide?” the new friend asked my son.
“Hmmm,” he said, sucking on his index finger and with eyes rolled up pensively. “I want to stay on the seesaw now. After, we go to the slide,” he finally decided.
Pretty impressive for a three-year-old. That’s the first rule of being kind without being taken advantage of:
1. Think before you say ‘yes.’
Sounds easy in theory, but if we want to be sincere, how many of us have said ‘yes’ out of politeness, when we really meant ‘no?’ Although being polite is a good thing, if taken to extremes, such as always complying and agreeing unwillingly, then it becomes a boomerang that comes to get us. Settling to do things we don’t want to turns into anger, inwardly or secretly towards others- in any case a corrosive feeling.
2. Learn to say ‘no.’
This can be done politely, in a kind and considerate manner, that protects the self from taking on burdens and responsibilities we don’t care about. A kind ‘no’ is better that a passive-aggressive and bitter ‘yes,’ and that shows in our body language and our behavior towards the other person.
3. Set limits.
Let others know what your wishes are and how far along you are willing to go or contribute. Know your limits, empathize with others, yet set solid boundaries if you don’t want to be taken advantage of.
Trust, but Don’t Let Others Deceive You
That’s how we are supposed to navigate life as adults, trusting others at different levels. We trust that the driver on the opposite side will stop at the red light, so we proceed when green turns for us. Life is made up of implicit and explicit rules of trust. At the emotional level the price we pay when trust is broken can be very steep.
“You wanna go on the seesaw?” was my toddler’s heartfelt invitation extended to another kid. It’s a simple gesture of trusting the other child to come along, play by the rules and share the fun. Trust is a two-way street; we can’t expect to get it by others if we don’t expose ourselves a bit, if you don’t extend an invitation toward another person.
So, what if we learn to trust in baby steps? Picking the right people, trusting our instinct, testing the waters?
If your heart has been broken in the past you still need to find balance and rebuild a trusting relationship with yourself- you trust who you are as a person, you trust your choices. Sometimes others may disappoint you. It’s because they have an issue, it’s not your fault. But you can’t go on living without any trust. Consider building it slowly.
In the seesaw, you are neither always up, not always down. You trust the other person will do their job so that you can both have fun alternating.
Be Content, but Keep Improving Yourself
“Mom, you push me now,” is a universal theme we see in seesaws around the world, when the preschoolers don’t have enough weight and physical strength to go up and down. But as they grow and try, they learn how to use their skill to go up and down and have fun. That’s self-improvement, the exact kind we need for ourselves in our adult lives.
Self-improvement is one of the best ways to get out of a life of despair, anger, and negative feelings. Acquiring new skills, taking up hobbies, exploring passions, cultivating new relationships all work together to build confidence and good mood. Your emotional life becomes enriched while your mind thrives. When you engage in self-improvement activities you actually go outside your self-created prison or boundaries and enter a new world of abundance, possibility, and the joy of discovery.