3 ways we can learn from children

Children are born expert learners. Think about a toddler exploring their world, wide-eyed in amazement, and embracing their experiences as they go about everyday life. They try things out, notice what happens, and adjust what they do based on what they discover.

This photo of me with my son David was taken 20 years ago, re-discovered while we were enjoying looking through old pictures on Saturday night. This picture captivated me the moment I saw it (except for the pile of washing in the background, perhaps! 😊).

Notice how David is totally absorbed in what he’s doing, standing in a very similar way to me, and having a good old go at the keys with no concern over what it sounds like, whether it’s ‘right’ or ‘good enough’. As we grow up, we may tend to become more self-conscious with less appetite to make mistakes.

The good news is, we can undo some of this conditioning and open up a state of learning by taking lessons from our bright young teachers:

Let go of self-consciousness. Young children tend to be so in-the-moment they are not concerned about how they look or sound, or how well they do something. They have not yet developed the self-awareness to even think of that. They also ask whatever questions come to mind, in a straightforward way, simply asking exactly what they want to know. They don’t edit or procrastinate about whether to say anything, they just ask. They are driven by curiosity and a strong drive to learn, which has no room for faffing about or wasting energy worrying. Set a clear intention to learn like young children do, and you will discover new insights and possibilities.

Be willing to try things, whatever the outcome. There’s a belief, or ‘pre-supposition’ in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) that says ‘There is no failure, only feedback’ or ‘There is no failure, only learning’. Children show us wonderful examples of this whether it’s playing the piano, picking up a crayon to scribble on a page, or having their first go at a jigsaw. Imagine if they did what adults often do and held back to weigh up the situation before giving it a go? It would seriously hamper their development. If you think about it, as adults we have the potential to learn throughout our lives if we set our minds to it. And it can be a lot of fun in the process!

Be curious. Holding an attitude of curiosity is far more conducive to learning because it promotes understanding and encourages an atmosphere of learning rather than judgement. Even better if you can bring about a state of amused curiosity – me learning the ukulele comes to mind! I am quite musical but have never really mastered this particular instrument, and I chuckle away as I strum clumsily. I bet young kids would do that as well. Cultivating curiosity has been a game-changer in my work as a coach and trainer, and even as an author… writing with curiosity and openness to whatever comes up has a certain flow to it and supports my ability to be creative. When I’m working with people, curiosity helps me to notice where they place emphasis and choose what questions to ask to bring insights and solutions. Curiosity also naturally places the attention outside of ourselves, most of the time, or at least encourages us to be open to new information coming into our awareness in whatever way it wants to pop up!

So, these are three examples – you can probably think of others. What this represents is modelling: a way of understanding how someone does something with excellence, which is at the heart of NLP. It’s learning how to learn, enquire, open up new possibilities, and bring about more of the outcomes we want in life. If that’s not a recipe for living a wholehearted life, I don’t know what is! It certainly has enhanced my life beyond measure.

There are a variety of ways to experience this type of work for yourself, for example you can book a complimentary chat, join us at NLP Club, or have a look at events coming up to see what takes your fancy!

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