The Default Is Regression – Fight It

There was a large, shallow water basin in the center of the courtyard. A three-year-old girl kept making her rounds. She took the three steps into the water, ran to the center, splashed around, then climbed back out. Then, a quick pit stop at her parents, and off again she went.

The girl tried all kinds of stomping in the water. Outside, she jumped from stone tile to stone tile in various ways. She waved at people and stared right at them. Sometimes, she’d wave her arms all over the place.

A friend said she learned that children know much more than we give them credit for. That includes hard skills like swimming or recognizing faces, but also soft skills like not apologizing for being curious and, most of all, not giving a damn what anyone thinks.

The little girl did not care whether she looked silly crawling, jumping, or flailing around her arms. If that’s what it took to get to the bottom of whatever sparked her attention next, then fine. So be it.

When children don’t want something, they will tell you – and they’ll do it loudly if they have to repeat it. They have no qualms about calling aunt May’s hair funny or telling one parent they love them more than the other. It’s a remarkable sense of honesty, and if we weren’t so busy dismissing it as cutesy child behavior, we would be both shocked and inspired by it.

If children can do so many things we secretly dream of being able to do as adults, maybe they know more than we do. Maybe we are born perfect, and what follows is slow decay.

When a plant stops growing, it dies. The same applies to humans. What we don’t see is how much of our struggle for growth is actually just fighting the default, fighting the regression from our initial, very well-rounded, if not perfect, state.

If you had a dime for every time you hesitated to say no when you didn’t want something, you probably wouldn’t have to work. The next time it happens, imagine a child declining to eat broccoli. It can be so easy, can’t it? “No. I don’t want this.”

Fight the default of regression. Don’t let your life become decades of decline. We’ll never be as perfect as when we were three, but if you ask me, the mere image of it is more than enough reason to try.