Watching children play provides an instant lesson on human behavior. Children tend to be less aware of who is watching and therefore care less about other peoples’ opinions. As a result, the way they interact with the world can provide great insight into who we are, how we think, and the choices we make. Today’s quote is from Maria Montessori, a physician and educator who developed a novel philosophy for early childhood education. Whether or not you appreciate her approach, I hope you will find value in these words of hers: “Order is one of the needs of life which, when it is satisfied, produces a real happiness.”
I am certainly a believer on this one. Having the various aspects of my life in order makes me feel calm, peaceful, in control, and otherwise happy. Of course, I admit that my desire for order probably outweighs that of the average person. Still, I think that all of us, at some level, have an innate inclination to some level of order. Nowhere is this easier to see than with children.
For example, when my daughters were little, we would periodically take them on vacation to visit their grandparents. When we were spending time at a swimming pool, my father would take our multi-colored nesting cups and spread them out in a line from largest to smallest along the side of the pool. This organized line was like a magnet to my children, who would quickly dash over to the cups and start playing. Alternatively, when I simply dumped the cups out in a random fashion, my children didn’t seem to find them as compelling. This isn’t to say they wouldn’t play with them, but they didn’t seem quite as appealing as when they were set up in a descending array.
I’ve seen this same phenomenon in other settings with children.
- The allure of a new “craft kit,” in which all the elements are neatly arrayed in the original packaging.
- The appeal of a preschool room in which each seat at the table has been set up with a fresh pile of playdough.
- The draw of a collection of balls spread out at evenly spaced intervals before a practice on a field.
- The comfort of a predictable routine in a kindergarten classroom for hanging up coats, cleaning up toys, preparing for snack, etc.
- The power of objects being stored in familiar, predictable places.
Of course, most children don’t naturally return objects to order without some instruction and expectation. However, this doesn’t mean they don’t prefer them in order, only that they don’t find the process of resetting a space particularly fun. Nevertheless, most children flourish when order is required.
Today’s challenge is to identify one aspect of your daily life where adding a bit of order might bring you happiness. This could be anything from an aspect of your morning routine to clearing off your desk each night. Take a moment to identify where adding structure (physical or procedural) might help you feel more joyful.
Can you think of an area of your life where adding order might make you happier?