photo © 2010 Clarkston SCAMP | more info (via: Wylio) Children teach us a lot of things. One thing that they teach us is how to be very, very specific. At a Christian camp nearby, I have noticed that very specific details are given for instructions. When a camp staff member wants the campers to follow directions, the staff member will often say, “In a minute, but not yet, I want you to all stand up . . .” I suspect that the staff have learned over the years that “in a minute” is not specific enough for the campers. I suspect that the campers often start following the first direction to stand up without allowing the staff to finish the rest of the sentence.
Another example is when children are instructed to clean their room. Many parents explain in very specific detail what clean means. For example, a parent may say, “I want you to pick up in your room which means that everything should be put away. There should be no trash on the floor, all dirty clothes should be in your hamper, books should be in the bookcase, take everything out of your back pack and put it away, and under your bed is a part of your room.” Too many parents have experienced the dumbfounded expression of countless children and youth who are surprised to find that underneath the bed is a part of the process of picking up in the room.
We learn these lessons of specificity from children, yet some of us ignore the lessons when it comes to describing to other adults including ourselves what we want or expect. When we are vague or unclear, then others are left to determine our exact meaning. Most people cannot our minds. When we ask our spouse to do the laundry, are we specific enough? Does our spouse define doing laundry in different terms? In my family there are two separate definitions of doing laundry. One of us believes that laundry is not done until clothes are folded or hung up in appropriate places. The other believes that the laundry is done when the clothing is hanging on the drying rack. Specific details are needed for clear communication. The more specific we are, the greater chance we have of getting our desired result.
The same is true internally. For example, when we are setting personal goals, we need to be very specific about what we want to achieve. What exactly is the goal? If a person has a goal to be healthier, then what does that mean? Does it mean to drink 10 glasses of water daily, run a 12 minute mile, reach a certain weight, or lower blood pressure? The more specific we can be with ourselves, the greater likelihood we will achieve the goal.
Children teach us to be specific. We have to remember the lesson.