Share everything. Play fair. Remember to flush. Your kindergarten years may be far behind you, but the lessons learned remain key to adult communication. And when these lessons become forgotten in everyday interactions, so that life becomes less of a supervised classroom, and more of a lunch-money-stealing recess, they only become more vital. What do we remember, and what can we learn?
Incentives are no longer given in the form of animal crackers or play time, but the joy in collaboration is still very real. Within children, it has been found that greater cooperation produces a greater joy in cooperation—a form of cognitive dissonance reduction—and increases tendencies for positive relationships and greater psychological health. Inversely, when achieving with a competitive mindset, children have been found to act aggressively toward one another, a behavior correlated with depression, loneliness, and anxiety. If you’re not enticed by the idea of making friends and sharing goals, the alternative, being stuck in an office with people you don’t like, can also be very real.
Joy in kindergarteners also comes from playing alongside learning. Jobs may have more gravity to their work, but who says they have to be boring? In fact, from Erin Fluegge Woolf, a University of Florida researcher, “workers who have a good time while they’re on the clock accomplished more, showed a higher level of creativity and extended more help to co-workers.” Her study focused on fun in interpersonal relationships, building on the topic of cooperation.
Keeping crayons in designated cubbies and placing nametags on desks was an early form of organization. Is it something you still practice? It’s easy to get caught up with multiple appointments or misplaced keys. Find time by maintaining an online calendar, keeping track of free and planned time, and making sure to never overschedule. Keep your living and working spaces clean, simple, and organized, grouping like items together in their own cubby spaces, so to speak, so if you do misplace something, it’ll at least be easier to spot. By practicing good organization and time management, the other virtue of being cooperative can also be fostered—in a study by psychologists John Darley and Daniel Batson, the tendency for someone to stop and help an ailing stranger depended largely on the single variable of free time. More free time means more fun time, too!
Between when kindergarten collaboration was emphasized, and sometime years past, behavior emphasizing teamwork has subsided. But in progress, let’s not forget and leave behind these lessons. A willingness to relax, work together, and stay organized builds support and happiness, elements essential to productivity and a meaningful life. Some things just never change.