The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm. ~ Aldous Huxley
If I were to ask you, “Who, generally, has a better time in life: kids, or adults?” I guarantee your answer would be “kids.”
Of course it would be.
Children don’t have bills and mortgages to pay, they don’t get pulled into the furor of political debates, they’re generally ignorant of the horrors that exist in the darkest corners of the world, and the only real “job” they have is to go to school (not that school isn’t difficult for many children—it is).
Given all this, it’s no wonder children smile almost forty times as much as adults do on a daily basis.
But ask a child how to be happy, and they’ll almost certainly answer you without missing a beat.
To them, happiness isn’t the deep, convoluted ideal that adults make it out to be; it’s simply a feeling that comes when they’re enjoying themselves.
Though many children are unable to really comprehend exactly what it is that makes them happy, some of them have already mastered the art of metacognitive thinking, and realize that happiness comes when you act on the following:
1) Use ALL of your energy.
As an adult, how many times have you seen a group of kids swimming in the ocean, or playing basketball on a playground, for hours and hours on end, and thought, “Where does all that energy come from?”
Obviously, as we get older, it becomes easier and easier to get exhausted—heck, even thinking of taking the stairs rather than the elevator up to my 5th floor apartment is enough to make me start breathing heavy.
But climbing those flights of stairs isn’t impossible. It’s completely doable. As an adult, I’d rather just save my energy in case I need it for something else in the near future.
While it’s definitely true that kids generally have more energy than most adults, they absolutely do have a limited amount of it. The difference is, kids don’t hesitate to use their energy like we adults do.
They don’t worry about how sore they’ll be tomorrow (which we old folks obviously do have to worry about), or how tired they’ll be later that day. They just go for it. They push themselves to their absolute limit at all times without giving it a second thought.
Obviously, I’m not advocating that adults start running around the office when they should be walking, or begin overexerting themselves at the gym (try going green instead!).
But I am saying that adults should never give up the “just do it” attitude that kids possess. We should always push ourselves as hard as we can in everything we do in order to reach our full potential.
2) Spend time playing.
You probably know that play is the ‘work’ of children. Wouldn’t it be nice if it were also the work of adults? While adults obviously have major obligations to take care of almost every day of their lives, that doesn’t mean that every second of their day has to be engulfed in seriousness.
Children are often able to find humor in almost any situation. Leaving out the inappropriate moments that kids might find hysterical, adults can learn a lot from the youth of the world.
There’s nothing wrong with taking a break from the daily grind to enjoy family game night, or to bring your son to a baseball game.
If you spend all your time on earth working, you’ll end up missing the moments you should have been enjoying the most. Do yourself, and your family, a favor: put the paperwork away once in a while and go have some fun!
3) Appreciate your friends and family.
This question is for the parents out there: Is there any gift more sentimental and precious than something made by your own son or daughter?
I doubt it. Kids might not even realize just how much these little gifts mean to their family members, but it’s these small expressions of appreciation that reaffirms to parents that they’re raising a loving, caring child — and there’s no feeling that can quite match that!
Sometimes, when faced with the busyness of the real world, adults unfortunately neglect their friends and families in favor of focusing on their career or other work-related obligations.
They forget that the reason they have a job in the first place is to support the people they care about the most. It’s important to remember just how much your family and friends mean to you, and create time to be with them, especially when they’re in need.
As adults, we understand that life gets in the way a lot of the time, and that friendships and relationships take a bit more effort than they did when we were kids. But putting in this effort is the best way to show people you truly care for them.
4) Enjoy the little things.
If you’ve ever seen a child jump in a puddle, or catch a snowflake on their tongue, you know exactly what I’m talking about.
They are literally awestruck by the things we adults take most for granted. They can spend an afternoon watching ants and worms crawl through a garden, or an entire evening catching fire flies in glass jars.
In these small actions, they’re being artists, poets, scientists, and explorers all at once.
So many adults just go about their day without any sort of appreciation for the little things. Where children can find happiness in seeing a beautiful bird fly through the sky, most adults wouldn’t even give it a second look.
Even something as beautiful as a rainbow can go unnoticed by the busy adult with work, bills and responsibilities on their mind. I hate to sound cliché, but if we all took the time to stop and smell the roses, we could add so much more happiness to our lives.
5) Be silly!
Remember when you were a kid, before you knew how to “act properly”? Those were the days, weren’t they? Kids don’t feel the need to conform to societal norms — or they simply haven’t learned how to do so yet.
Of course, adults often see these children as unruly or out of control. But in reality, they’re just kids being kids. They don’t have a filter, and that’s a good thing. They do what they feel like doing, even if that means acting like a Ninja Turtle in public. What’s so wrong with that? As long as they’re not causing destruction or bothering anyone, let them enjoy themselves.
Obviously, adults are expected to live up to a certain standard of decency. But sometimes, we feel like we have to act “cool” or “proper,” which stops us from being who we really are.
Why can’t we burst into song in public? Who cares who’s watching us? Why can’t we tap dance in the rain? Who’s going to tell me I can’t?
If there’s one thing we can learn from our children, it’s that we should never be scared to act on our (legal) impulses, no matter how ridiculous they may be.
6) Live in the moment.
A running theme throughout this article has been that children are doers, not thinkers. They put all their energy into their present activity. They get caught up in whatever small thing catches their interest. They do whatever their imagination tells them to do at almost any given time.
Simply put: they live in the moment.
They’re able to snap out of bad moods instantly if something good happens. They’re able to put away worries of the future, as long as they’re enjoying the present.
Again, I know adults have a lot to worry about. Sometimes, it’s impossible to put worries on the back burner; there’s nothing that can be done about that.
But there are definitely times when it’s absolutely necessary to let your worries go. For example, if you hate your job, there’s no sense in letting it ruin your off time. If you’re miserable from 9-5, use your evenings to look for something better, or at least enjoy the fruits of your labor in some way or another.
7) Look forward.
Okay, so I just went over the fact that children don’t worry much about their future. But just because they don’t worry about it doesn’t mean they don’t look forward to it.
Almost every child has some vision of what they’ll be like as an adult: what occupation they’ll have, the type of person they’ll marry, or the type of town they’ll live in.
And they’re always positive about their future. They have absolute faith that they will get exactly where they want to be as adults.
Unfortunately, so many adults don’t feel this way. At times, we all feel hopeless, pessimistic, or unsure of where our life is going. While we should absolutely be realistic about our expectations, if we don’t set the bar high enough for ourselves, we’ll never reach our full potential.
Just because most people’s dreams and aspirations change as they grow into adults doesn’t mean they should stop dreaming altogether.