During my recent visit to Chicago, I had to share a house with two kids – ages 11 and 14. And I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out.
But you know what?
It was awesome. It was refreshing. It gave me hope for future generations. (Damn, I sound old.)
I was fortunate to spend this time with well-socialized, healthy children who haven’t endured the harsh realities of the world.
They reminded me of the incredible traits we all start out with in life. But because of the inevitable deception, heartbreak, and loss we experience as we grow up, we become more jaded and cynical over time.
Obviously, I’m not saying we should act like five year olds again. But there are some positive behaviors we could all learn from these tiny role models.
1. They’re constantly active. Children run everywhere. They do random short sprints. They race up stairs. They skip and jump.
As you get older, it’s natural that your metabolism slows and your body breaks down. But you can do your best to minimize that process.
A lot of people get out of shape and gain weight due to a lack of physical activity. They think they’re too old, so they act old – and prove themselves right.
I have a philosophy about staying fit — move your damn body all day long. You don’t always need dedicated “gym” times. That’s an excuse.
Do calf raises while washing dishes. Jog back to your car from the store. Do pushups and planks while watching TV. Put a pull-up bar leading into your kitchen so you do a set every time you walk in to get food. Do lateral sidewalk jumps while walking down the street.
Yes, you can act a little weird if it helps keep you in shape.
It’s not impossible to get your 20-30 minutes of daily exercise by incorporating it into your normal routine. If Charles Eugster can start body-building at 85 and set records at 95, it’s not too late for you.
2. They smile and laugh all the time. Kids are big goof balls. They’re playful all the time. The smallest stuff makes them giggle — from accidental fart noises to making fun of corny commercials.
In fact, it’s estimated that children smile up to 400 times a day while adults only smile around 15-20 times a day. Seeing as stress is proven to be one of the most detrimental factors to your health, you should make this a priority.
I am always embracing my goofy side. For example, I was checking out at the pet store and pretended like I was biting the toy to make sure it was good enough for my dog. I said, “Got to test out the merchandise.” The cashier laughed and started playing back, “Of course! How is it?”
I was shopping in Greece last week and walked into a clothing store that was blasting European dance music. I came out of the fitting room dancing like a madman and busted out my best Blue Steel modeling moves. I had my girlfriend and the store employees laughing their asses off.
Don’t take yourself so seriously. I’m not telling you to be fake and ignore your less-than-happy emotions, but allow yourself to get silly sometimes. Being a crabby mofo will age and kill you.
Plus, humor is contagious and reinforces how many people are dying to be silly, too. They’re just afraid to express themselves.
3. They know how to make work not feel like work. They pretend they’re a superhero who can absorb things while vacuuming. They make a competition out of who can carry groceries into the house fastest. And you can do the same.
Put music on and do crazy dance moves as your cleaning techniques. Yodel while you pay your bills for all I care. Just find something that makes you feel at ease while at work.
4. They’re endlessly curious. They ask questions about everything. They have a constant sense of wonder. Everything new is interesting and they want to discover all they can about that new thing.
They’re genuinely interested in people and who they are. They listen and aren’t just waiting to talk. They’re also not afraid to push people to reveal deeper, more personal subjects about themselves. They’re experts at getting past small talk.
And it’s because…
5. They’re refreshingly unfiltered. They speak their mind without hesitation. Children aren’t second-guessing everything they say or worrying about how they’re being perceived. They’re spitting out the first thing that comes into their head.
And that’s why you almost always know what they’re thinking. There’s a comforting sense of integrity with that. A kid will always keep you updated about how they’re feeling. They’re not going to hide their emotions and then feel resentful towards you later.
As adults, we can’t be unfiltered all the time because it can get you into trouble. However, most of us could learn to be more assertive and expressive.
6. They don’t expect the worst in people. Because kids haven’t been consistently shit on in life, they go into every interaction with a glass-half-full mentality. They aren’t expecting to get screwed over. They can get to know someone without letting their past experiences bias them.
It’s naïve to blindly trust people, but I do think you should give others a chance to prove themselves. Don’t give into your preconceived notions and you’ll be shocked at how many people surprise you.
7. They hold crazy amounts of eye contact. Because kids are curious and not assuming the worst in others, they’re the best at eye contact with strangers. They won’t hesitate to look someone new straight in the eyes. It’s a big reason why adults find them so charming and adorable.
8. They don’t hold grudges. They may get mad or frustrated but they always get over it. Usually when someone says sorry, they let it go.
That doesn’t mean they foolishly accept everyone back with welcoming arms. Even my own nephew told me once about another kid, “He’s kind of mean so I don’t hang out with him anymore.”
They’re generally not stewing endlessly for days or contemplating ways to get revenge. They just move on and focus on other people.
We’re all still kids in adult bodies, stumbling through life and learning from our experiences every day. So why not embrace the kid in you once in a while?
Like Mark Twain said, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”