When the responsibilities start piling up, it can be tempting to shrink back from the demands of the real world. After all, if you don’t try, then you can’t possibly fail, right? But there’s a better way, and it involves looking to your kids—yes, your kids—for inspiration. Here are a few strategies you can borrow from the pint-size go-getters in your life.
1. BE THE HERO OF YOUR OWN STORY.
Children imagine they’re the protagonists of every tale, which gives them a sense of power. Picture yourself as the conquering hero of the task you need to accomplish. You could even make yourself a cape. We’re not joking; the act of designing (or even just drawing) a cape covered with symbols or images that inspire you can provide a surprisingly powerful boost.
2. ASK “WHY?”. A LOT.
It may drive you up a wall when your kids do it, but their intentions are (usually) pure. Take a page from their book and ask yourself why you want what you want. Ask why you need or want to do it, and why you haven’t done it yet. You might have a really good reason, and it might be something you can address. Or you might find it’s time to shift your priorities. But you won’t know unless you ask.
3. SEIZE THE DAY.
Kids and adults perceive time very differently. We tend to dwell on the past or worry about the future, but for young children, there’s only today. What would you do if there was no yesterday or tomorrow?
4. TRY ANYTHING.
Feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities or the task at hand? Maybe you don’t have to do things the way you’ve always done them. One of the great things about being a kid is that pretty much everything is new and worth investigating. Try taking a step back and looking at your project or goal with fresh eyes. Is there some other way you could go about it? The weirder and more novel, the better.
5. MAKE IT A GAME …
Just because something is difficult doesn't mean it has to be boring. What’s the easiest way to get kids to be quiet or tidy up their toys? Turning it into a game. If you want to get really creative, you could break your task into small pieces and award yourself points each time you get something done.
6. … AND RESORT TO BRIBES.
Nothing captures a kid’s attention like a bribe, whether that’s a sticker, an ice cream cone, or a new toy. The promise of something enjoyable is a powerful motivator, and there’s no shame in using that power on yourself. What would make you feel good? (Stickers, ice cream, and new toys are also good rewards for grown-ups.)
7. SAY “NO.”
We often confuse being busy with being productive, or, even worse, with being important. These are not the same thing. Take a hard look at what you really want for yourself. The next time somebody asks you something, check in. Does this thing support the things that matter to you? Will you and the world be better off if you do it? If not, it’s time to start saying no. But “no” isn’t necessarily a negative word. Each time you say no, you’re saying yes to something more important.
8. BE FEARLESS.
Kids do not give a hoot what anybody thinks of them. (You need evidence? Just look at the way they dress themselves, given the opportunity.) This frees them up to explore a world of options that would be closed off to someone afraid of looking foolish. Imagine working toward your goal without the burden of imagining what other people think. It sounds pretty good, right?
9. FALL DOWN.
As we get older, a fear of failure becomes more and more of a deterrent to trying. But if you watch kids on a playground, they fail (and fall) again and again and again. They get up, dust themselves off, and may have some cool bruises to show for it, but it doesn't stop them from running and climbing.
10. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.
Here are some words you’ll never hear a child say: “I’m not qualified.” It’s ridiculous to imagine, right? That’s because that child believes that they are the right person for any job they feel like tackling, and they don’t care who knows it. Take a page from that kid’s book and trust that you are good enough, you are smart enough, and you are ready. Now go!