Yes, they’re picky eaters. And yes, they don’t always know how to keep their hands to themselves on long car rides. But for all their shortcomings, kids have a trait that any adult should envy: They’re not cynical. If you’ve been having trouble cutting through the noise in your head to discover the things that make you happy, consider taking some cues from the little ones in your life.
1. KIDS ARE EXTROVERTS.
Have you noticed how quickly some children can strike up friendships and settle into a natural play dynamic? While it can contribute to a solid social life, being extroverted—or just making an effort to spend more time with other people—also has a huge impact on exposure to people, places, and ideas. The wider that net is cast, the better your chances are of finding, or enriching, hobbies and skills that capture your attention.
2. THEY’RE NOT VERY CONCERNED WITH TIME …
How many clock-watchers under age 10 do you know? Kids tend to get lost in activities without a lot of regard for how many minutes or hours have passed. Instead of being concerned with how much time you’re spending on an activity, try focusing on the task at hand and allow yourself to become absorbed in whatever it is you’re doing.
3. … AND THEY FREQUENTLY FORGET THEMSELVES.
Study a child’s face during playtime and you might notice a very intense look of concentration. This is sometimes accompanied by not hearing calls to go to bed or to the dinner table. Kids become so absorbed in tasks they push extraneous “noise” off to the side. That kind of focus can heighten your creative ambitions.
4. THEY’RE BORN OPTIMISTS.
Kids usually don’t default to expecting failure—that’s something that negative enforcement can drill into them over time. Instead of fretting over a potentially bad outcome, take after their enthusiasm and expect the best when you embark on a new path.
5. THEY DON’T WORRY ABOUT MONEY.
Children don’t think about pursuing things based on how much money they’ll make—or lose. While practical considerations like a mortgage make that a challenge for adults, asking yourself what you’d most like to do if finances weren't an issue is one of the best ways to figure out your priorities.
6. THEY KNOW WHAT THEY LIKE.
Sometimes we can reject what truly interests us because it can be hard to find people with similar curiosities, or because it might be dismissed as frivolous. Kids, however, indulge in whatever intrigues them, whether it’s painting, reading, or creating sculptures out of mashed potatoes. Try to emulate their lack of self-consciousness and enjoy things that make you—not others—happy.
7. THEY LIKE TO DAYDREAM.
Kids don’t hesitate to slip into their imaginations to try and deal with circumstances they don’t have the experience to put into context. Other times, they simply like to escape into a fantasy scenario. Staring off into space isn't counter-productive: In both kids and adults, it can provide solutions to real-world problems and help you hash out your feelings about what it is you really want out of life.
8. THEY KNOW WHEN TO BLUFF.
Children are naturally willing to fake it ‘til they make it. While this isn't always helpful (you don’t want a rookie on a power tool!), adopting that attitude—that it’s OK to learn as you go—can help you get more out of a situation than if you go into it focused on how you’re unprepared or ill-equipped.
9. THEY FIND JOY IN PLAY.
Kids aren't concerned with how practical or frivolous their activities might be—they just do things because they’re fun. As adults, we tend to prioritize tasks based on what we think we have to do, rather than what we want to do. Try to find something that has no other benefit besides being enjoyable. You may find that it brings you more satisfaction than you would have expected.