Act Your Shoe Size: 5 Lessons You Can Learn From Kids

flickr_allthecolor_shoes“Don’t grow up. It’s a trap.”

A couple of years ago, this was the gospel that I was shouting from the rooftops (metaphorically speaking, of course).

The coveted prize of adulthood had turned out to be an almighty anti-climax and a pain in the backside.

One oppressively grey February evening, after a session with my counsellor which was filled with lip-trembles and stifled sobs (me) and seemingly faux-sympathetic head-nods (her), I remember stepping out onto the wet pavement and thinking, “What was it all for?”

The straight As, the sucking up, the straight-laced conformity. So I could grow up, say “see ya” to adventure, and spend the rest of my life settling down and paying bills?

See, our generation has been told that we can have it all. The bling, the bucks, the J-O-B we L-O-V-E. We assume it’ll be all midnight dance parties and ice-cream for breakfast.

So when we say sayonara to adolescence and we’re simply left with rent to pay and nothing to look forward to but retirement (oh, and weekends; let’s not forget those alcohol-fuelled 48 hours), it can kinda feel like we’ve been robbed. I know that was the case for me.

Every day seemed to mimic the last and excitement was a non-entity. I had a major case of Is-This-All-There-Is-itus.

Around this time, I was spending my days surrounded by people no taller than my waist. Welcome to the world of nursery teaching, where four-year-olds bring you freshly-picked daisies, clumsily-folded “I love you” cards, and seemingly life-or-death problems that are swiftly solved with hugs and distractions.

Why I left this job is another story, but what I learnt are some things we could all do with remembering. Those four-year-olds in my class, with their grazed knees and full-to-bursting hearts, reminded me that life used to be pretty darn awesome back in the days when my giggles were unstoppable, bedtime was the enemy, and sitting next to a boy in class was the most unbearable thing in the world.

I started to figure that maybe life after childhood could be just as much fun.

Now, I’m not saying your life will magically get easier. We all have responsibilities staring us in the face, and it can be true that the world becomes a trickier place to navigate when we’re looking out for ourselves.

But even though you might not be sliding down rainbows every day, there are a few simple mindset shifts you can put into practice right now that will make it easier for you to spot those rainbows in the first place.

5 Lessons You Can Learn From Kids

flickr_demandaj_bubbles1. Look for the little things

“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”
– Andy Warhol

Kids flip out when the big stuff happens, obviously. I mean, Christmas? It’s the pinnacle of a child’s year. But a trip to the sweet shop? Just as exciting. A plane flying overhead? Gasp-worthy. A caterpillar on the pavement? Stop the press!

See, children are still pretty new to the world; they’re far from disillusionment and it’ll be a while before they take anything for granted. They might have seen a motorbike roar past them at full speed before, but they still go “Whoa!” when they see the second one. They know they’ll get soaked if they jump in a puddle, but if they pass up this chance, who knows when they’ll get another?

My point is that we’ve started taking the little things for granted. So start noticing them.

I keep a gratitude diary in which, at the end of every day, I list three things that have made me smile. It doesn’t have to be anything monumental. Most of the time, it’s the little moments of pleasure that we overlook, and it’s those same moments that we miss most when they disappear.

2. Focus on today

“Life gives you plenty of time to do whatever you want to do if you stay in the present moment.” – Deepak Chopra

It’s always struck me how in-the-moment kids are. A little boy who was fixed on building the tallest tower our class had ever seen wasn’t clock-watching to see how much time he had left, and a girl who was digging for worms in the grass never fretted about how her mum might react when she saw the mud smeared all over her brand new dress.

Children instinctively know that the present moment is the only one they have, so they seek to squeeze as much juice out of it as possible.

Try this for yourself; be mindful of what you’re doing as you’re doing it. Really throw yourself into the now and try not to busy yourself with anxieties about the past or future.

If you feel yourself stressing, breathe deep. Do something that relaxes you or makes you come alive. Be thankful for what you see around you. Make the most of the moment you’re in.

3. Dream big

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
– Eleanor Roosevelt

Remember when you were little and you were certain that you’d be a scientist/explorer/singer/writer/artist/dancer/doctor one day? What happened to that decidedness, that teeny soul that wouldn’t take no for an answer?

When you were four, you were sure nothing would stand in your way. So what’s stopping you now? With a little hustle and a lot of faith, almost anything is possible.

And if your dream doesn’t quite work out the way you hoped? It’s better to have tried and fallen short than to never have tried at all. Nobody wants to be struck by a persistent bout of the what-ifs on their deathbed.

flickr_allthecolor_heart4. Feel your feelings

“How you react emotionally is a choice in any situation.”
– Judith Orloff

Children aren’t afraid to feel what they feel, and most of them definitely don’t care who sees them do it. Have you ever seen a child fall over, fall out with their friend, or simply spot a dog in the street? Whether it’s wonder, woe or an all-out hissy fit, kids often wear their hearts on their sleeves. They aren’t afraid to express themselves, and they’re far from acquainted with the idea of bottling up their feelings.

It’s good to let it all hang out sometimes and ‘fess up to what you’re really feeling. So next time you’re so excited you could burst, or when the tears just won’t back down, don’t make your emotions wrong. Give them some airtime and give yourself permission to pay attention.

flickr_demandaj_tree5. Take risks

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller

When you’re four, you don’t consider that you might fall out of the tree before you climb it. You don’t wonder how that other kid might react when you smile at them and ask them to play. And you usually don’t care about looking stupid when you raise your hand in class to say, “I don’t get it.”

Our internal risk assessor gets more acute the older we get, and you could argue that it keeps us safe from harm, but what else does it have the potential to keep us from?

Fun, adventure, growth and connection.

Often it’s the risks we don’t take that we regret the most, so be daring. Go talk to that person you’ve been itching to reach out to and do that thing you’ve been dying to do.

You might hurt yourself. You might get rejected. You might end up right back where you started. But at least you tried.

Final thoughts

Don’t let the ‘real’ world squash your spirit.

Take risks against the odds, express yourself freely, get excited about the little wonders of life, and throw yourself into the now.

We might think we’ve got it all figured out as grown-ups, but there are some things that only the next generation can remind us of.

Share your thoughts in the comments! What’s one thing you can start doing today to start acting like a kid again?

About the Author

RebeccaBecca is a Feel Good junkie from the north of England. She loves writing, running, learning, dancing, deep conversations and green smoothies. Her role on the Feel Good Team is to interact with awesome people and inspire them to make each day their masterpiece. Email: / Twitter: @rebeccahunter


Photos by demandaj and allthecolor

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  • Love it Becca, thanks for your contribution!

    Sometimes when I’m walking around town I stop to watch kids play and just soak up their youthful enthusiasm and “in the now-ness”… so refreshing to see.

    I read somewhere that the wisest people in the world are also the mos connected with their inner child.. your post makes me think that that’s true :)

    • Thanks, Phil, for your support, and for your unwavering patience! :)

      I’ve never heard that about wise people before, but it makes so much sense when I stop to think about it. We’re born with everything we need, really. Compassion, wonder, enthusiasm, self-assurance. Perhaps we risk losing all that stuff when we overthink things, befuddle our brains, and pick up the norms and conditioning of our society.

      • “Perhaps we risk losing all that stuff when we overthink things, befuddle our brains, and pick up the norms and conditioning of our society.”

        I agree – when we are learning the ‘norms’ of our society we are often going the opposite direction than what we really want. We have to unlearn these things and embrace our ‘inner child’ like Phil said to really be happy. Kids, like you said, are so present — something we need to work on.

        • Absolutely, Max. I think presence is the core of it. Kids have got that down, but adults lost it somewhere along the way. Probably in the pursuit of future goals and nostalgia about the past. Kids haven’t been told that they need to work towards anything yet, and most of the time they don’t seem to recall the past with misty eyes. They’re matter-of-fact about stuff and in the moment. I’m fascinated about how we seem to lose that sense of presence as we age.

  • LOVE this post! Awesome job Rebecca. I love how personal it was for me. Thank you!

    • Thank YOU, Mario! I really appreciate you reading, and I’m glad it resonated with you :)

  • Woooooooooooooo! Hell yeah, I love it and my inner kid loves you!

    • Much love right back, from my inner kid to yours :) Thank you, Zaki!

  • Oh and please don’t act the age of you shoe size if you live in europe. My shoe size is 46 – acting that age wouldn’t benefit me for sure :D

    • Haha, I never thought of that, Karl! Here in the UK, I’m a size 7, but the European equivalent is a size 41. I’m not saying you can’t be a big kid at 41 (that’s exactly my point!), but I reckon I’ll stick to single digits :)

  • I think that life holds many realities and the reality of a child is a prime example of how adults lose sight of what they value most, their innocence. The innocence of a child is untainted and fixed on what they aspire to become and I find that to be quite admirable. Your article touched basis on what adults need to acknowledge in their day to day living and learn from the lessons that children offer. As a college student myself, I overlook the importance of my own innocence and I really come to terms with how I should live my life. Life throws many curve balls and puts constant pressure on us that we forget what it felt like to be a child. I try to choose not to. I appreciate the article you wrote and the importance of how we can learn from anyone, no matter that age or size of a person or living being. I believe that the reality of a child holds no boundaries and we as adults can learn and essentially alter our own mangled reality with a simple smile to a stranger or commit to an idea that is both monumental and life changing for friends, family, and acquaintances alike. Again, thank you for this article.

    • Thanks for your comment, Dennis! :)

      Innocence. That’s exactly it. Children are yet to be conditioned or impacted by the world around them. They’re open-minded and inquisitive, and they still dare to dream. You articulated this brilliantly, and I love your idea about doing something as simple as smiling at a stranger. Imagine the ripple effect if everyone just did this one thing every day!

  • This is such a great way to look at happiness. I have been trying to do all of those things lately but have never really made that connection before. I recently started up a blog about happiness and such, and I shared the link to this post and suggested everyone read it. I absolutely love it!

    • Thank you so much, Andrea, both for taking the time to read and comment, and for sharing the post on your blog. It really means a lot that you resonated with what I wrote. I think this is a perspective that a lot of us forget as we grow older, but I’m starting to realise that we had everything we ever really needed to be happy when we were kids. We’ve just complicated things for ourselves :)

So, what do you think?