How to Be a Happier Adult by Staying a Child at Heart

4 childhood secrets you should never forget.


Moreno Zugaro

3 years ago | 7 min read

What’s your favorite childhood memory? My grandma had a huge cherry tree in her garden, which I loved to climb as a kid. I tied a rope to a bag with delicious sandwiches and once I had placed myself high on the wooden throne, I pulled them up for my personal dine with a view.

There were certainly more efficient or comfortable ways to get lunch in, but it was fun. And at the top of the towering tree, I was the king of the world. I could sit there for ages, munching on sandwiches and fresh, juicy cherries, overlooking the neighborhood.

My childhood wasn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but these are the memories I love to revisit.

You were innocent, curious, and doing things because you enjoyed them, not because you were looking for a greater gain. Getting high meant having fun on a swing, protection was a helmet, and cheating meant you lost a card game. But you wanted to grow up.

You wanted to be old enough to decide on your own when you’ve had enough snacks or at what time you go to bed.

Unfortunately, adult life comes with adult responsibilities.

Work, doing the laundry, tax returns, paying the bills. Often the only time out from the never-ending treadmill run is the Netflix show you put on every night.

What would your eight-year-old self say? Every now and then, you need to connect with your inner child, cherish these moments, and enjoy life for what it is.

Question Everything

In an amusing but philosophical video called “This is not a cactus”, Evan Hadfield tells a hilarious story from when he taught preschool children in Japan. Little 3-year-old Kazuki had to wipe the classroom floor with the other kids as part of their daily routine.

He pushed the rag with his hands and ran up and down the room on all fours, leaving a line of freshly-swept floor with little footprints behind him.

One day, while wiping the floor, he stuck his tongue out and licked it from beginning to end.

Evan did what any reasonable 17-year-old would do: He made sure nobody interrupted the hilarious show. After Kazuki finished, Evan asked him why he just licked the entire classroom floor. Kazuki’s answer was as innocent and baffling as kids’ answers can be.

“Because I didn’t know what it tasted like.”

As a kid, you question everything. How, when, what, who, why. It never ends. But at one point in your life, you stop asking questions and rely on assumptions instead.

You use past experiences and current facts to create an educated guess. It’s called inference, and it’s a double-edged sword.

The feature is unique to humans. It makes our lives a ton easier by predicting what situations will be like before we throw ourselves into them.

Not only is it super useful in your own life, but also helps our species to thrive. You can pass on information through generations, so your kids don’t have to make the same mistakes as you. Not all of us have to touch a hot stove, break someone’s heart, or nearly kill ourselves in an accident.

The problem with inference is confirmation bias. Over time, you become more and more convinced your assumptions are right, even if they’re absolutely flawed.

My grandma is a lovely lady, but she’s as stubborn as a mule. When you stop questioning and rely on assumptions alone, you stop growing without being aware of it. Everything seems good on the surface, but how do you know you’re doing the right things?

You don’t. Unless you question them. Don’t just do something because it’s always been that way or because someone says you’re supposed to do it. That doesn’t mean you have to challenge your every move, but never stop asking questions. You don’t have to spend half an hour choosing your outfit for work. But every so often, ponder if your job still makes you happy.

I bet a preschool floor tastes gross, even if it’s freshly wiped. But I could be totally wrong. And the only person who knows is Kazuki.

Assumptions pave the path to beliefs. Questions pave the path to truth. Keep your mind open. Challenge your thinking. Accept there is more you don’t know than you know. Question yourself and your own life regularly.

Do What Brings You Joy

When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the Harry Potter series. I stayed up until the wee hours to read the books, hiding under my bedsheets with a little torch.

A few years later, I got into computer games like Guild Wars and World of Warcraft. Again, I stayed up until I couldn’t keep my eyes open anymore and then got up early so I could get another round in before school.

You don’t have to sacrifice your sleep and social contacts in favor of whatever borderline-addictive behavior you showed as a child.

But as an adult, you often engage in activities not for fulfillment, but distraction. You don’t do something because you burn for it and enjoy the moment, but because it’s better than work, fighting with your mother-in-law, or being stuck in traffic.

Instead of wasting time with meaningless distractions, ask yourself what you enjoy so much you’d get up early on a weekend to do it. Build something.

Paint. Walk your dog. Spend three hours in the kitchen to cook an incredible meal. The possibilities are endless. You can choose — you’re an adult after all. But with the power to decide comes responsibility for what you do with your time. And I’d rather have childish joy than adult distractions.

Photo by Nong Vang on Unsplash

Always Stay Curious

“Children enter school as question marks and leave as periods.“
— Neil Postman

Why are kids so eager to learn and interested in the world they even lick floors, but as soon as they go through college, they avoid it like the plague? As someone who went through high school and university not too long ago, I’ve got an idea.

The schooling system compels you to learn and thereby crushes your motivation. Extrinsic motivation kills intrinsic one. Remember 10-year old me with a flashlight, reading Harry Potter under the bedsheets? I stopped reading altogether after I had to power through a few boring novels for my German classes.

School didn’t only ruin reading for me, but also killed most of my other intrinsic interests, replacing a joy for learning with the compulsion to obtain good grades.

It makes me sad to think of all the kids and teenagers whose aspirations and desires to learn are squeezed out of them, one learn-by-heart exam and meaningless and unrealistic exercise at a time.

If you’ve gone through something similar, you’ll have associated learning, reading books, and studying with a lot of negative emotions. Curiosity killed the cat, but schools killed curiosity.

It’s tragic. Every day, billions of miraculous events go unnoticed on this planet. Have you ever watched ants carrying cookie crumbs to their nest? Tried to tell a waxing from a waning moon? Or asked yourself if water really swirls the other way in the southern or northern hemisphere?

There is so much to see and explore, and in the digital age, you have access to tons of information for free. Reignite the curiosity of your inner child again. Detach yourself from the compulsion that came with learning when you were younger. Pick and choose whatever sparks your interest.

If you do so out of intrinsic motivation, you’ll have a ton of fun. And I’ve yet to meet someone telling me he wished to be less educated.

Break the Rules

“Break the rules, not the law, but break the rules.”
— Arnold Schwarzenegger

As a kid, I always looked for ways to break the rules. I can’t recount how many times I got home late because I was busy collecting tadpoles and playing with my friends. When you grow up, you conform. Staying in line is easier than causing trouble all the time, and besides that, sticking to the rules is what adults do, right?

Not if you ask Arnold Schwarzenegger. He’s arguably one of the most successful people ever, featuring an incredible rags-to-riches story.

He started bodybuilding as a young teen to get out of post World War II Austria and move to the USA, where he won the world championship title multiple times. Then he proceeded to become a Hollywood action hero starring in over 30 movies, a bestselling author, and even California’s 38th Governor.

The most important thing? He did all of that by breaking the rules. Bodybuilding was an all-American sport. His accent was too thick and his body too big for acting. A governor should have sufficient political experience. Or at least, such were the rules.

As a kid, you look for ways to break the rules. You think outside of the box. You don’t respond to limitations with resignation, but by looking for ways around them. You’re free from limiting beliefs.

That isn’t to say you shouldn’t abide by at least some rules. As Arnold said, don’t break the law. But to live a great and meaningful life, you’ll have to break a few rules and challenge some assumptions.

You Once Were a Child, Act like It

Life unfolds in chapters and phases. Childhood, teenage years, adult life, getting settled, having a family, building your own business, or hitchhiking around the world. Your path is unique, but there will always be something for you to keep when you move on.

The lessons you can take from childhood are to

  1. Question everything
  2. Do things that excite you
  3. Always stay curious
  4. Break the rules

A few weeks ago, I visited some friends. After we had dinner together, I tried to build a tower out of cutlery. One of them looked and me and said, “You’re such a child!” I smiled. It’s the best compliment I could get.

Always stay a kid at heart.


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Moreno Zugaro

Thought-provoking personal growth & slightly inappropriate humor | 600K views | Join 1000+ men on the path of authentic self-improvement:







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