The Happiness Project

A chronicle of my attempts to test-drive every tip, principle and scientific study that promotes happiness

Why I Treat Myself Like a Toddler

The fact is, if you’re dealing with a toddler, you have to plan.

I remember reading somewhere that writer Anne Lamott thinks about herself in the third person, to take better care of herself: “I’m sorry, Anne Lamott can’t accept that invitation to speak; she’s finishing a book so needs to keep her schedule clear.”

Similarly, I imagine myself as a toddler. “Gretchen gets cranky when she’s over-tired. We really need to stick to the usual bedtimes.” “Gretchen gets frantic when she’s really hungry, so she can’t wait too long for dinner.” “Gretchen needs some quiet time each day.” “Gretchen really feels the cold, so we can’t be outside for too long.”

The fact is, if you’re dealing with a toddler, you have to plan. You have to think ahead about eating, sleeping, proper winter clothes, necessary equipment, a limit on sweets, etc. Because with a toddler, the consequences can be very unpleasant. In the same way, to be good-humored and well-behaved, I need to make sure I have my coffee, my cell-phone charger, my constant snacks, and my eight hours of sleep.

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I mentioned this new approach to a friend, who laughed and said, “As a toddler, I don’t handle noise or crowds well. I can’t be in that kind of situation for long.”

It’s easy to expect that you “should” be able to deal with a particular situation, and of course, to a point, it’s admirable to be flexible, to be low-maintenance. But I realize that I’m much happier — and more fun to be around — if I recognize my limits.

How about you? What kind of toddler are you? Or do you have other strategies to help manage yourself?

I’m working on my Happiness Project, and you could have one, too! Everyone’s project will look different, but it’s the rare person who can’t benefit. Join in — no need to catch up, just jump in right now.

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Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project, a book and a blog about her adventures learning to be happier.

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