The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Gretchen Rubin Headshot

Balanced Life: Treat Yourself Like a Toddler

Posted: Updated:

As I was about to head off to Kansas City for vacation, I realized something about my approach to traveling -- or any situation, really: I'm going to try to treat myself like a toddler.

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'm going to imagine how I'd view 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.

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.

***

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. Each post will help you think about your own happiness project.

If you're looking for a way to make a quick, handmade present for someone, or just a way to have fun yourself, check out Wordle -- a playful way to generate word clouds from text. So fun!

Follow me on Twitter @gretchenrubin.