If you want to be successful in the eyes of your two-year-old, do something that makes you happy. That’s what I’ve learned over the course of parenting my own two-and-a-half-year-old.
For all the talk of the “terrible twos,” one thing seems to be clear: two-year-olds enjoy being happy and they like doing the things that make them happy. Whether it be getting a brand-new train set, eating something with way too much sugar or staying up well past bedtime, two-year-olds know what makes them happy and are 100 percent committed to getting more of it.
It’s not a bad way to live when you think about it, though it may not be that sustainable for long-term success.
If I were to live my best life modeled after a two-year-old, I’d start my day with a bowl of tacos, online shop for seven or eight hours and finish the day with more tacos. The next day, I’d probably do the exact same thing, and I’d keep doing it because two-year-olds love repetition.
They are excellent at establishing daily habits and they approach their goals with total focus — just not exactly in the way we’d sometimes like them to.
Still, there is a lot that two-year-olds can teach us about life. They’ve been on this earth a short time, and that’s good because the longer you’re here, the more jaded you become.
In preparing for this piece, I asked my two-year-old son how he would define success and he replied, “I don’t know.”
He may not be willing to share his secrets of success, but I’m happy to do it for him.
So, on behalf of two-year-olds everywhere, I give you the 12 ways that people be successful in the eyes of their two-year-old.
1. Do what makes you happy.
Though a two-year-old may not have an actual definition of success for work or business, when it comes to life — a two-year-old's way of being successful in life is to do what makes them happy. Two-year-olds are all about the instant gratification that comes from the activities they enjoy.
In fact, the mood changes of two-year-olds mostly arise when someone tries to stop them from doing the things that make them happy. Anyone who’s ever witnessed a toddler meltdown in a Target or while leaving the playground knows what I’m talking about.
Whether it be endlessly jumping in a bounce house, buying a new toy or running from their parents in the park, two-year-olds are 100 percent committed to the things that make them happy.
So, if you want to honor the two-year-old in you, do what makes you happy. Take time out from your busy adult life to do something purely recreational. Build model trains. Scroll through social media. Learn a language. Have a dance party in your living room. Tap into your subconscious mind to determine what fun habits you should make a larger part of your life.
Don’t worry if the time spent on this activity takes away from whatever daily productivity quota you’ve set for yourself. You’re doing something that makes you happy, and you’re worth it. Your two-year-old would agree.
2. Live each day to the fullest.
A two-year-old has no concept of the long-term future. They don’t think in terms of weeks or months or years. No, they live each moment as if it were their last, and they act with the urgency as though it really were.
When a two-year-old decides that they want something — a juice box, for example — they become adamant that they get that juice box right then and there. It does not matter if you’re in the car cruising down the highway without a juice box in sight.
No amount of reassurances will quench their thirst for that sweet beverage. In the mind of a two-year-old, the juice box should already be there ready and waiting for them.
Live your life as if you were a two-year-old craving juice on the Interstate.
If there’s something you want, don’t wait for tomorrow or next year. Have you been feeling the urge to start a new small business? Are you itching to take up culinary arts? Or maybe you’ve found yourself dreaming of running a marathon? Whatever it is, don’t wait. Take that desire and get started on it today.
3. Be persistent.
A two-year-old could school any successful person — even a Wall Street executive — on persistence.
When my two-year-old son wants something, rarely will he take no for an answer. He will ask me 100 different times in 100 different ways until he either (a) gets what he wants or (b) reaches a compromise. For a two-year-old, that's the kind of hard work and skills they need to achieve their goals.
While “never accepting no” isn’t exactly a fitting lesson for children or adults, we could all learn a thing or two about a two-year-old’s persistence when it comes to achieving our personal and professional goals.
My toddler applies this rigid determination to his own daily activities. If he’s building a block tower and it falls over before he’s finished, he doesn’t quit. Instead, he automatically picks up the pieces and starts all over again. When he’s trying to shoot a basketball through the net from a new distance, he keeps trying until he makes the shot.
Any time he practices something that he hasn’t quite mastered, he keeps at it until he gets it right.
This is a great lesson for all people. If you’re starting a new business and you’ve reached a few dead ends, don’t give up. Turn around and find a new way of getting there. Keep brainstorming. Keep trying. Your two-year-old would be proud.
4. Ask questions.
Two-year-olds will ask you about anything and everything. Almost every sentence a two-year-old utters begins with the words who, what, where, why, when and how.
And why not? They’re learning and soaking up the world around them. They’re trying to understand language and life from the ground up. They don’t worry about how their question will be perceived or whether you’ll think less of them because of it. And they're definitely not creating a to-do list with all the steps they need to achieve their life goals.
Two-year-olds are bare pages ready to be filled with knowledge.
As adults, we should live our lives the same way. We should always ask questions about the things we don’t understand or about which we hope to learn more.
Asking questions helps us understand ourselves and the world around us. So, take a page from a two-year-old and just ask.
5. Stay active.
If you’re taking notes on how to be successful in the eyes of your two-year-old, be sure to highlight “staying active.”
If you’ve ever been around a two-year-old, you know they spend about 99 percent of their lives in constant motion. They spend their days twirling, leaping, running and spinning. They live to chase and be chased.
Learn from your toddler and get up and move. We all know the health benefits of regular exercise. A fitness routine can add years to your life. It makes your body healthier and better functioning. It clears your mind and can give you a much-needed energy boost.
And it’s not just about burning calories. A two-year-old doesn’t run to burn off cheesecake; they do it because it’s fun. So, if you aren’t finding joy and motivation in your fitness routine, switch it up! Don’t just do an activity for the calorie burn. Do it because you love it.
Whether it be ballet, dodgeball, kayaking, kickboxing or running marathons, pick the activity that inspires you to show up and give it your all.
6. Get an early start on the day.
Two-year-olds are known for being early-risers, so if you want to be successful in the eyes of one, get an early start on your day. Unlike a toddler, you don’t have to use this time to wake up the entire family. In fact, it might be better if you don’t.
Spend this time however you wish. Get a head start on your fitness routine. Take an early morning fitness class.
Be productive. Catch up on work-related tasks and study to be a successful manager.
Spend time meditating, enjoying a cup of tea or just relishing the early morning solitude.
Or, satisfy your inner toddler by having a bowl of cereal and scrolling through your iPad (just don’t tell your two-year-old).
7. Spend time with animals.
There are few things my son loves more than a trip to the zoo. Like many toddlers, he could spend hours watching the gorillas, elephants and sea lions (or as he calls them, the “sea otter doggies”).
At home, he loves playing with our pet cat and watching YouTube videos of his furry friends, including his current favorite: videos where dogs mistakenly try to rescue their owners from swimming pools.
Make your two-year-old proud, and spend time with animals. If you have room in your home, consider pet adoption. Giving an animal a loving home can bring years of happiness to your pet and family.
Another great way to connect with a furry pal: volunteer at a local animal shelter.
If you can’t find time to volunteer, stop by for occasional visits or make a donation. Many shelters have Amazon wish lists for items they need. Like getting regular exercise, spending time with animals is actually good for your health. Plus, your kindness will benefit the lives of the animals you help.
Your two-year-old would approve.
8. Treat yourself.
Two-year-olds don’t think twice about partaking in the foods and activities they enjoy. They haven’t been conditioned to feel guilty about occasional indulgences. Toddlers treat themselves like it’s their job.
A two-year-old doesn’t apologize for having a milkshake at lunch. He doesn’t question the fact that you take him to spend two hours playing inside a bouncy castle.
Live like a two-year-old and relish your occasional indulgences. Enjoy the facial. Don’t worry about how the fort is holding up while you’re away. Have the birthday cake without complaining about how you “shouldn’t.” Just own it.
Don’t feel guilty about taking care of yourself. The time you spend at yoga or running laps is making you a better person for everyone around you.
9. Take a siesta.
As every two-year-old knows, living your best life is exhausting. So, don’t be afraid to rest every now and then.
Most two-year-olds still take a daily nap, and while taking a nap yourself might not be an option, you should still take some time each day just for yourself.
Remember, you are not stealing time for yourself; you are claiming the time that is rightfully yours. We all need a little downtime to feel human.
Even if your flexibility is limited, claim your time during your daily commute, at lunch or during your toddler’s naptime.
Before you rush off to the next task that must be completed, take a moment and just rest. Regroup. Ensure you’ve taken the mental break before moving on to the next job.
I know how difficult it can be to force yourself to slow down for a moment, but if there’s anything you can learn from a two-year-old, it’s that constantly going without stopping will only make you cranky, overtired and unable to think clearly. And no one wants to deal with that!
In recent years, there’s been a lot of discussion about the benefits of adult coloring books. You can even find them in the checkout line of many grocery stores, which tells you how ubiquitous they are.
There’s something soothing about coloring. It can temporarily calm even the most rambunctious two-year-old.
If coloring isn’t your thing, find another artistic outlet you enjoy. Pottery-making, painting and scrapbooking are all good options that force you to focus on the task at hand.
When you’re finished, you can proudly show your work to your two-year-old. They might even hang your work on the fridge!
11. Show your loved ones you care.
Two-year-olds are still young enough that they have no qualms or insecurities about showing you they care. They live and love with abandon.
When daddy comes home or grandma shows up for a visit, my son will welcome them as if they’ve been away at sea for ten years. He drops everything he is doing, happily charges the door and enthusiastically greets them, filling them in on everything going on that day.
He is the same way when he wakes up in the morning or when I pick him up from school. He’s just so happy to see you — and he’s not afraid to let you know it.
A 2-year-old will happily share their cookies and their affection with the ones they love.
They’ll (literally) smother you with snuggles and hugs. They don’t share the same preoccupation with showing their vulnerabilities that adults have.
If you want to be successful in the eyes of your two-year-old, show your loved ones you care. Give them your full attention. Don’t let them doubt your commitment or concern.
12. Speak your truth.
Two-year-olds are unfiltered. They don’t yet have a sense of what is appropriate or inappropriate to share.
While this can lead to some embarrassing moments, we should all aspire to be as purely honest with ourselves and others as two-year-olds are.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should tell the world about your bodily functions at a nice restaurant like a certain two-year-old I know. But, you should live your life in a way that gives you a clear conscience.
We are all sometimes put in situations where telling the truth can be difficult. Maybe a friend is making some questionable relationship decisions and asks your opinion. Perhaps your employer is taking your project in a direction you didn’t envision. Or, maybe you’re in a personal or professional situation that isn’t a good fit.
Whatever it is, beating around the bush or giving your less-than-honest opinion isn’t good for anyone.
You shouldn’t be completely unfiltered — you should always speak with tact, of course. But the kindest thing you can do for yourself and others is to honestly share your truth, whatever that is.
Speaking kindly but truthfully is the way to show others that you value their time and yours.
So, there you have it: how to be successful in the eyes of your two-year-old. While they are small, they are wise, and by modeling ourselves after them, we might all be a little happier and healthier.
Candace is a practicing attorney, working parents advocate, freelance writer, and proud mom. Her legal practice focuses on workers’ rights. She can be found writing about law, motherhood, and more on her blog as The Mom at Law.