by Niall Doherty

I came across an interesting concept a few years ago — I’ve long since forgotten where — that I’d like to share with you today. The concept is quite simple: Imagine that there are two sides to your personality: the parent and the child.

Your inner child

Imagine that the child side of your personality is responsible for all those primal urges and knee-jerk decisions. The child is that side of you that thinks it’s perfectly okay to eat McDonalds everyday, to sit on the couch every evening watching mindless TV shows, and to blurt out stupid things at inopportune times.

The child follows every whim, for better or worse, never thinking ahead or considering the consequences of each action. Sometimes that childish spontaneity turns out to be a good thing, since quite often the best way to learn more about what interests you is to march right up and interact with it directly. The child also has that sense of wonder about the world, and likes to question why everything works the way it does.

Your inner parent

And then there’s the parent side of your personality. That’s the little voice of reason and experience inside of you, less likely to act on impulse. The parent advises against blowing your whole paycheck on a Playstation, reminds you to buckle up, and sends you to your room to think about what you did. On the downside, the parent half of you has been conditioned by society not to go against the grain, not to think freely, not to cause a scene.

Which one should you listen to?

You shouldn’t just listen to one side all the time. Sometimes your parent side will serve you better. Sometimes your child side will. Listen to both when it comes time to make a decision. Identify which side wants what and why, consider the likely outcome of each path, then pick a side and act.

(Granted, it’s not really child-like if you always pause to look before you leap, but that’s okay. Spontaneity will return later, as you internalize what makes a good decision and what doesn’t.)

Which one do you listen to?

Mostly parent or mostly child? Would you be better off listening less to one and more to the other? Can you strike a better balance than you currently do?