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5 ‘Sesame Street’ Lessons We Need Again As Adults

Valuable lessons a few muppets can teach us later in life

This fall, Sesame Street — the critically acclaimed and much-loved PBS children’s series — enters its 46th season. While the program’s purpose is to teach children basic literacy and emotional skills, Sesame’s lessons aren’t only applicable to the young. To honor the show’s new season, we offer up five memorable clips and extrapolate sage advice for learners of any age.

1. Put Down the Ducky if You Want to Play the Saxophone

On Sesame Street, when muppet Ernie wants to play the saxophone, he learns he has to put his rubber ducky down before he can pick up the sax. It’s a lesson most adults can learn from, too: If you want to try something new and exciting, you might need to set down something that’s holding you back. Want to write that book, or start that new business venture? First, let go of fears that you can’t do it. It’s a lesson that also applies to relationships, too. Want to reconnect with an old friend or an estranged child? Maybe it’s time let go of old feelings or disagreements in order to pick up the relationship again.

2. A Sense of Adventure Never Gets Old

Little kids are always looking for adventure — exploring a new corner of the backyard, seeking out a new friend at the park or just playing a game improvised on the spot. A study in Scientific American reports that, as an adult, a sense of adventure may also be key to things like a successful marriage — whether cooking a new meal as a duo, learning to ski together or taking a trip for two to a new destination. Shared experiences allow for a sense of “self-expansion” explains a similar study featured in The New York Times. The more self-expansion experienced from and with a partner, the study suggests, the more satisfied individuals are with their relationships. You’re not only having fun; you’re also strengthening your marriage for the years to come.

3. Friends Matter

The late actor James Gandolfini is best known for playing tough guy mobster Tony Soprano on HBO. But in this Sesame Street clip, he’s just a guy talking with his friend, Zoe, about how he’s feeling. As an adult, it turns out that friends we can talk to may actually be lifesavers. An Australian study reveals that people with a large network of friends outlived those with the fewest friends by more than 20 percent. Those friendships encouraged healthier behaviors, warded off depression, boosted self-esteem and provided support when it was most needed, just as Zoe did for James Gandolfini. It’s something kids know for sure: friends make life better.

4. Celebrate Yourself

“I wish I had better hair.” (Or, “I wish I had any hair at all!”) “I wish my arms didn’t look like this.” “I wish I was thinner.” It’s easy to be critical of ourselves, sometimes to the point of self-paralysis. Kids are good at celebrating themselves, and it’s something most adults could stand to emulate. Yes, losing weight can improve your health and how you feel about yourself (and losing even a little can make a big difference), but it’s also important to keep perspective. If you’re stuck criticizing your body, for example, it may be helpful to remember all the things your body has let you do: run a race, climb a mountain, take care of a small child, provide for others and hug those that matter to you most. Take a cue from Sesame Street and little ones everywhere: celebrating you is always a win.

5. When All Else Fails, Dance

A presentation doesn’t go well. A little “discussion” becomes a full-on battle. An opportunity you’ve been waiting for turns out to be a non-starter. That’s when it’s important to remember another important life lesson, perfectly exemplified by this little girl in a vintage Sesame Street clip (also featuring a playful Paul Simon). In life, on good days and bad, sometimes you’ve just got to dance, dance, dance, alright!

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