A Little Happier: You Get What You Get, and You Don’t Get Upset.

It’s funny what we remember. When handing out scarves with different patterns, or cupcakes with different colors of frosting, I would hear my daughter’s nursery school teachers admonish the children, “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”

I remind myself of this all the time. Sometimes, I can change, control, or choose; sometimes I can’t — in which case, it doesn’t help to get upset about it.

This saying is a good example of the “fluency heuristic,” by the way: we remember ideas better, and find them more valuable, when they’re easy to remember — for instance, because the words rhyme. (For some reason, I get a big kick out of this.)

Do you have any childhood sayings that have stuck with you? Rhyming or non-rhyming.

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 Happier listening!

  • Courtney Hunt

    I listened to this on Overcast this morning and it abruptly cut off just as Gretchen started to talk about the rhyme portion. Just wanted to let you know.

    • gretchenrubin

      Thanks for letting me know – will investigate!

  • Mimi Gregor

    I think it’s because the rhyming makes it seem more lighthearted. If the teacher had told the children,”You’ll take what’s given to you and be grateful,” the children would have thought (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Oh,yeah, you old bat? Well, how about if I throw a tantrum?” In fact, as an adult, if I had been told something in such an abrupt manner, I would have had a tantrum of sorts myself (thought with snarky remarks rather than wailing). The rhyming just makes the person seem less of a d****bag about it.

  • Katie

    Here in Texas, kids learn that “ya’ git whatcha git, and ya’ don’t throw a fit”! As a dyslexia specialist and phonics teacher, I have to work pretty hard to convince these little Texans that “get” and “fit” do t actually rhyme. Thought you’d find that humorous!

    • Deborah S

      As a UK listener, I really enjoyed hearing that!

      • gretchenrubin

        Yes, wonderful twist on this phrase!

    • Kimberlee Williams

      Same in Oklahoma, where kids are known to occasionally throw a “hissy fit” or when REALLY triggered, a “wall-eyed fit”. I like the TX/OK version so much better! It says “You can get upset and pout a little — your feelings are valid. But there’ll be no fit-throwing!”

  • theshubox

    After the presidential election, I was explaining things to my then-4.5-year-old daughter, and she paused thoughtfully and said . . . “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” I guess her preschool teachers had been emphasizing the same concept!

    • theshubox

      (that said, not sure I followed her advice. but I was still impressed 🙂 )

  • Alice

    Totally just figured out that I am a rebel! Thought I was an obliger, but then I listened to the podcast episode about that and NO NO NO, not me at all. I’m married to a questioner, yeah, I’m one of your few weirdos!

  • martha campbell

    I live in Texas, and that expression has changed slightly here. Probably to accommodate our Texas accent! We say, “You get what you get. So don’t throw a fit!” (Possibly, we may be pronouncing “get” more like “git”!!!)

  • Katie

    I understand the good intent of this saying (don’t make a fuss about small things you can’t control), but it still rubs part of me the wrong way. I can think of too many cases where “No one else is complaining, why are you so upset?” or “Gee, this isn’t such a big deal, what’s your problem?” are rhetorical tactics used to silence people who are pointing out actual inequities and trying to advocate for themselves or others. To push the metaphor, sometimes it’s more than the type of frosting on the cupcake that’s the problem – sometimes, everyone else has gotten lots of cupcakes and you’ve got none. (And, just going to say that I’m a Questioner . . . in case nitpicking nice old bits of wisdom didn’t make that one clear!).

    • Natalie

      I totally agree, this was my response too.

    • Mimi Gregor

      I’m a Questioner, too, and the question I want to ask is: why don’t the kids just trade cupcakes? If someone wants a purple one and has a blue one, maybe there is another kid who wants that blue one. Even if you don’t get the purple one initially, (you may get a yellow one in the trade) it may be just the color that the owner of the purple one that you desire is looking for. At least one is showing some initiative and trying instead of just accepting what is dealt. It also is a great problem-solving exercise, I would think.

  • Deborah S

    I think this is an interesting debate. I would say ‘You get what you get and you don’t get upset’ is very appropriate for situations where ‘goods’ are being handed out randomly. This is as true for large things such as whether your baby is a boy or a girl as it is for small things such as a ballot for which college room you get. But of course there are situations when there is real unfairness or injustice in the system such as slavery when we shouldn’t just sit back and say ‘life is unfair’. I think there is also a difference between ‘getting upset’ and working determinedly to improve one’s situation.

    • gretchenrubin

      Obviously true.

    • Katie

      I think that’s a useful distinction – thanks for bringing it up. I just feel that – especially with girls and women – the two are often conflated into “if you are sad/upset/angry, it’s your fault, no matter what the circumstances, and you should feel bad.” I certainly wish that, as a young girl, I’d heard less advice to accept what I got and more encouragement to actively make the kinds of choices you’re describing – either to put a situation in perspective and make the best of it, or to actively push back if I felt something was unfair. But with the emphasis on learning to trust my judgement in making that call.

  • marissamuffinn

    Funny – I’ve always heard “you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit” because somehow with a midwestern accent “get” and “fit” rhyme perfectly 🙂

  • Cindy May

    I’ll never forget the quote on the wall of my 6th grade classroom, “It is better to remain silent and appear the fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” (which I believe was said by Abraham Lincoln).

    • Gillian

      I’ve always loved that quote and use it often!