“Growing up is hard, love. Otherwise everyone would do it.” —Kim Harrison
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #101
In order for change to occur, the change we seek, there is a need for time and investment. The investment can come in the form of money or valuable time and attention. The process is not usually the part that we are eager to engage in, but rather the end result is the carrot that leads us through the drudgery, exhaustion and necessary discipline. Without the end-goal in mind, the process would gladly be bypassed or ignored.
Settling into relationships that are just okay, a job that is adequate and a lifestyle that is manageable are just a few of the ways that hold us back from choosing to grow any further, limiting us from a life of true contentment and unimaginable connection and appreciation for the life we have the opportunity to live. Last year, the topic of differentiating between being an adult and being a grown-up was discussed in a post titled Grown-ups vs. Adults: 15 Differences, and while that post focused primarily on the behaviors of being a grown-up, today I’ll share 12 opportunities for growth that while learning these skills can take time and be difficult initially, the benefits will be enormous regarding the quality of your life in every arena.
As someone who has always wanted to live on my own and not be confined or limited, even as a child, I’ve also always been curious, which I think in many ways is a way to remain forever young. The key to living well and becoming a grown-up I have found is understanding that life can be both living in the real world while hanging on to your youth so long as you choose a growth mindset. Beatrix Potter says it quite lovely,
“I remember I used to half believe and wholly play with fairies when I was a child. What heaven can be more real than to retain the spirit-world of childhood, tempered and balanced by knowledge and common-sense.”
So today, a bit of knowledge, as Potter puts it, to helps us step into being a grown-up and open the doors to an even more fulfilling life.
1. Choose joy
“Know that joy is rarer, more difficult, and more beautiful than sadness. Once you make this all-important discovery, you must embrace joy as a moral obligation.” – André Gide
When I first read this quote, it gave me great pause and then an immediate smile because the safe thing to do, the easy thing to do, is to worry, is to assume the worst, is to see the negative, is to feel sorry for ourselves. To have hope, to see the beauty, to find the goodness is muscle that needs to be exercised. It takes strength to be the joy-seeker because you may have to stand up or withstand push-back from the “Joy Bullies” in the world that can’t tolerate someone else being happy if they aren’t. Stay strong, find the joy and live well.
2. Knowing how to rise from adversity
“The turning point in the process of growing up is when you discover the core of strength within you that survives all hurt.” —Max Lerner
To be human is to know what it feels like to be hurt: a broken heart, dashed hope, grand disappoint, a lost of trust. But when you discover that these hurts aren’t going to kill you, you discover as Max Lerner points out how much strength you actually have. The key, however, is knowing how to rise from the hurt. Often people shove it under the rug, bury it somewhere deep and start building walls for protection. Instead, as best-selling author Brené Brown points out, they need to do some investigating.
In her most recent book Rising Strong, she discusses the simple two step process of rising strong from adversity: (1) engage with your feelings, step into them, and (2) come to understand the story behind our feelings, why we think and behave the way we do. In other words, don’t suppress, but rather be the detective of why you feeling the way you are feeling.
Initially, this will be very uncomfortable and you will find ways to avoid doing this because, if you’re like me, you are afraid of what you will find or discover. But, if you’re also like me, you will discover a far less frightening monster than you had imagined, in fact, you will actually find something quite beautiful, the truth. And as they say, the truth will set you free. After all, we don’t want to continue having the same negative response, and this is what helps us grow beyond it.
3. Embracing a dynamic approach to life
To pair with Brown’s two step process of rising strong is synonymous with the idea of a growth mindset. When we see our lives as dynamic rather than static, we know that we can change, we can grow and we are not “stupid”, “an idiot” or “a failure”. The actions that lead us to make such absolute comments as just mentioned come from a fixed mindset, but if we choose to embrace a growth mindset, we are seeing each mistake as an opportunity for growth and improve, thus we see ourselves as dynamic, forever capable of change and growth.
Last week, in episode #100, I shared 10 ways content people live with uncertainty because as we all know, we cannot control everything no matter what we do. So, we must discover how to live with the unknowns. Without going into any more detail, check out the post with all of the details here.
5. Capable of knowing who is also a “grown-up”
“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.” —Maya Angelou
It would be so much easier if people wore stickers on their forehead, “Grown-Up” and “Poser”, or pretending to be a grown-up. But alas, such a simple label doesn’t exist. And maybe it’s actually a good thing these labels are absent because we all have the potential and the choice, at any time, to become a grown-up. And as we know labels are limiting. But how can we exactly determine if someone is a grown-up? Check out these 15 key differences and then look at today’s list 12 characteristics.
And importantly, don’t be fooled by the mistaken proofs of being a grown-up as may Angelou points out, yes, a lot of grown-ups have children, there are a lot of non-grown-ups that have children too. Another tell-tell misnomer is someone’s age. Forty-five? Oh, you must be a grown-up. Okay, let’s look a little further. I share both of these examples not pick on parents or 45-year-olds but instead to point out errant assumptions that can be avoided, and while it may take time to know for sure, the investment will be worth it before you invest personally or professionally with that particularly person who is posing as a grown-up.
6. Understanding what you need and being capable of communicating that to others tactfully
It takes time to know what you need. Such a discovery of ourselves is a journey that often cannot fully be revealed to us until we are out on our own, making decisions and mistakes and seeing the world without the lens of the community and culture we were raised in. By no means does this mean our communities or parents were wrong, but we can grasp an unfiltered appreciation for what the world is and what we truly appreciate about it without being told. Experience, first-hand experience is invaluable. And when you give this priceless gift to yourself, you become better acquainted with yourself. And as you choose to evolve into a grown-up, you choose to learn how to communicate (click here to discover the art of communication) and thus discover how to tactfully communicate what you need and what you can and cannot do.
The gift of this skill is an increase in the quality of the relationships you forge.
7. Recognize that weekends aren’t the only time to have a good time
“One of the oddest things about being grown-up was looking back at something you thought you knew and finding out the truth of it was completely different from what you had always believed.” — Patricia Briggs
The weekend discovery is a specific example of a larger truth about being a grown-up, but the point is just because the society or culture you live in gravitates or expects a certain behavior at a certain time of day or a particular day of the week or at a certain time of year (holidays for example), it doesn’t mean you have to follow along. No big plans this weekend, no problem. Taking a mini-getaway during the middle of the week to enjoy a quiet visit at your favorite destination sans tourists and out-of-towners? Go for it.
The determining factor as to when you enjoy a good-time need not be dictated by the masses.
8. And reveling in the beauty that having a “good time” isn’t what “everyone else is doing”
Subsequently, what you define as a good time, need not align with the masses either. There may be times that it does, but grown-ups have outgrown the need to apologize or explain why they enjoy a good time doing something different to someone who doesn’t understand. Vive la différence!
9. Being cool isn’t a priority
“Growing old is mandatory. Growing up is optional.” —Chili Davis
Cool can be defined in whichever way indicates someone is doing something because everyone else is doing it or they are doing it to be ahead of the crowd so as to perhaps garner attention and envy, or maybe even jealousy. Similar to #10 below, when you let go of worrying about whether the clothes you wear are en vogue or your technology is on par with everyone else’s, you set yourself free.
10. Letting go of the approval of others
“It happens to everyone as they grow up. You find out who you are and what you want, and then you realize that people you’ve known forever don’t see things the way you do. So you keep the wonderful memories, but find yourself moving on.” —Nicholas Sparks
And when you have set yourself free from worrying about being cool, you have let go of seeking out the approval of others. And that is when the decisions you make will help build a life of true contentment. No more are you pursuing what you “should”, but rather what you love and therefore you are truly engaged, truly invested and ultimately quite inspiring to those around you.
Nicholas Sparks’ quote says it beautifully, but when you begin to drift from those who you’ve come to realize don’t have similar tastes, views and ways of living, rather than be upset, be thankful for the memories you did have and move on, letting them move on, to find people who will celebrate in what life path you are on now.
11. Knowing the difference between looks and depth
Touched upon briefly in episode #24 (10 Differences Between Women & Girls), the key to being a grown-up is knowing that while we may find someone attractive, the packaging is stunning, we also know we need to look beyond the beautiful wrapping paper. Whether in our personal or professional life, looks don’t equate to the best person for the job or to date. Now, without question, how someone cares for themselves speaks volumes about their personal hygiene and self-respect, but making assumptions either way would be advised against. Again, as mentioned at the top of the post, take your time, have patience, and then make your decision.
12. Becoming your best friend
“We grow neither better nor worse as we get old, but more like ourselves.” — May Lamberton Becker
A grown-up is someone who enjoys their own company, doesn’t shy from time alone and revels rather than runs from who they are. When we become our own best friend we can never truly be lonely. Granted, we do need human connection and social involvement (each of us have a different level of how much), but one of the biggest aha moments for most people is that when the become their own best friend their lives become all the more enjoyable because whether they are with people or not, they will always be having a good time (perhaps more guaranteed in the former scenario than the latter).
One of the biggest gifts I have discovered as I continue choose to grow and learn and step more fully into the role of being a grown-up, is that things that popped up unwanted that I used to become so angst-ridden about (my finances, my social life, my career path), are now seen as mere bumps that I need to navigate around skillfully because I have more experience, because I have become even more comfortable with my own company and I have addressed areas of weakness I admittedly know I have. Are there more ways to grow and learn and evolve even after we have addressed the 12 characteristics above? Absolutely, because each of the 12 are very much like muscles that we need to keep moving and practicing. The same scenarios will not keep popping up in our lives, but rather new versions that will test us, but with each time we practice the skill, the new version will become easier to engage with successfully.
Choose to be a grown-up and never stop growing. It may just be one of the best decisions you’ll every make.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” —E. E. Cummings
~Coffee Break French, the podcast
~Coffee Break French, the website
~Flirting with French: How a Language Charmed Me, Seduced Me and Nearly Broke My Heart by William Alexander