Too often, we think of adulting milestones purely in financial terms or in relationship terms. It’s easy to think of real “adults” only as people who have a spouse and/or children, and who have reached a state of financial security that involves a 401-K and nice furniture. These things certainly have their place, and it’s perfectly healthy to strive for them.
But maybe you just genuinely love being single and feel like you’re at your best in that state.
Or maybe you’re just one of those people who will find your best relationship a little later in life when you actually know yourself well enough to avoid many of the pitfalls of young love. And as for finances, maybe you have more people to support than just yourself so it’s hard to get ahead for the time being. Or maybe you’re a little less secure than you’d like because you had to quit a stable job that was destroying your mental and emotional health.
The point is, when it comes to the label “adult,” relationships and finances shouldn’t be your only criteria.
There are many other milestones on the path to an adult life that lead you toward independence and maturity. Being an adult is about growing in every area of life – mentally, emotionally, psychologically, physically, practically. So, with that in mind, consider the following 8 milestones that absolutely indicate that you are firmly, impressively on the path to adulthood, no matter your relationship status or bank account statement.
Learn how to do at least some basic repairs.
For car repairs, you can at least purchase your own AAA membership if you’re not going to learn how to do basic car fixes. For home repairs, learning some basics will save you money and, particularly for women, who are frequently exploited by home repair industries who assume they know nothing about anything, will save you from that condescending, exploitative dynamic. In a best-case scenario, there’s someone experienced in your life who can teach you these things, but if not, let’s be honest – there’s a YouTube video tutorial for literally every task.
2. Master at least enough cooking skills so that you can eat in more nights than you eat out.
If cooking feels like a huge daunting task to you, then start small: set a goal to learn how to make just 3-4 meals, and for your first meals pick easy ingredients that are hard to mess up, like pasta dishes that just require boiling the pasta and a simple sauce with a few ingredients. Any start will help build up your confidence to try more things. You don’t have to become a Food Network level guru; just learn enough so that you can eat in more than you eat out. You’ll see the difference in both your physical health and your budget, so this milestone is a win-win all around.
3. Learn to take care of all aspects of your health.
Eating well and exercising are of course important, but becoming an adult is also about learning to care for your mental and emotional health. It’s about learning when you need to say no, when you need to set boundaries, when you need time to yourself when you need time with others when you need to seek professional help, when you’re looking for more spirituality in your life, and more. A person who isn’t in touch with their own needs is missing out on one of the most vitally important aspects of adulthood, arguably even more important than financial prosperity or relationship status.
4. Open a savings account.
No matter where you are financially in life, you can always open a savings account and start making deposits into it, even if they’re coming in at just a trickle at first. I started my first savings account after a friend who was currently in graduate school told me that she had recently done so and put $100 in it every month. I figured that if she, while a full-time graduate student – a lifestyle that’s notoriously associated with sharing a tiny studio apartment and praying that you can afford groceries each month – could establish the discipline to make deposits into a savings account each month, so could I. Even if you have to build your savings account up with very small payments at a time, a slow start is always better than no start at all.
5. Make a habit of giving.
Almost everyone wishes that they could do more to help others, but often we really can do more to help others, we just keep putting it off and making excuses. Try to break this cycle and cultivate the habit of giving; if you don’t start sometime, then you never will, and you’ll have wasted a lot of potential for making other people’s lives better. There are plenty of organizations that would be happy to accept even a $5 or $10 commitment a month, which you have to admit is probably in your power no matter what wages you make. But even if this small amount feels impossible for you, give another way by giving your time in volunteering efforts.
6. Take an honest look at which of your views are really your own and which are inherited from family or friends.
Most adults assume that their opinions are organic to themselves because no one likes to think that they’re unoriginal or dependent on others. But the fact is that it’s natural to inherit opinions from others, and that’s not something to be ashamed of. The problem comes if you never really interrogate those opinions to make sure that they align with your own deeply held values and beliefs. The most obvious areas of life where this is relevant are probably religion and politics, but inherited opinions can come out in other places as well. If you question these things, you might end up doing a complete 180, or you might decide that your parents’ and friends’ opinions really do suit you quite well; either way, you’ll have gone through the important process of critical thought and self-exploration.
7. Learn to stop thinking, “If I just ______, I’d be happy.”
There’s a famous anecdote about John D. Rockefeller, who was at one point in the early 1900s the world’s richest man: when a reporter asked him, “How much money is enough?”, he answered, “Just a little bit more.” It’s part of the human experience to take this attitude in life, even if it’s not about money. Maybe you think, “If I just got a job doing what I really care about, I’d be happy,” or “If I just fell in love, I’d be happy.” In truth, milestones like this might make you happier, but they’ll never be a complete cure for discontentment because they’ll never be perfect. Even a job doing what you love will still involve some occasional busy work, or red tape, or associating with unpleasant coworkers. Even a healthy and happy relationship will still require constant work and some occasional disappointments and compromises. Learning to enjoy the present, even when it’s not perfect, is an adulting milestone that millions of people who might look like they have it more together than you have never reached.
While it’s great to give yourself the motivation of shooting for these milestones by a certain age, like 30, remember that no magic elf pops up when you’re 30 and says, “Too late, you missed the deadline!” It’s never too late to work toward a greater sense of independence, maturity, and self-knowledge.
Want to talk more about getting yourself to a place of independence and adulthood? You can call us at (305) 501-0133 or click here to schedule a free 20-minute Clarity Consult to learn more about how working with one of our therapists can help you improve your life.