How to Adult 101: 7 Skills for Adults to Thrive in the Real World
While this post is geared toward youth becoming legal adults, I encourage all ages to read it to get an idea and consider something new about their skills.
While doing so, remember that I am not responsible for the content and actions of the affiliate links. Refer to the full disclosure here.
You’re going to learn how to do it, or how to make it seem like you do. Both are essential skills for life.
I told my students that every time we did an assignment. I know. The teacher in me is screaming that I shouldn’t encourage that. But, the realist professional in me is like “yeah, sounds about right.”
I want my students to learn how to read and write like a scholar and appreciate both’s contribution to our humanity. Even more so, though, I want them to be successful in anything they want to do in life. Unfortunately, reading the chapters of the book and filling out those comprehension study guides aren’t going to help–directly, at least. I know the indirect lessons my assignments demonstrate, but, no matter how overt I am, not everyone understands what I do.
Many times, we, as teachers, can’t get our students to do their homework, or study for the test, or even participate in class. But, if we can, at least, get the to do just a few key things, they’ll at least know how to stretch for life’s race.
That’s what we’ll look at this time: the skills that every “legal adult” should know to be ready for the point of no return. Hey, kids want to control their lives, so you get what you ask for.
In my experience, there are 7 key skills that any adult needs to now to make it in a first-world, competitive society. Unfortunately, we parents and teachers don’t explicitly teach these skills anymore. And, because of biological and psychological changes in human evolution from convenient lifestyles, kids aren’t good at figuring it out anymore. I tried to explicitly teach these and strategies to my kiddos in class.
Creativity has been misconstrued as being something that is “artistic” and imaginative. But, that is not (necessarily) what it is at all. The Merriam-Webster dictionary says it is “the ability to make new things or think of new ideas”. Creativity is actually more about innovation and ingenuity–taking current things and making or doing something new with it.
Take paperclips. Adults use them to hold papers together. For kids? Jewelry, weapons, nail cleaners, lock picks, etc. They have the ability to take something traditional and give it a new use is creativity–and, it’s not really “artistic”. Unfortunately, when an adult sees this, we discourage it: “That’s not what that’s for!” “You’ve ruined it!” As Sir Ken Robinson insists: schools (and other adults, really) are stunting creativity.
Being creative is being resourceful. Most young adults will be lacking most luxuries. Those who lack creativity will feel more stuck and distressed about the gaps. Those who are creative will patch those holes the best way they can. In the long term, it will save them lots time, money, and stress.
2. Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking and creativity go hand-in-hand many times. While creativity is taking something old and doing something new, writers at skillsyouneed.com say it “the ability to think clearly and rationally, understanding the logical connection between ideas”. Side Note: Their site is awesome for professionals and students, by the way. If you look at the difference, one is about being different. However, the other is about making connections and questioning things to understand. Critical thinking leads to creativity, really.
Critical thinking is when your car breaks down and you need to get to work. What are your options? I can call in. Yeah, poor, no. I can call for a ride. All your friends and family are at work, too. I can take the bus. You have no cash, because, poor, remember. Looks like I’m walking. 3 miles when you have to be at work in 10 minutes? Ugh. What do I do then? Exactly. You have to think about all your choices and consequences, figuring out the best course of action. You can’t just call mom and say, ‘I don’t know what to do’. Well, some of you can, but then you lose 3 hit points for not thinking harder.
Related Video — “What is Critical Thinking?”
By the way, you should make sure your car is in a safe and secure place where it will not impede traffic. A parking lot is best so no one asks questions. As you start walking, call tow companies, family, friends, any resources who can help you move the car from the private property immediately after work to avoid a ticket. Then, call your supervisor and let him/her know you will be coming in late because of the situation. Maybe even volunteer to stay after the shift to make up lost time. Get ready for a long day.
Essentially, adults need to reflect and make connections when the time comes. Thinking is hard, and it requires a clear head. While intuition works, you have to have a systematic way to identify the problem, analyze the situations, and brainstorm possible solutions. As said in the “adult anthem”:
Ain’t it fun
Living in the real world
Don’t go crying to your mama
‘Cause you’re on your own, in the real world (“Ain’t it fun”, Paramore, 2013)
Now, the last scenario is more common than you think when you’re starting off. But, rather than standing and waiting for someone to stop and help–which most won’t do–you had to take action. “Initiative” has a few different definitions, but I mean “the energy and desire that is needed to do something”. Convenience has taught kids that everything will work in their favor. Instead, they should know that they have to do some of that work, too. You have to work for you and those you love.
I had students who don’t know what to do for the assignment. Okay, that’s fine. But, instead of asking me for help, they wait for me to ask them if they need help as they sit there. I had parents who are frustrated that their child is failing. Yeah, that’s frustrating. So, instead of asking their kid why (s)he is missing so many assignments, they get mad at me that I didn’t contact them and let them know….Yeah…that happens all the time. It’s totally normal for secondary teachers.
Taking initiative is being proactive and arranging the dominoes in your favor before they start to fall.
Students aren’t taking responsibility for consequences because adults make sure they have everything they need. When adulthood comes, they don’t know what they need, why they need it, where to get it, nor how to get it–it had always been there growing up. They feel helpless because they never had to be without and rarely persevered through true adversity.
Because parents are trying to protect their children from stress, kids don’t know how to step up when they are stressed and without as adults. They don’t always have to be a step ahead, they just need to know how to seek direction on their own. No one else is going to give them a handout outlining all the steps when they graduate.
4. Communication Skills
You’ll notice that one of the key features of being a self-starter (initiative) is communication. Communication is the act or process of transmitting information and ideas verbally and non-verbally. With so much information flying by us, kids don’t expect that they have to add to the flow. America’s greatest lure is that every citizen has the opportunity for a “voice” (even with obstacles). This means that what you have to say is just as valid as what anyone else has to say–whether we agree or not.
Things are tough, and no matter how much you try, it feels like the wind’s whims will always knock over your house of cards. You start losing your motivation to do anything and go anywhere. You wonder if you can ever get out. You contemplate whether anything would change if you didn’t exist anymore. Your roommates keep inviting you places. Can’t they see you’re fatigued? Your family gives you updates. Can’t they understand that your blood is running cold and you’re shaking with grief? Your significant other tries to talk to you about it. Can’t (s)he understand that (s)he’ll “probably” be “better off without you”?
Key Communication — Helping and Supporting Someone with Depression
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America in 2016, major depression disorders “[a]ffects more than 15 million American adults, or about 6.7 percent of the U.S. population age 18 and older in a given year.” No, you’re not the only one. And, no, not everyone will feel it. That’s why, when you do, you need to communicate. Just like in any relationship, you need to talk about it. In your job interview, you need to bring your resume and cover letter. In your class, you need to raise your hand.
Communicating is being open about the good and bad in your life so you can get the help you need. Even if you don’t think anyone cares, you still need to speak out about something, or else nothing will change. When you feel helpless, when you want something, when you need something…how can anyone help if you never let us know? And, yes, adults do need help, too. It feels hard at times. We come up with a million reasons why we can’t or won’t speak up. But, in the end, change is only initiated when someone finally opens their mouths.
So, if I have all these traits, I’ll be fine, right?
Hahahahahahahahahahaha…hahaha…ha…ha…oh, you’re serious? O.o No, you’re a gerbil in a running wheel when you grow up. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t break the damn thing or get out of it.
You need to have a reason to move on, “a force or influence that causes someone to do something”, a motivation. Whether it’s extrinsic, like money, or intrinsic, like being awesome, adults need something that makes them wake up every morning and do it all over again until they don’t have to. Grades and parents don’t count anymore.
I love listening to creepypastas (twisted stories written, posted, and read for people to get a dose of scary around the internet). Zandsand90 wrote this awesome one called “I Dared My Best Friend to Ruin My Life” that really took this concept to the extreme.
Basically, these two friends were living routine, young adult lives. Surprise, surprise: they absolutely hated it. They talked about how they got there and realized that they didn’t have anything to motivate them to step up (y’know initiate change). In school, they had grades, teachers, and parents to push them to do something. When they were children, they had prizes, praise, and gifts to push them to do something. But, when they became adults, they couldn’t motivate themselves, and no one was going to do it for them. Well, they cheated and made a bet to motivate one another (-5 HP for you). It surely worked. But, things would have been much better if they just thought about their end goal and worked toward it…
Everyone wants something for themselves, and you have to think about that. I know you don’t even want to make a decision on dinner, but if you want to make it anywhere in life–
you have to figure out where you want to go.
- What’s your end goal life? That point when you deem yourself awesome, and no one can deny it?
- Then, critically think, what’s going to get you there?
- Consider, what do I need to do to initiate this change in my life and start getting there?
While many kids assume that it will make sense when they move out, and they have 4 high school years to figure it out…newsflash! That’s not how that works at all. For adults, every moment counts. And, if you waste them waiting for the perfect person to push you to win him/her, or the job posting that makes you want to make more money, you’re in for a sad existence. Sorry to break it to you. If you want to make it, you better know why.
6. Organization Skills
Once you’re done with your existential crisis, you need a plan (and probably a drink…which is…uh…BAD Ladies and Gentlemen). You have to start moving through that “process of planning and arranging the different parts” of your life. Sounds daunting, I know. You probably understand why we required those binders and dividers that you just made into a black portal of no return. Yeah, there’s a method to our madness!
It may be weird to think, but your life can be organized with tabs and dividers. Career, Family, Health, Lifestyle, Zombie Survival Plan, etc. And, in order to add more to it, you have to organize what you’ll even need to put in it.
- So, you’re feeling a little lonely. What do you do? Match.com is one of the leading online dating sites. Tinder’s gotten popular lately. Ed Sheeran says “the club isn’t the best place to find a lover, so the bar is where [he] goes” (“Shape of You”, Ed Sheeran, 2017). But, do you want a date or a spouse? After you guys meet, what do you plan on doing for the next date?
- Your rent is going up when you re-sign the lease. What do you do? The housing market is going back up. And, there are lots of programs to help new buyers. But, where are you getting the money? Looks like you need a savings plan.
- Science is advancing faster than we can control. What do you do? A Costco membership may be an advantage for bulk food. I recommend taking up archery so you can take out the enemy quietly. But, it’s always good to have a shelter or gathering point. Looks like you have some area mapping to do.
Okay, you’ve figured out what you want to do and why–
but you have to critically think about those steps to get there.
- Which should you initiate first?
- Which is the most important, what order do you prefer to accomplish it?
- What will you need to have and do in order to accomplish it?
- By when does it need to happen so you’re ready?
Even though adults pretend that they just rolled with the flow, and everything fell into place when they matured, maturity doesn’t suddenly drop things in our lap. Maturity helps to make more sense of the pieces you need and what order they should be in.
Most important of all, in my opinion, is coping with interests. I’m talking about “something that a person enjoys learning about or doing”. Not only is it entertaining and fun, it also helps with stress. Instead of numbing yourself scrolling through social media and Netflix with nothing to show for it in the end except a headache and an anxiety attack, take up a hobby. There are so many benefits according to PsychologyToday, PositivelyPresent, and Cameron Kennerly:
- Flow Promotion
- Time Structure
- New Social Connections (meet your spouse, maybe?)
- Stress Coping (Lord knows adults need that!)
- Conversation Topics (Because there are other things than politics in the world)
- Health Benefits
- New Challenges (Lifelong Learning)
- Confidence Builder (Because you’re awesome, remember?)
At the end of the day, adults have few moments to themselves, so it’s imperative to make them something to remember and be proud of. If you can’t remember what you did with that time yesterday, or you’re not sure how it’ll help you tomorrow, it’s probably wasted time. Don’t forget to learn something new every day, have fun when you can, and continue to grow.
Related Article — 8 Free Tools and Resources for Lifelong Learning
Hopefully, you haven’t joined Malikai and the Children in the Corn for the 18th birthday suicide by this point. It’s not worth it. As you mature and practice these skills, your purpose comes into focus, things start making sense, and you appreciate what you’ve accomplished more because you worked hard for it. Adults out there: remember when these things came in handy in your life? Don’t forget that it’s just as important–maybe even more so in our changing society–for youth to know such struggle and adversity, as well. Be there for them, and let them learn the hard way sometimes. It’s the best thing you can do for them.
I hear a lot that we spend life doing a lot of things we don’t want to, then we die. But, I find only people who have little to no direction yet are the ones who say that most (typically). It’s mundane at first, but it’s so worth it. If it wasn’t, you’d see much fewer adults still alive…
Now that I have stolen your childhood (score!), what do you think it takes to be a “solid adult”? When do you find these skills key? How are/did you learn(ing) these skills? How are you feeling about adulthood to come, here, or past?
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