Childhood is a wonderful time. We experience the world with fresh eyes, learn to walk on our own, and let our imaginations guide our perception. Someone else is always making the big decisions for us. When we fall, we count on a loving adult to lift us up.
The thing about childhood, however, is that it doesn’t last forever. At some point, we’re expected to defend ourselves, to make our own decisions, to be responsible for everything we do. We have to grow up. Here are five quick ways to do so.
1. Stop whining. Life can be annoying. Just when you think everything is going to work out according to your plan, the glitches start piling up so high that you want to give up. You throw an adult version of a temper tantrum: whining, groaning, squirming, sighing. But ask yourself this: Is kicking and screaming about something that didn’t go your way going to change anything, or are you just going to irritate yourself even more? In a month, a week, or even a few hours, will the inconvenience matter? Most likely, it won’t. So stop complaining and accept the unfavorable circumstances you can’t control. You’ll feel a lot better when you let trivial setbacks go.
2. Make your own decisions. Friends and family can be wonderful advisers. Because they (generally speaking) have your best interests in mind, you can count on them to lead you in a positive direction. But the problem begins when you consistently depend on others’ advice to make decisions. Even worse is not making any move before you’ve “cleared” it with someone to whom you’ve bequeathed your authority. Seemingly minor habits such as reading tons of reviews before you purchase any product are also problematic. The next time you’re tempted to vet your decisions through someone else’s lens, remember that, for the most part, only you know what you really need and want. Trust yourself to make the most effective decision for you, and know that you’re strong enough to deal with the consequences.
3. Accept responsibility for your life. While many things are outside of your control, you do have the power to change a good deal of your life. Maturing means accepting responsibility for who you are and what you do. Blaming others for your problems is convenient, but it doesn’t help you grow. As long as others can make you do, feel, and think certain ways, you’ll always be bitter and helpless. So decide to take charge of you. Claim mastery over your life. Responsibility is work, but it’s also power.
4. Be realistic. Who doesn’t love to daydream, to fantasize about life’s marvelous possibilities? It’s a great way to pass the time–and it’s also a great way to delude yourself. Children are free to believe their teddy bears can talk and their peas have legs, but grown-ups need to dwell in reality. Chances are you won’t win the Mega Millions, so you’re better off getting a job than going to 7-11 for tickets. The guy or girl who’s already attached to someone most likely isn’t going to leave their partner for you. You’re never too old to dream, but you do get too old to prance around in fantasy land, expecting great things to fall from the sky. Don’t wait any longer: Get up and grow up.
5. Open your mouth. Unlike children, adults don’t have the benefit of representatives. You can’t hide behind your mother when you meet someone new. No one’s going to tell others you’re shy or that you need a while to warm up or otherwise defend you. As an adult, you have to be your own advocate, which means the charge is on you to tell others what you need. If you don’t say something, no one will know–or care. People will go on about their business, meeting their own needs while you sit in silence waiting for someone to read your mind. So consider mind-reading a juvenile fantasy and open your mouth. That’s how grown-ups get things done.