Our parents did their best. The people who raised you probably taught you about right and wrong, why its important to be fair, and how to perform basic hygiene. But there are some things about being an adult that we can only learn through experience.
1. Dream Big, But Enjoy What You Have
Desire is the beginning of creation. Our ability to dream, and manifest our visions into reality, is a defining characteristic of the human species. The bigger the dream, the more amazing our future can become.
But if we focus all of our attention on some future possibility, we can miss the beauty of the moment. Plan for your childrens college education, but remember to relish their first steps and first crushes. Dream about what you will do when you finish school or that big project, but remember to fully experience and enjoy each step along the way.
2. Its Not Enough to Just Say Sorry
When you hurt someone or do something that is out of integrity, take responsibility for it. Apologize, preferably in person as soon as possible after the incident, or as soon as you realize your mistake. But be certain that you truly understand the ramifications of your actions when you do.
Learn the difference between just saying Im sorry and truly apologizing. A true apology might require an action to make amends, or showing that you learned from the experience and are changing your behavior.
3. Love is a Choice
If you are alive, chances are high that you will fall in love. You may have passionate romantic affairs or unrequited crushes, but at some point you will feel the rush and excitement of new love. That kind of love is grace and hormones, and anyone can ride it for a while. But what makes a person an adult is the ability to choose love.
Older couples that have been through thick and thin say that at certain points in their relationships they had to choose to continue to be together. They had to choose to continue to show up for each other, authentically and courageously, even when it was challenging.
Another way of saying this is love is a verb. It is something you do and a way that you live. Anyone can get giddy over someone for a few months or years. But sustaining a healthy long-term relationship requires maturity, persistence, and truly unconditional love.
4. Giving Can Feel Good
When you give from your heart, it can be joyful for both you and the recipient. Part of being a responsible adult is giving back, contributing to others lives in a helpful way. But no one wants to receive from a martyr. The key is to find a way to give that feels authentic.
5. You Will Regret Not Going
You may be swamped with work or low on funds. But at the end of your life, it will be the things you didnt do that will bother you the most. Whether it is your friends wedding or your grandfathers funeral, just go and participate in your loved ones lives.
6. We All Mess Up Sometimes
Learning to forgive will save many relationships, especially the one with yourself. We still need to hold each other accountable and do our best to be responsible. But grudges and resentments just make life harder than it needs to be. No one is perfect, and truly honoring and accepting that truth will help you be kinder to everyone.
7. Pay Your Bills On Time
Your parents probably instilled some sense of financial responsibility, but there is nothing like a huge credit card bill or a turned off utility to ruin your day. Learning to manage your finances actually makes them less overwhelming. And good credit is infinitely useful.
8. No Lie is Worth It
Tell the truth, even if you think it might hurt someones feelings. Even if you are afraid it will make people think less of you. Always be yourself. You may loose some seemingly good opportunities by not playing the role you think others want you to fill. But the friendships and connections you do make will be authentic and healthy if you are letting your freak flag fly.
The truth always comes out eventually, anyway. Its better to be honest from the beginning and keep peoples trust.
9. Learn the Difference Between Wants and Needs
It can be all too easy to sacrifice a long-term need for immediate gratification. That is how we end up with nations full of people who eat doughnuts for breakfast and die of heart disease years later. Never sell your future to satisfy a whim.
If you truly need a vacation or a new pair of shoes, give those things to yourself. But always be clear that every decision you make is serving your highest good.
Ultimately, being a responsible adult is about being true to yourself while honoring others. It requires honesty, integrity, and a blend of taking the long view while enjoying the moment. And though they might not have been able to communicate all their wisdom, most likely your parents will be proud of the person you have become.
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