I cried when I turned 20.
I know that sounds ridiculously dramatic, but it’s true. I suddenly realized my wonderful teen years were behind me forever, and now…I was an adult! And not only that, but I also saw all my new adult responsibilities looming on the horizon—and that was a little bit scary. A job? My own apartment? I was definitely excited, but also a bit…well, teary-eyed.
Don’t get me wrong; I absolutely loved my 20s, and when I turned 30, I didn’t cry at all! But in the midst of all the magical growing-up excitement, I was suddenly expected to know how to act like an adult.
There are SO MANY things you’re expected to know as an adult, but sometimes we don’t know where to start. There are a lot of unspoken expectations! So today I want to share five of the most important tips I’ve learned for becoming an adult, and I hope they can help you, too!
Tip #1: Embrace the Power of “No.”
When we were children, “no” was our favorite word. We said it all the time! But by the time we become adults, many of us are afraid to say no. We’re afraid of what people will think of us, or who we will hurt. The thing is, every time we say no to one thing, we’re saying yes to something else. Similarly, when we say yes to one thing, we’re saying no to all the other things we could be doing with that time, money and energy. This is why filling our time with good things often takes away from the best things we could be doing.
This was a powerful lesson for me to learn. I had to say no to some things so I could save space in my life for the things God had really put on my heart to do.
Ask God, “What are the things you’ve given me to prioritize in this season?” It could be certain relationships, work activities or service. Then, when other opportunities come up, instead of filling your life to the max with busy work, say no to the things that don’t fit into the vision God has given you in this season.
Resource: Want to learn more about how to say no? Check out Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend’s amazing book called Boundaries—it was a life-changing read for me!
Tip #2: Let Your “Yes” Be Yes.
When you do say “yes”…follow through on it.
I had made plans with a couple of friends to have dinner together. We were all really excited, as they’d been asking to hang out more, and so I’d cleared out some space in my schedule, said no to other invitations, bought the groceries, started cooking the food and then each friend called or texted that afternoon. “I’m so sorry,” they each said, “but something else came up. Can we reschedule?” I asked if they were okay. Yes, they were; they were just feeling kind of tired. I looked at all the groceries I’d already bought, the work I’d already put in and the invitations I’d said no to, and thought, “Seriously?”
This is one of the most important things I’ve had to learn about adulthood: Canceling at the last minute—or even the night before—sends the message that the other person isn’t valuable.
When someone clears time in their schedule to be with you, it can be hurtful or frustrating if you back out at the last minute. This is especially true if someone is having you over for dinner. That means they’ve probably already been meal planning, grocery shopping and possibly preparing items ahead of time.
If you need to cancel, let the person know a few days ahead of time, although a week ahead is preferable. If someone invites you to do something and you’re unsure if you’ll be able to, say no, or ask if you can play it by ear. But don’t say yes and then cancel at the last minute—unless it’s an absolutely unavoidable emergency.
Resource: If you want to learn even more about adult expectations, I recommend reading this hilarious and insightful book called How to Act Like a Grown-Up, written by my mentor. It’s easy to read and will make you laugh!
Tip #3: Only Spend What You Have.
One of the great temptations of adulthood is to sign up for a credit card and use it like Monopoly money. I have definitely been guilty of finding THE CUTEST pair of winter boots and thinking, “Oh my goodness, I really want these boots! I mean, I NEED those boots. Problem is, I don’t have the money yet…but next month I will! So I’ll buy it now.”
And that’s how credit card debt begins.
Trust me when I say this: Credit card debt is not something you want to fall into. It takes over your life, and because of the high interest rates, it’s incredibly difficult to climb back out of that hole.
The solution? Only spend what you have.
Granted, there are some worthwhile investments (like a college degree) that may warrant taking on some low-interest-rate loans. But going out to eat, buying new clothes or bringing home that new iPhone? Not so much. The best rule of thumb I’ve found is this: If you don’t have it, don’t spend it.
Which reminds me: It’s also super important to save a portion of your income each month. Don’t spend it all; instead, make it a priority to save an emergency fund. Aim to have at least $500 in the bank at all times. It may take you a few months to save that, but diligently set aside a little bit each month until you do. Then if your car breaks down or you wind up in the hospital for a week, you won’t need to go into debt to pay for it.
Resource: If you’d like to learn more about how to budget and become financially wise, check out Dave Ramsey’s books and Financial Peace University. Your local church may even host one of his courses!
Tip #4: Prioritize Community.
While independence is certainly healthy, our western culture tends to take it to an extreme. We can easily forget that God created us to live in community.
Two of the best things you can do as an adult are: 1) find a mentor—someone who will encourage and challenge you in your faith, and 2) find a church community of your own. It could be your parents’ church or another church, but make sure it’s a place where you connect and have people who know you.
It’s easy to look for a church where no one will notice you coming or going, but that’s not real community. Real community involves people who are consistently in your life, with whom you’re honest, and who help you come closer to God.
Resource: Wondering where you can start looking for a mentor? Check out this article I wrote on that topic!
Tip #5: Learn How to Talk to Anyone.
One of the most nerve-wracking parts of adulthood is learning how to carry on a conversation with all different people! Many of us wrestle with social anxiety when it comes to face-to-face interactions—and yet that’s a huge part of adult life, from the workplace to marriage!
I remember meeting one lady who was new to the area and wanted to make some friends. I thought, “Oh, I can help her meet people here!” So I asked her about her life—what brought her here, where she was from. The trouble was she gave short answers about herself and never asked me anything about myself. Trying to have a conversation with someone who gives two-word answers and never reciprocates a question is pretty much impossible (and awfully boring)! I remember thinking, “This is why you haven’t made any friends yet!”
This is a very real struggle for a lot of adults. Conversation is an art, but it can be learned. Next time you’re out with a friend, practice. Don’t just talk about yourself; instead, ask about the other person’s life, and really, genuinely listen. One of the best things you can do is learn how to ask questions and listen.
Resource: My mom and sister both read a book called How to Talk to Anyone, which teaches you how to carry on a conversation with literally anyone. I highly recommend it (and plan to read it myself)!
Being an adult can be hard. There’s a lot to learn. But with these five skills, you’ll be off to a great start!
Are there any other tips you’d add to this list? Comment below!