Written by : Stacy Kaiser

10 Steps to Become a Fully Loaded Grown-Up

Want to know how to be a grown-up? Author and therapist Stacy Kaiser explains why taking control of your time, career and relationships makes all the difference.

Confident woman walking to work.

Adulthood doesn't come with a manual, so we created one.

A few years ago, I wrote a book called How to Be a Grown Up. What motivated me was my realization that there are 10 significant areas each of us needs to focus on in order to have the greatest chance of being a happy and successful adult.

Over time, I’ve come to realize that most of us don't want to be just a grown-up, we want to be a fully loaded grown-up! What is that, you ask? My definition of a fully loaded grown-up is a person who knows when to get down to business and when to lighten up; who can bounce back from life's little spills and not blame someone else for the mess; and most important, who can accelerate through any roadblock to success and happiness.

Here are my 10 steps to becoming a fully loaded grown-up.

1. Be a dynamic communicator

A dynamic communicator puts in the time and energy to communicate effectively. She cares more about the long-term outcome than the immediate gratification of being louder or being right. The dynamic communicator lets go of the need to win and realizes that true winning comes from a successful relationship, whether romantic or otherwise.

2. Learn to cope

Each person's ability to cope begins in childhood. But how you behave in adulthood is a combination of the cards you were dealt as a child, your life experiences as you've grown and the baggage you have accumulated along the way. A fully loaded grown-up learns effective coping skills and puts them into practice. When you have those all-important skills, you can handle whatever life throws at you—and in the end, walk away from the game of life with a positive outcome.

3. Build a strong support system

A strong support system provides fun, social interaction, encouragement and help during tough times. They are cheerleaders to root for you during challenges, and people who will celebrate your victories. You’ll want to invest plenty of time and emotional resources in this group, as they are the people who provide a soft place to land when you need it. Perhaps you can find this support network in one or two people, or you might need a dozen. Whatever works for you, make sure not to neglect this key area of your life.

4. Find a solid intimate partnership

I have found that a satisfying love relationship has the power to make people happier and more productive. The key is finding a person who nurtures your strengths, and vice-versa, and then maintaining that relationship. Put in the effort to find someone who meets your needs and fulfills your head, heart and body.

5. Get comfortable with your appearance

Learn that what other people think doesn't matter and that you ultimately have to satisfy yourself. Be kind and gentle with yourself; social comparison—which often focuses on looks—can be the cause of depression and anxiety, especially for women. Learn to be conscious about your appearance but not hard on yourself.

6. Learn to manage your finances

Not surprisingly, managing your finances is key to becoming a fully loaded adult. Take time out to investigate your strengths and weaknesses, and identify the bad habits you have developed over the years. Learn to separate your emotions from your finances and be as logical, methodical and reliable as possible. If you feel your skills are lacking in this area, reach out for support by taking a class, getting advice from a friend or reading one of the many great books out there on how to manage your money.

7. Find work that meets your needs

If your work is unsatisfying, find a path either to improve the current environment or make a change. If you are unable to make any changes in your present job, look for elements about it that make you happy. Is it down the street from your favorite lunch place? Have you met a great friend? Does it cover your bills every month? Focus on the positive to help you get through the negative.

8. Free yourself from addiction

I define addiction as the habitual and/or compulsive surrender to a substance or activity. They can run the gamut from food to alcohol to sex to shopping. Addiction is so powerful that it can destroy every other area of your life in one fell swoop. Fully loaded grown-ups know how to find real and concrete help so they can recover and live a life that is addiction-free. Three main elements come into play with addiction: genetics, the environment/social factors and the ability to cope. If you have weaknesses in any of these areas, stay vigilant for signs of the onset of addiction; it can sneak up on you.

9. Practice good time-management skills

We all have the same 24 hours in a day available to us, and yet some people are extremely productive and accomplish many things, while others can barely make it through the bare minimum of tasks. Don't make excuses. Don't overload your schedule. Learn time-management skills that include delegation and focusing on what is most important.

10. Be flexible

Flexibility allows you to handle what life throws at you. It is the ability to adapt, bend and stretch as needed. Flexibility in life will reduce your stress and allow for greater happiness and productivity. If you are taking the time to read this article, you are working the skill of flexibility because you are trying to grow and change.

Being a Fully Loaded Grown-up requires what I call positive action. Positive action is the ability to take ownership of your life and make steps toward making change and forward progress. The payoff is that you will be calmer, happier and your life will run more smoothly. You can begin this journey by evaluating your status in these 10 areas and getting started at improving realms that may need some extra effort.

Listen to Stacy Kaiser discuss the Myth of the Perfect Parent on our podcast.


Stacy Kaiser is a licensed psychotherapist, author, relationship expert and media personality. She is also the author of the best-selling book How to Be a Grown Up: The Ten Secret Skills Everyone Needs to Know and an editor at large for Live Happy. Stacy is a frequent guest on television programs such as Today and Good Morning America.

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