If you are reading this article you probably think you are an adult. You may very well be an adult, yet, the odds are you aren’t. Yes, most of us are walking around in adult bodies, but that doesn’t make us adults. Add to that the fact that it is very difficult to become an adult. The reason it is so difficult is that there are so few role models. For example, look at a list of world leaders and show me one person who is a real adult. Perhaps some of the lesser known leaders would qualify. If you actually are an adult then you have accomplished something incredible. You have somehow grown up in a world run by children. What is an adult?
An adult is a person who takes 100 % responsibility for his or her life and situation. That is, nothing is someone else’s fault. The words “It’s not fair.” do not occur to you. An adult takes responsibility for his or her emotions. In other words, no one else makes you feel the way you do. An adult is honest with his or her self. That is, no self deception, no pretending. You see people and situations as they are and find a way to respond to them.
Not long ago I realized that I had not fully made the transition to adulthood. I had attained a good level of emotional intelligence. I was keenly aware of my emotions and controlled them very well. Where I fell short was my lack of sensitivity to other’s emotions. I thought I was sensitive and even prided myself on my ability to “see” others. I thought of myself as mature. After all. In my work I often advised people on what to do and how to do it. I often facilitated process for various groups. I wrote and published three books. I gave lectures on personal responsibility, leadership, and spirituality. Yet I came to realize that I was not a 58 year old adult. I was more like a 15 year old with 43 years of experience.
Most 15 year olds are the center of their own universe. “Everything revolves around me.” Although I practiced unselfishness and often cared about others, my perspective was as a center of attention. As a center of attention, I expected people and situations to cater to me. I was often frustrated with other people. When someone told me something personal I related it to myself, rather than truly understanding them. As children we are all centers of attention. We expect the “adults” in our respective lives to provide for us, to give us what we need. I didn’t expect people to give me food or money, but I did expect people to meet my emotional needs.
My parents were not adults. And I have it on the authority of my “grown-up” son that I have not been an adult either. He is 35 and becoming an adult. He has never met a good role model–not his parents, none of his teachers at high school or university, no managers in the workplace, and in his field, which is Art, no artists that he has met. He had to figure it out on his own. Me too. Although, my son certainly has served as a catalyst for me.
Perhaps the most significant realization has been that my ego is a child. All egos are children. Anyone who is run by their ego cannot function as an adult. The ego is a center of attention. An adult is a center of influence. That is, as a center of influence you realize that your thoughts and emotions have a ripple effect. Everything that you think, feel, say, and do affects the people and the situations around you. This is a change in perspective from “How is everyone and everything affecting me?– to How is everyone and everything affected by me?” It is an understanding that life is not happening to me. I am creating it with my every thought, with my deeply embedded assumptions, and my beliefs. The meaning we perceive in people and things is the meaning we have assigned to them.
An adult questions assumptions–his or her own and everyone else’s assumptions too. In other words, as an adult you actually think, rather than parrot the thoughts of others. It is difficult to subscribe to a religion if you are an adult. If you do subscribe, you probably don’t subscribe to all of it. Everything that shows up in both your thoughts and in your life gets questioned: “Is it true?” If you are honest, you find that most of it isn’t. You find that most everything people hold to be true is being made up.
As you enter adulthood it seems to be a struggle at first. You are releasing cherished beliefs. You are letting go of your need for approval, for control over others, and your habit of accepting “truths” that just aren’t true. For example: “You can have whatever you want!” Many have spoken that “truth”, but it isn’t true. You can’t have whatever you want. This is why so many of us are frustrated after trying so many books and programs without success. As A Course in Miracles reads: ‘The ego’s rule is this: seek and do not find.”
You can have what you TRULY want. What do you truly want? What is really important to you? Don’t answer that question too quickly. Set aside your beliefs and your goals. Get real quiet, and ask the question. What do I want? Listen within. Keep asking if need be. given that we mostly identify with our egos, a good way to inquire may be: “Not my will, but Thy will be done.” Once your answers begin to flow, act on them. That’s the other trait of an adult; the ability to move forward courageously, to do what you feel called to do.
So, are you an adult or not? Be honest. If you are, you already know it. This article doesn’t really evoke any emotion for you. If you aren’t, then maybe it’s time to start growing up. It’s worth the effort. The reward is freedom and the power of 100 % responsibility. The reward is the joy you feel knowing that you cannot be anyone’s victim. You find that you need not participate in any more dramas or soap operas in life. And as you release your fears, worries, resentments and disappointments, that there is a stronger Voice within you that will guide you. Instead of hoping certain things will happen for you (as children do), you trust that Spirit (or whatever you want to call it) will guide you well. You will form intentions, and those intentions will bubble up from within you. You will sense a knowing that the path you intend is the right one. You will accept, but not judge, that most others are still children, and do your best to be helpful–to be the role model we so desperately need.