“Adulting” What Does It Mean? How Do We Do It?

"Adulting" is hard

Life Skills Class: Why has the term “adulting” become a thing?

The Urban dictionary says:

adulting (v); to carry out one or more of the duties and responsibilities expected of fully developed individuals (paying off credit card debt, settling a beef without blasting social media, etc.) Exclusively used by those who adult less than 50% of the time.

An example of using it in a sentence is: “I was going to buy another video game, but I finally got my oil changed instead. Adulting!”

“Adulting” can be hard.

For someone working on “adulting,” it helps to understand our brains.

Lower Versus Higher

One way to look at brain function is to understand our lower brain and our higher brain.

Our lower brains like to:

  1. Seek for pleasure
  2. Avoid pain
  3. Be efficient and stay safe

Our higher brains:

  1. Seek for connections with others
  2. Desire to grow, develop and progress

Living from higher

“Adulting” is more about living from our higher brains.

Choosing to hold off on what is desirable or comfortable in the moment to work for our higher goals.

When we become adults we can choose to do whatever we want.

Some emerging adults seem to think becoming an adult is all about doing what they want and making their own choices.

Our jails are full of adults who chose to do what they felt like even though it was against the law.

Other emerging adults are discovering that “adulting” is actually more complicated than that.

It requires basic life skills, being responsible and thinking ahead- putting long term needs and goals ahead of our short-term impulses.

Higher brain kind of stuff.

Lower Brain Will Always Be There

When we are working on goals it can be helpful to remember that our lower brain is always with us.

For example, when we set a goal to get up at 7 am and get ready for our day, when the alarm clock goes off, our lower brain is going to kick in and not want to get up.

It’s uncomfortable.

It’s hard.

Can’t we just hit snooze and sleep a little longer?

If we anticipate our lower brain wanting to jump in, we can allow for that and still choose to honor our commitment to our self and get up even when we really don’t feel like it.

Creating New Pathways

“Adulting” success requires creating new pathways in our brains.

It’s uncomfortable to create new pathways.

Our lower brains don’t like to be uncomfortable.

And it feels hard.

The cool things is that as we work on new things like getting up when our alarm goes off in the morning,

our pathways get stronger

and it does get easier.

Many people find that they start to wake up before their alarm goes off.

They’ve trained their brain to wake up.

Self-care when “adulting”

Anyone attempting “adulting” or trying any new thing should keep in one important thing in mind…


Creating new brain pathways takes work.

We are much more successful when we take that into account.

Depending on how challenging a new thing we’re learning or doing is will determine how much self-care we may need.

For a student starting college classes for the first time, there are many new things the brain is learning all kinds of things like:

  • the location of classes
  • what new teachers expect
  • navigating the social environment
  • the new schedule
  • the new material to learn
  • all the new external stimulation like sounds, smells, sights, etc.

A student might be a little more tired than usual after the first week of school.

Probably not a good time to start a big new project or start a new job.

Self-care in the form of:

  • power naps
  • breaks
  • taking a walk
  • doing some meditation
  • exercising
  • doing something fun
  • talking with a friend

can all help the brain recharge and stay up for the day to day tasks.

Keep in mind some activities like browsing social media or playing intense video games are fun but do not recharge our brains.

Learning to be aware of our lower brains and live more from our higher brains, our higher selves, is what helps us create a wonderful and fulfilling life.

-Debbie, TFL Admissions and Marketing Director