Hardworking people hope at a minimum to feel like contented adults in the new year. You may also desire happiness, riches, freedom, painlessness, joy or passion. (And that is great!) But in my experience, people often say they'd be fine with “happiness” for their kids, and “contentment” for themselves.
The arrival of a new decade provides a perfect motivation to review your adult life. Who are you? What do you want?
As you enter this new decade, you may be wondering, “What would a contented adult life even look like?” And the answer is: Who knows? Everyone is different. To further the confusion, we wonder not only what does it mean to be content but what does it mean to be an adult?
Here are some life questions that might be creeping up on you as you start a new decade:
- Am I living my best life?
- Do I make sense?
- Am I heading in any direction?
- Is this all?
- Why do others seem to have things figured out?
- Should I be doing things differently?
If these questions click with you, that's great! It's good to be asking questions in a new decade.
But here's the thing: without a good way to understand and process your questions, you'll end up right back repeating the same questions you asked in the 2010's.
Do not despair. Becoming more contented and more adult takes practice.
Here are 12 ideas to help you move forward toward being a contented adult – or to realize your wildest dreams!
1. Take time to look closely at what you hold as “the truth.”
By the time you reach what might be considered “adulthood,” you have likely developed a set of ethics and beliefs that seem like truths to you. These beliefs are important to guide and direct your life. But to be a truly content adult in this world, it is important to feel free to examine and re-examine these beliefs.
Have you noticed that the wisest elders in societies are always open to questions, always seeking? Although the potential to gain wisdom grows as humans grow, when you shut off the ability to re-examine your truth, learning stops. This cut-off from examining your inner knowing and the knowing of others both creates and reinforces fears. When the fearful parts of your personality hold on to truths as shields or weapons rather than lovingly held promises in life, it divides you from others. This of course leads to discontentment, loneliness and stagnancy.
2. When you feel like life is too hard, take a minute to notice if you have parts of you that are unintentionally punishing you.
Let's face it, life can deliver some tremendous blows. Loss and trauma happen and they are seldom doled out equally. But to live a contented life, true to your adult status, if you feel like life is just too hard, stop. Take a breath. Life may well be too hard at this moment. You may need someone beside you, a resource deep inside you or a spiritual resource to help you through.
Take a breath at these times and recognize the part of you that says that “life is just too hard.” Breathe space between you and that thought. Now for just a moment, take a look at any parts of you that behave based on that thought. Perhaps, out of fear of more pain, you have a part that is cutting you off from all support and resources. Perhaps when you see a resource, your inner world rejects it immediately or tells you why you or the support will not be enough. Have compassion for this part. While it is trying to minimize any more hurt, if left to do this pushing away, it will only create more pain for you.
3. Responsibilities that feel like chores require your review.
When I asked my online group what they thought defined an “adult”, many used words like “responsible” or “responsibilities” in the answer. I think most of us were raised to believe that responsibility is an adult thing. However, if your responsibilities are causing you pain, it's time to take a hard look at these chores, for whom they're done, and what you feel about these responsibilities.
Responsibilities are not just tasks and actions we do for others or ourselves. We are also responsible for the emotion and mindset we bring to the acts. If you are thrust into “chores” that are legitimately responsible but make your adult life miserable, there are parts of you who need to be consulted (by you). Take a moment to get quiet, breathe and write down every “chore” and why it has a bad feeling for you. Do not edit, let everything come out on the paper. No one needs to see this but you.
After you've written out all of your resentments and complaints about these chores, review them. Does every part of you agree? How old do you feel when you look at these complaints? Do your complaints make you unhappy or is it the chores themselves? Is it both? Which of the two do you have the most adult “control” over? You may be able to make changes in either the tasks or your feelings about them. Go slowly and own any experimental changes you put in place.
4. When frustrations arise, check in whose business you're meddling.
I love this statement from Byron Katie, “I can find only three kinds of business in the universe: mine, yours and God’s. Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our business.”
Katie knows a lot about suffering and living a discontented adulthood. Her advice here is so sound. Try it yourself.
When you feel frustrations about your adult life, see if you are focusing on things that are really none of your business or not under your control. For example, I frequently fuss about the medical system, especially now that both of my parents are in a nursing home. My frustrations can rise and rise, leaving me feeling hopeless and out of control. This is the moment when I know I have drifted into someone else's business. This is not to say there are not actions to take, but they need to be actions I can implement. Blaming others or just expecting them to behave differently will create my own suffering.
When you stop and take a look at what you can and cannot control, you begin to own and address what belongs to you. Your frustrations will calm as a result. You are now in “your business,” which is really the most powerful place to be. From this space you will gain adult insights that lead to contentment and joy.
The new year presents a time to grow into a contented adult.
As you see in the four ideas above, your feelings and experiences offer guides to help you become more and more your authentic self. In summary, these first concepts highlight:
- freely examining your “truths”.
- recognizing inadvertent sabotage.
- healthy responsibilities.
- your personal business.
In next week's article, we'll look at four more concepts (in this 3-part series) to begin 2020 as a growing, contented adult. As always, growth takes time and practice. It is always a good idea to seek out help when the going gets tough. That's what healthy, growing adult do!
For more help today, schedule a free discovery session.
For help to be a less stressed, more confident you in 2020, get my book today! Calm Your Worries: Unlock Your Secret Code to Lasting Stress Relief & Self-Confidence.