No matter where you fall on the great debate about whether “adulting” is a suitable term for actually being an adult, we can all agree that living a successful adult life isn’t exactly a walk in the park. Once you turn 18, it feels like everyone expects you to figure your life out—whatever that even means. But what if you feel like you’re not ready? What happens when where you thought you’d be isn’t where you are now?
You’re not alone. Here’s a guide to help being an adult be less stressful:
- Stop procrastinating—make like Nike and just do it.
- Eat real food sometimes. Your body will thank you.
- Prioritize your priorities.
- There’s no better time than now to make a Collective difference.
- Instagram highlights don’t live up to the hype. What’s digital can often be deceitful.
- Make a budget. Stick to said budget. Repeat.
- Find the right friends and love them well.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Get yourself to church—there is power in Collective worship.
- Invest time in learning—not complaining.
- Consider your laundry load lightened.
- You can date like a Christian without being so extra about it.
Jump on in. You may even give yourself some adulting points along the way.
Stop procrastinating—make like Nike and just do it.
We all know how this cycle goes. Your term paper is due next week, but you wait until the day before to get started and pull an all-nighter. You’ve got an upcoming project at work, and you stay late the day before trying to knock it out. But what if you didn’t? What if you broke big commitments into smaller steps?
My pastor, Craig Groeschel, says that you can choose the pain of discipline today over the pain of regret tomorrow. And if you’ve ever crammed all night—you know the regret of no sleep with Basset Hound level bags under your eyes. So, maybe instead of cramming, study a little every day. Find systems like planners to keep you organized and on track, or try free digital to-do lists like Trello or Google Tasks (on iOS or Android) to keep your life in order.
Eat real food sometimes. Your body will thank you.
Two words—meal plans. They’re awesome and awful all at the same time. Whether you’re just learning to cook and fending for yourself on a diet of ramen and cereal or if you’re hanging out at the campus dining hall every day, there’s more to life than fast food and microwavable meals. Eat a vegetable or a fruit sometimes. It’ll help you feel better. And making time to take care of your body is a wise investment not only for your long-term health but also for your mental clarity.
Prioritize your priorities.
I know there are a million things vying for your attention. Whether you’re working your way through college to pay off those student loans you know are waiting to drain your bank account after graduation (RIP bank account) or you’re trying to prove yourself in your first entry-level job, life is busy. Add in the pressure to have a certain image on social media, juggle time with friends, and meet your family’s lofty expectations, and you’ve got a recipe for overload. But don’t forget to prioritize the most important things.
Here’s the kicker, though. As an adult, you define what your priorities are. Think through what kind of person you want to become and where you want to be. Then ask yourself—what can I do today to get myself where I want to be tomorrow? Those habits you build today will inform your future. So add your priorities to your calendar. Make them immovable. And then—live like your priorities are your priorities.
When thinking about your priorities, consider every area of your life. What are some priorities you have in regard to your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health? A lot of people consider their physical goals after New Year’s—which is why gyms are packed every January only to fizzle by February—but don’t forget about your spiritual priorities. You can be as close to God as you choose to be. When we seek God with our whole hearts, He promises we will find Him (Jeremiah 29:13). So maybe that looks like spending time in prayer, making space to just silently listen to God, or building your Bible habit every morning. Define your priorities and then actually prioritize them.
There’s no better time than now to make a Collective difference.
Sure, you could waste a ton of time binge-watching Netflix and scrolling on Instagram through your twenties. Or through the rest of your life. But what if you used your time to make a collective difference in your community? In all of life’s adulting responsibilities, don’t focus too much on yourself. Focus on how you can help others around you. Maybe that means making time to serve at church. To actually meet and get to know your neighbors—even if they’re across the hall in the dorm you’re moving out of in a year. Maybe it means volunteering with a local mission partner—choosing to be the change in your city.
Instagram highlights don’t live up to the hype. What’s digital can often be deceitful.
It’s often said that comparison is the thief of joy, and I couldn’t agree more. But I also think comparison kills connection. If I spend my time scrolling through Instagram (which I’m often guilty of), I’m viewing people’s highlight reels in the middle of my behind-the-scenes moments. So if I base my life, or my friends, or my job, or my whatever on someone else’s feed, I’m making life into a competition where nobody wins. The digital world is deceitful in that it shows a snapshot of a larger story we don’t see. So don’t play that game. Real life is where the best life happens.
Make a budget. Stick to said budget. Repeat.
Budgeting is a cringe-worthy topic. But it’s an important one that’ll carry you through your entire adult years. Set the foundation for your financial future now. Try a free budgeting app like EveryDollar or a cheap option like You Need a Budget.
Decide now what your financial priorities will be. But don’t forget that you’re just caring for your money. Your money is all God’s anyway, so if you’re a Jesus follower, tithe as an act of worship and trust that God will take care of your needs. Then decide to be generous. If you’re not generous now—when will you be? We know you’re living that ramen life. But you can be generous while on a college student budget. In fact, it’s a great training ground for leading a generous life for the long haul.
Also, save wisely! Decide to invest in your future by creating a safety net. Don’t blow your paychecks by eating out every meal or upping your shoe game or any number of things. It’s fine to enjoy your life and splurge every now and then, but remember that you’re an adult now, so your acts have consequences. Consider how your finances today will lead to your future tomorrow and budget accordingly. Seriously—your Starbucks runs taste better when you know there’s no guilt—and you’ve spent money you actually planned to spend.
Find the right friends and love them well.
We need other people in our lives. Jesus modeled this for us by having 12 disciples—who probably made His life a lot harder—and living life with them. It can feel awkward to find those people at first, but they exist. Take a leap of faith and join a LifeGroup. Invite your neighbors to dinner. Invite the people you serve with at church to coffee.
And invest in those relationships. Good friendships don’t develop overnight. They need time to grow. Don’t get so caught up in finding the perfect, Insta-worthy friends that you miss out on the real ones in your life.
And if you want good friends, you have to be a good friend. Be the one who initiates the hangout. Be the one who texts first. Be the one who shows up when your friend is having a rough day. When you focus on that, the right friendships will come.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
I’ve experienced the trap of feeling like certain people are on a different level than I am. Sometimes I feel like I can’t talk to people who are older and wiser because they’re way too wise or way too accomplished to help me. But people aren’t out to get you. In fact, people often want to share their experiences with others. We’re all just humans trying to figure out life. Let’s do it together—the way God designed it in the first place.
So, go to your professor’s office hours when you’re stuck on that chemistry concept. Ask that person at church you admire out to coffee and listen more than you talk. Call your parents, call your friends, or call your LifeGroup when you need help. We were created to need others.
Get yourself to church—there is power in Collective worship.
Church is the safest place for you to ask questions about God, build your faith, and find a group of people with whom you can worship God when times are great and when times are hard. There is power when a group of mutually broken people come together to worship the One who makes us whole again.
But even more than going to church, choose to be the Church. The Church isn’t just a building. It’s the people. When we come together, powerful things can happen. Jesus is the hope of the world, and He allows us—the Church—to partner with Him by bringing that hope to people who need it. We are called to serve others in our churches and communities the same way Jesus served us. We are called to be a light in a sometimes dark world by loving people well. Following Jesus means actually following in Jesus’ footsteps by living and loving like Jesus.
Jesus was all about forgiving our enemies. Loving the outcasts (Luke 19:1-10). Going the extra mile for people who wouldn’t do the same for you. Serving the poor. Standing up for others and fighting for injustices to be made right. So if we truly follow Jesus—our lives should be about those same things.
Going to church—and consequently, becoming the Church in every area of our lives—helps more people see the love of Jesus lived out. And that’s a worthy thing to be a part of.
Invest time in learning—not complaining.
The same amount of energy you invest in complaining about how awful your syllabus is could also be spent studying or planning for your class load. You decide how you’re going to interpret life. Things you might have prayed for earlier in your life—like getting into college, getting that job, finding those friends—are things that can easily turn into the very things you’re ungrateful for now—college is too hard, the job isn’t what you expected, and those friends are complicated.
But here’s the thing. We live in a time in history where you can Google anything. Wondering how to fix a tire? There’s a YouTube video for that. Wondering how to do your taxes? There’s a system for that. Ask for help from the people in your life. But also be willing to figure out things yourself without using that energy to complain. Stop viewing your adult responsibilities as challenges and start using them as opportunities to learn new things, meet new people, and gain new perspectives.
Get some color catchers. Consider your laundry load lightened.
Laundry is hard. I don’t even mess with separating my whites and colors. Throw everything in on cold with a color catcher, and you’re golden. Thank me later.
You can date like a Christian without being so extra about it.
Things get dicey when Christians talk about dating. But here’s the deal. “The one” doesn’t exist. Check out this Relationship Goals message series from Pastor Craig on that. I’ll wait.
Okay, so now that we’re on the same page that “the one” doesn’t exist, let’s talk about dating. Does every person you’re “talking” to have to be someone you’d marry? I don’t necessarily think so. How else can you figure out if someone is marriage-worthy without getting to know them? In my experience, dating a few of the wrong people helped me determine what the right person for me would look like. Plus, limiting your dating game to only people you could see yourself marrying would probably limit your dating pool pretty significantly—if not completely. So enjoy your dating years. Enjoy your time as a single person. But wherever you are, set healthy boundaries for yourself.
Adulting is a whirlwind. Just when you think you might get to a place where you feel like you have answers, everything changes. But I think that’s less about adulting and more about life. The point shouldn’t be to figure everything out. Instead, the point is to trust in Jesus and to rely on the other people He’s put in your life. You’ll never fully feel like you’re doing it right. But that’s the best place to be because, in those moments of uncertainty, you get to rely on Jesus in new ways, trusting that His plan is higher and so much better than you could ever imagine.