Claim Your Adulthood

photo credit: jenjoaquin via photopin cc

photo credit: jenjoaquin via photopin cc

I just watched an excellent TED video presentation by Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist who has a message for twenty-somethings. And it is this: claim your adulthood. If you have time for the 15 minute presentation you can watch it below, and I highly recommend it. If you don’t, I will summarize it for you anyway.

Thirty is NOT the New Twenty

In this fantastic talk Meg laments that she has found that a lot of twenty-something year olds feel like 30 is the new 20. In other words, these years don’t really count. We’ve got ten or so more years to go before we have to get serious and find the dream job or the dream spouse. And as a result of this, as Meg says, “When you pat a twenty-something on the head and you say, ‘You have 10 extra years to start your life’… you have robbed that person of his urgency and ambition.”

I can’t say that I already have a dream job, and I’m not married to my dream spouse YET. A lot of twenty-somethings are in that boat and they are saying, “Yea but emphasize the YET. I’m working at it. I am setting myself up for great opportunities like it’s my full-time job.” If that is you, give yourself a high-five. But unfortunately sometimes we don’t act this way. Sometimes we do take the attitude of, “This doesn’t count yet.” This all comes back to the idea of the extended adolescence.

What Meg has seen far too often is that when these twenty-somethings get to the end of their twenties, they look back and think, “What did I just do?” I mean really, what was that decade of waiting for my life to begin? I’ve got nothing to show for myself.

It’s a really sad thought. It’s why I started this blog. Because I don’t think it was meant to be that way. So if you are tired of your parents treating you like a grown-up adolescent, or you are frustrated with your lack of identity right now, or you are dating just to have a date, or you are bored to tears by your current lifestyle because you are doing the same things you wish you would have moved on from years ago, claim your adulthood.

Claiming Your Adulthood

What does this mean? Meg gives three great pieces of advice for how to take the next step forward and make sure that when you hit your thirties you aren’t regretting your twenties.

  1. Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital- This means doing “something that adds value to who you are… an investment into who you might want to be next.” Is there something you have always wanted to try or that gives you energy just to dream about? Turn it from a dream into a reality. Start a blog, a club, or a small business, start a new hobby or learn a new skill. If you already have some skills you are pretty good at, utilize them to the fullest. Hop on YouTube and research tips that could make you better at it, and use it in a way that counts!
  2. The urban tribe is overrated- Especially after you come home from a remote college, you may suddenly realize you have lost touch with your old connections. Don’t decide that you don’t want to make new friends at this point. (I understand the feeling, believe me.) Meg explains that, “new things come from friends of friends of friends.” Be personable with acquaintances you meet through your parents or your boss. They could have insight for you which inspires you to go to great heights, or they could be the “in” you need to land your next job. Buddies of people you don’t know very well, or someone you meet on an unexpected trip, may end up being invaluable partners as you walk through this stage of your life or the next. Keep the doors open and branch out.
  3. The time to start picking your family is now- This is so important. Before I started dating I had a huge desire on my heart to only date someone who would be a serious consideration for marriage. And in fact, I waited a long time before I started dating the guy I am with, moving on from friendship. Meg Jay says, “Be intentional with love and consciously choose who and what you want instead of killing time with whoever happens to be choosing you.” You are forming patterns of action now, whether you know it or not, so if you don’t like the way you are dating, get out of the cycle. More of my posts coming up will be related to preparing for your future spouse in the NOW.

If you are at a loss for how to start making the most of your time as a twenty-something single, I would like to refer you to a really great app called Week Plan on weekplan.net, which is free to use. The designer is working on making it compatible with iPod products, but for now I believe it is still only for computer use. This program is based on Stephen Covey’s schedule planner from the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, one of my favorite books. I am not getting paid to let you know about these resources, I just really stand by them.

Week Plan looks a bit like this (click it to blow up the image):

week plan

The way it works is that you first come up with a list of what your roles in life are right now (or what you want them to be). For me, I included things like Catholic, Family Member, Lover, Intern, Friend, Entrepreneur, and Employee. I also have a Self category for relaxation and taking care of my health for example. I am not all those things right now. For example, I am not currently employed. But I want to move towards that, so it is going to become part of my weekly goals.

Then you are asked to think of one or more of the most important things you could do this week to become better at or enhance that role. What would you do if you had the time to become a better Catholic, a better lover, a better family member, etc. Or if you are not that yet (maybe you are not a lover or employee), then what could you do to prepare for that role if you had the time?

You drag these tasks onto days in the week, the most important ideally coming first. They are color coded by what role in your life they correspond to, and are also marked in bold if they are important and in red if they are urgent. You can get as detailed or as simplified as you want by marking times of the day that you want to accomplish tasks. You can check the items off when you have completed them, which is so exciting.

Eventually, you should start to have more things on your schedule that are important but not urgent, such as spending time with your family or on implementing dream goals. Try to get rid of things on your schedule that are urgent and important by doing them ahead of time (when they are not so urgent). Try to get rid of things that are unimportant, like perhaps reading through forwarded emails that you really don’t actually ever have to get to. And remember that some relaxation time and time for yourself should go on your important list.

The purpose of this whole exercise is to help you actually make time for those things that are super important to you but you always seem to “not have the time” for. Because many of our lives are unbalanced. We may say for example that our faith or family is the most important thing to us, but we don’t spend a proportionate time investing in those areas of our lives. We have great plans, but since we don’t have the time now we say, “Someday I’ll…” Well, it is time to move off of “Someday Aisle.” Instead of doing lots of little seemingly urgent things throughout the week that really are not important at all and ending up with no time for what is important, Week Plan helps you fill your schedule first with things that are important to you. Once I started using this method, I started to realize how much time I really do have. The more I do things now that are important but not urgent, the more I avoid crisis in the future when I realize my life has been spent doing unimportant things.

Meg closes by saying, “Don’t be defined by what you didn’t know or didn’t do. You are deciding your life right now.”

How do you want to start claiming your adulthood? What are you putting off on “Someday Aisle”? Leave your comments below.

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