Adulting Tips: 5 Psychological Secrets

Whether your graduation is coming up or twenty years behind you, we all have moments when we wonder whether we’re cut out for this adulthood thing. Savvy Psychologist Dr. Ellen Hendriksen reveals the psychology behind her top five adulting tips.

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD
7-minute read
Episode #242

Adulting Tip #1: Remember it’s okay not to have everything figured out.

Whether fortunately or unfortunately, from the dorm room to the boardroom to the Situation Room, we’re all winging it. The realization that you have to make it up as you go along can be paralyzing, but it can also be freeing.

Consider this: uncertainty drives anxiety. And graduation is the time of life with the greatest uncertainty: What will my career be? Will I find a partner? When? Who? Where will I live? Which of my friendships will survive the transition? 

This uncertainty leaves us with two options. We can either increase our certainty, or we can get better at accepting uncertainty. Adulting requires both.

Uncertainty leaves us with two options. We can either increase our certainty, or we can get better at accepting uncertainty. Adulting requires both.

A study out of Korea University found that 21st century skills like flexibility and persistence were vital in facing difficult career decisions, but they were turbocharged when combined with—you guessed it—a high tolerance for uncertainty.

You can work to increase certainty—sign a lease, land a job, go on a second, third, or twentieth date. But you can also work to be okay with uncertainty. It’s totally normal not to have it all figured out, whether you’re 18, 22 or several decades beyond. 

Adulting is a Journey

So, no matter where you are in this journey of adulting, remember: you may not know where you’re going, but you’re on the right path.

So question your self-imposed deadlines, practice conscientiousness, clarify your values, and know it’s perfectly okay to feel bad or uncertain. And if you really want to adult like a boss, you can even make that dentist appointment.

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Medical Disclaimer
All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own mental health provider. Please consult a licensed mental health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Ellen Hendriksen, PhD

Dr. Ellen Hendriksen is a clinical psychologist at Boston University's Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD). She earned her Ph.D. at UCLA and completed her training at Harvard Medical School. Her scientifically-based, zero-judgment approach is regularly featured in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media outlets. 

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