he Oxford English Dictionary defines “adulting,” as “the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.” But there might be more to it than that.

Rather than just being a way of behaving, we believe adulting is a mindset. You can do all of the things adults do, but until you start desiring to learn and grow as an adult, you won’t be “adulting” right.

Keep reading if you want to know:

  • Where the term “adulting” comes from
  • What’s on the adulting checklist
  • What earns you bonus adulting points

Where Does the Word “Adulting” Come From?

The origins of the word “adulting” trace as far back as 2008, according to Time, and as with much else, there’s a tweet to prove it.

Here, “adulted” is used much like we use the term “adulting” now - to engage in adult behaviors and responsibilities. The use of these terms and others like them continued to rise to popularity on social media.

Then in 2015, the American Dialect Society nominated “adult (verb)” as their most creative word of the year, and we haven’t looked back since.

The word “adulting,” has been found to be used in different contexts. For example, although it may simply mean completing the tasks of an adult in one instance, in another, it may be used by younger adults to distance themselves from adulthood.

Jane Solomon, a lexicographer at Dictionary.com elaborates. “This generation of millennials,” she says, “they go through life stages that other generations have gone through much later in life, like starting families, owning homes. Maybe they won’t own homes at all.” So, this generation of young adults poke fun at their delayed adulthood by using the word “adulting” to applaud themselves for completing adult tasks that they cannot yet say are a part of their everyday lives.

Either way it’s being used, this is a word you should add to your vocabulary. We have a feeling it’s going to be around for a while.

Adulting Checklist

Now whether you consider yourself a real adult or not, you probably want to see if you’re “adulting” right. We’ve narrowed it down to six surefire ways to know if you’re “adulting” right. Here goes!

Your Desire to Learn

Male in his twenties reading a book at his desk
Reading books you enjoy is one way to continue to stimulate your mind on a regular basis.

Whether you’re furthering your education through university or picking up a book whenever you have some down time, you have a desire to continue to learn.

You’ve outgrown that phase where reading for class is nothing but a bore, and you’re actually interested in the readings and take notes on key concepts. You take advantage of your professors and all of the other resources available to you so that you can absorb as much as you can from them.

You also take initiative. If you run into a concept that you don’t understand, you look into it on your own time because you want to educate yourself.

And lastly but most importantly, you accept that there’s a million things you’ll never understand, but that doesn’t discourage you. Instead, it pushes you to learn as much as you can.

How to start: Find a book you want to read - fiction, nonfiction, etc. and leave it on your bedside table. Book placement is everything! Putting the book here will remind you to read it. And remember: reading a couple of pages every other night is better than reading nothing at all.

You Can Cook for Yourself

Girl in her college dorm casually eating pasta out of a pan
There are hundreds of single pan dinners you can make that can give you the maximum amount of taste with minimal dishes.

And no, this doesn’t mean being able to cook instant ramen.

A huge part of “adulting” is cooking nutritious meals for yourself. You know that you can’t survive off of noodles with seasoning for dinner every night, so you teach yourself how to cook for real.

Sometimes this means calling your mom and asking her how to remake some of your favorite home cooked meals. And other times it means looking up new recipes to try online - we’re talking about you Tasty!

However you choose to do it, you find recipes to make, hit the store and get the supplies, and cook a delicious meal for yourself.

And even if you don’t like cooking, you still do it, because you know that in order to take care of yourself you need to nourish your body and mind with whole foods and delicious dishes.

How to start: Look up “easy healthy ______ recipe” and fill in the blank with your favorite food. We love searching for easy and healthy versions because it means less ingredients (less money) and they’re often better for you healthwise!

You’re Politically Active

You understand that there’s more going on in the world outside of your own personal bubble, and you want to make an impact where you can.

With issues like global warming and systemic racism being at the forefront of issues in American politics, you want to be educated on these issues so that you can talk about them and vote on them knowledgeably.

How to start: Educate yourself on issues BEFORE you talk about them. The best thing you can do for politics these days is to not spread misinformation, so do your research before you start talking about certain issues.

You’re Planning a Future for Yourself

This could mean many things. You might be planning your career, where you want to live, when you’re getting married, etc. But what matters is that you know you have a future ahead of you and that it’s up to you to decide what to do with it.

One quote from an unknown source that has always stuck with us is this: “You can literally do anything you want.” Now we know, you can’t do literally anything you want. You can’t hop on a jet and fly to a private island when you want to go to the beach. But you can literally decide what you do each day of your life, for the rest of your life. So do what you want to do.

How to start: Plan out three long-term goals you want to complete by the end of this year and write them down. You’re much more likely to do something if you write it down, so this may just be the secret to completing your goals.

You’re Figuring Out Who’s Going to be in Your Future With You

Group of friends stand around a kitchen island drinking wine and eating snacks
Spend quality time with the people you see in your future, rather than spreading yourself too thin and spending time with people who may not deserve it.

You’re in the midst of figuring out which people you want to keep in your life forever, and which people you need to let go of.

You have some sense of which people are going to be in your life for the long haul. You have your close friends, maybe a significant other, maybe some new people you see yourself gravitating towards, and you spend time with these people because you see them in your future.

You understand that not everyone is meant to be in your life forever, and you accept that.

How to start: If someone in your life isn’t bringing anything to the table, stop bringing so much to theirs. Don’t continue building on relationships that you know aren’t going to last.

You Make Peace With All of Your Past Decisions

This may be the toughest one of them all, but surely the most important.

“Adulting” is all about accepting yourself and the choices you’ve made. You know you’ve made mistakes in the past, but you don’t let those mistakes keep you up at night. Those decisions are what made you the person you are today, and you’re proud of that person.

You choose to learn from your mistakes rather than let them define you, and you let any guilt you have about those decisions go.

How to start: Next time you’re rethinking how you reacted to something that happened to you three years ago, remember that you’re not that person anymore. You don’t have to beat yourself up over something that you truly learned from.

Additional Adulting Points

  • You make your own doctor’s appointments (even if it’s scary!)
  • You call your grandparents on the phone to check up on them
  • You’re doing things for self-care, like going to therapy or baking your favorite cookies
  • You’re eating vegetables (more than one kind)
  • You can eat by yourself in public if you have to
  • You save money for things you want to buy or do

The Takeaway

“Adulting,” more than anything, is about adopting an adult mindset. So don’t worry if you’re not doing all of these things right all of the time. As long as you’re working on yourself, you’re “adulting” just fine.

Feb 17, 2021