Do you take odd pride in knowing how to clean the dishwasher filter? Do you tell your friends in a conspiratorial whisper about the miracle of compound interest? Does going to bed at 9:30 give you a high? If so, congrats: you’re adulting. But beyond the practical, there's a psychology to managing your adult life.

Adulting, which the Oxford English Dictionary shortlisted for Word of the Year in 2016 (along with alt-right, hygge, woke, and post-truth) is behaving in a manner consistent with responsible adulthood. 

Adulting can be about the little things, like cleaning snow off your windshield with an actual snow brush rather than your flailing, late-to-work arms. It could mean making a dentist appointment without your mother reminding you. But it can also be about the big things: figuring out your values, learning how to take care of yourself, and taking responsibility for your life rather than blaming traffic, your little brother, or Jack Daniels.

Much of adulting consists of working against human nature. We humans tend to focus on whatever shiny thing is directly in front of us, so adulting often means taking the long view: saving for retirement, doing cardio, taking your vitamins. But as the name implies, it’s also simply the process of growing up: adulting occurs as you trade dependence for independence and self-centeredness for community.

Over the years, out of all the college seniors I’ve worked with in treatment, 100% have freaked out about graduation in one way or another. It’s normal. For example, one woman obsessively read personal finance books to cope with her anxiety about supporting herself. Another, after triumphantly turning in her thesis, fell into a deep slump. Another questioned the decades that lay before him in an existential way. He wondered: “What’s the point of the next sixty years?”

While I can’t help you with the meaning of life, we can cover 5 secrets of adulting the college seniors and young adults I’ve worked with over the years have found most helpful in a time of transition. And if you’re already a full-fledged adult? Whether you’re one day or fifty years past graduation, all of us can benefit from the wisdom of those who tossed their mortarboards before us.

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