coverWhat’s an Adult anyway? Are we Grownup or Adult?

The book started with those questions. My conclusion after reading it: It is society that defines “Adulthood”. You could say it’s semantics but in the context of this book, being “Grownup” relates to the physical sense (i.e. to grow physically). Adulthood is a state-of-mind. You can be all “grownup” but you may not have reached the maturity and sense of self. Conversely, a young person in his/ her teens could be very adult in thinking and actions, more so that some”grownups”.

I didn’t find this book easy to follow from page to page. I tended to skip pages. Maybe it’s the way it’s organised, or the page layout. Perhaps I wasn’t in the right frame of mind. It’s only after posting this Rough Note that I got a better sense of the book.

The authors suggest that “Adult Qualities” can be drawn from understanding and practicing seven principles, or “internal realities” (outlined below). Each chapter ends with a suggested exercise to apply that principle.

So, the seven principles to conscious Adulthood, according to the authors:

#1 – “I am here, and you are over there”
Reinforcing the idea that we should recognise we are all separate beings. I think this relates to being aware of who we are, nevermind how we want ourselves to be and how others look at us. It lays the premise that our sense of what is real about ourselves is determined by us, rather than what others think. It also holds true w.r.t. the way we look at others.

#2 – “I am safe and sound in my own skin”
Gives examples of some emotional triggers and how it might influence our behaviours. Recognising this part may help us understand why we react in certain ways in certain situations. It’s also about whether we impose our own realities and values on others.

#3 – “I am curious about everything that goes on inside me”
Best summed up on p. 110 – “This chapter is about exposing and vanquishing whatever ghosts haunt your inner house and keep you from exploring the attic. The following chapters are about some of the treasures awaiting you there”.

#4 – “I learn from my emotions”
I think this chapter is saying that we don’t have to reject or get rid of whatever emotional baggage we might have accumulated. Accept that we don’t know all there is to know about our emotions and effects. But it’s not about self-denial, and I also don’t think acceptance of emotion means “not doing anything about it”. From P. 130:

“The next time you feel a feared emotion rising, say to yourself: Okay, here it comes. I hate it, but I know it won’t kill me. I don’t have to respond now. I can take as much time as I need to figure out what’s going on. If someone demands an immediate response, I can say, “I can’t answer that right now, but I’ll get back to you.

The second thing you can do when caught in a swirl of emotion is to remind yourself that there are no emergencies.”

#5 – “I know there is nothing but now”
The message in this chapter is to pay attention to what we’re doing now. I suppose one can be so caught-up in trying to “prepare for the future” or mulling over what happened in the past that we’re not aware of what’s going on right now, which could really be the most important thing. I think it means we can consider the past and plan for the future, but we have got to take one step at a time in the present.

#6 – “I always have power”
Suggests the basic powers of The Adult arise from: Body, Intellect, Imagination, Creativity, Intuition, Emotions, Will.

I found this chapter to have lots of stuff about “Learning”:

P. 166. “Adult lives are about learning and dealing creatively with growth and change. Our two greatest powers are the ability to learn and the ability to create. These powers are interior processes that determine the quality and effectiveness of our lives…

… It cannot be said strongly enough tha ta conscious, intentional use of our ability to learn is the critical factor in the realization of our powers.

It may seem a strange thing to say, but many people simply cannot learn. Grownups have been raisd to believe that their limits are flaws.”

“A lot of grownups learn on the run or accidentally, if they learn at all. When we are in our grownup state, we don’t notice that we are learning — we are just doing. Learning is not a deliberate, conscious choice or experience…”

“… a grownup’s identity rests on making the right choice in the first place. Because we’re so focused on results rather than process, it’s difficult to see the possible usefulness of the path a mistake might take us on…”

“All our educational training is focused on “getting it right.” But making mistakes is an essential part of learning. To create an ideal atmosphere for learning, we need to be trained in kindness towards ourselves as we live by trial and error, and in the valuing of our false moves and wrong choices. Being angry at ourselves or hating ourselves for our failings is as wrong-headed as getting mad at the baby who is trying so hard, through stumbling and falling, and learning to walk.

Trying to be our best selves is a life long process that mirrors the baby’s step-by-step progress. Like the baby, we need encouragement for our efforts, congratulations for our successes, and admiration for getting up and starting again when we fall.”

On p. 170., there’s this about Learning Vs Training:

“There is a difference between learning and training. The grownup is more the result of training, and the adult is more the result of learning.”

Suggests that training is mostly obeying, memorising, behaving in prescribed way. Learning requires a person’s conscious presence and awareness.

On p. 173. the authors write about the power of creativity:

“Everybody is creative, although not everyone is necessarily artistic… You are creating all the time. You just take it for granted.”

Some examples where creativity is manifested: “Bringing thoughts to your mind”, “Movement in your body”, “Sounds from your vocal chords”, “Arranging your living space “, “Choice of clothes to buy and wear”, “Food you put on the table”, “Look of your signature”, “Recipies you make up”, “Letters you write”, “Planting and caring for your garden”, “Solutions for getting your kids from here to there”, “Expressions of love you show”, “Jokes you make”.

“Creativity is a neutral power in that it can be applied in destructive as well as constructive ways…”

P. 184. talks about Surviving Vs Thriving:

“Adults use creativity, learning, and all their inherent powers to thrive, rather than just survive” So are we just surviving or thriving? What’s stopping us from thriving?

#7 – “I always have limits”
This last principle suggests that we should recognise that we will always have limits. That we will always face limits set by the physical world (physical, skills, attitudes; some within our control while some aren’t). But there is a difference between feeling powerless and being powerless.

Three basic categories of “limits”: Physical, Skills/ Aptitude, Psychologically induced. From p. 215:

“One of your powers is knowing that you have limits — and recognizing and respecting them.”


[Thinking aloud — I think between “those who thrive” and “those who simple survive” is whether one accepts the limits and does something about it but not to the extent of frustrations and unrealistic expectations Vs. those who lament about their limits, blame the world and do nothing about it. Afterall, what defines “success”?

Sure, I’m not handicapped. I’m not unemployed. Easy for me to say this, right?

Well in truth, I recognise that I’m better off than some people, but then there will always be people who are worse off than the other. I have my limits and I know some of them. I accept them and whatever circumstances I’m in. But some limits are those that I think I ought to do something about it, and to some extent I am doing something about them.
OK, quite a useful read. Made me think and reflect. ~ Ivan]