Adulting 101: How to Be a Healthy, Thriving Adult

“Adulting” can be hard, on some days more than others. Millennials coined this term, and use it to describe the daily tasks and challenges of adult life. Things like paying the bills, keeping the house clean, and keeping a job are all part of being a responsible adult 一 but adulting can be fun and joyful, too.

In this edition of Prepare for Life, we’re getting into how Gen Z and millennials (people aged 19 to 45) can master adulting and grow into healthy, thriving adults.

Why Is This Important?

  • Young adulthood, usually defined as ages 18 to 26, is a critical time in every person’s life. The decisions you make and the events you experience during these years have been shown to have a profound impact on your future 一 including employment, health and wellbeing, and economic security.
  • Many young people feel paralyzed and anxious about graduating from school and becoming independent.
  • Teaching young people the skills they need to successfully “adult” - like offering a course on tax preparation for high school students - may give them more confidence to take on more responsibilities.

Tips for healthy “adulting”

  • First, be patient with yourself, especially if you’re a young adult who’s only recently started venturing out into the world on your own. Adulting is hard, and learning how to become a fully grown adult is a process that usually takes time.
  • Experiment with taking on a little bit of responsibility at a time, if you have the luxury to do so. For example, some people may live with roommates before striking out on their own, and figure out bills and finances as a group. You might start taking on household chores before you become independent of your parents.
  • Yes, there are certain life tasks and every day duties that most adults need to learn how to do on their own 一 things like paying bills, budgeting, filing taxes, and making sure you eat three times a day. However, there isn’t a hard set of rules that defines how, exactly, an adult should behave 一 and each person has their own timeline. Have compassion for yourself if you sometimes feel like you’re not a “real adult” yet.
  • Focus on the joys of adulthood, not only the annoyances and fears. Being an adult doesn’t only consist of bills and responsibilities. It also means being able to make your own decisions, from what you eat to dinner to how you make a living. It means going through the process of discovering who you are, and living life on your terms.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s okay not to know everything there is to know about being an adult 一 this is the time to learn. Reach out to an older person that you trust to ask them everything you need to know about the details of adult responsibilities.


Click here to download this tip sheet in PDF format.


Committee on Improving the Health, Safety, and Well-Being of Young Adults; Board on Children, Youth, and Families; Institute of Medicine; National Research Council; Bonnie RJ, Stroud C, Breiner H, editors. Investing in the Health and Well-Being of Young Adults. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2015 Jan 27. 2, Young Adults in the 21st Century. Available from:

Lythcott-Haims, J. (2021). Your Turn: How to Be an Adult. Henry Holt & Co.

Zaretzky, R. (2017). The Case for Tax Policy Education and Teacher Appreciation. The Tax Policy Center. Available from:

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