Welcome to adulthood – a wild ride where we’re suddenly expected to fend for ourselves, have perfect relationships, hold dream jobs, contribute to society, know everything…
All while being shiny, happy people.
Sounds insane, right? But that’s reality – being an adult is tough.
Kids think we know it all, but really, we don’t. Especially when it comes to self-improvement. The little ones don’t know that we’re still figuring it all out ourselves!
But – while there’s no one life instruction manual that works across the board, there are some universal truths that do make our lives easier once we learn to accept them.
Unfortunately, they are uncomfortable. Hard to swallow.
Still, we’ve got what it takes to accept them and really apply this understanding to our lives. We’re adults, after all, right? That should count for something!
Here are the uncomfortable truths you should accept if you want to improve your life:
1) You are not entitled to anything
First up, let’s talk about what you deserve. Or rather, what you think you deserve.
When I hit my 20s, I was the picture of idealism. Surely, I’ll find the perfect guy. Surely, I’ll be promoted within a year at my first job. Surely, I’ll get a discount from that coffee shop once they see I’m such a regular customer.
Well, I quickly found out just how mistaken I was. Life was all like, “Excuse me, but who do you think you are?”
The world does not owe you anything, period.
Hard work, respect for others, humility, a growth mindset…these are what will give you a greater chance of getting what you want in life.
That said, here’s another uncomfortable truth…
2) Doing your best doesn’t guarantee success
All my life I’ve heard this: “Just do your best, and everything will work out.”
It’s a comforting thought for sure, and one that has helped me give my best to everything I do indeed.
But it’s not always true. Sometimes, even if we give 200%, we’ll still fall short.
The reality is, other factors do get in the way. Things like timing, lack of resources and support, competition…there are so many external reasons that hold us back even if we’re practically straining from effort.
However, don’t let this truth get you down. Just keep doing your best. Maybe things will work out, maybe they won’t. But either way, you’ll learn something new for sure.
3) People will disappoint you
Speaking of expectations, another one you’ll need to manage is the expectations you have for the people in your life.
How many times have we placed our trust in someone, only to be let down? I’m pretty sure we’ve all experienced this.
So, maybe you know this by now – people, even the ones you trust, will disappoint you.
Because they’re just people. Flawed. Imperfect. Also trying to figure out life like you are.
I found this truth to be really helpful in giving me a fresh perspective. It has allowed me to give the people in my life more grace.
4) You will disappoint people
Of course, the reverse is true. You’ll also let down the people in your life, for the exact reason I mentioned above.
It won’t feel great. You might feel crappy, incompetent, guilty, and all that.
But don’t let it consume you. Apologize, learn from your mistakes, and move on. Give yourself the grace you extend to others, too. Life’s too short to beat yourself up on the head over and over!
5) You can’t make everyone like you
What else shouldn’t you beat yourself up over? People disliking you.
Remember in high school when we wanted everyone to like us? Well, sometimes that desire doesn’t go away as we get older.
But hopefully, you learn and accept early enough that it’s just impossible.
Real talk – no matter how sparkling, charismatic, kind, or funny you are, there’s always someone else who’ll find you off-putting or outright unlikeable.
I mean, look at Tom Hanks. He’s definitely one of the most likeable people on earth, but he’s still got haters!
So free yourself from that burden. Forget trying to win everyone over and just be yourself. In case anyone hasn’t told you yet, you’re enough just as you are.
6) It’s not your job to fix people
Do you feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility to help the ones you see struggling?
That’s natural, and it points to your good heart. It’s only right to help ease someone else’s burden if we can.
But the hard truth is, we can’t fix them. We can only support.
I’ve been in this spot myself with a cousin of mine, whom I love dearly. He has been out of work for three years now, and I’ve been offering all kinds of support.
I’ve sent him links to job ads, referred him to people I know are looking to hire. I’ve looked for a therapist to help him get back on track.
None of that helped. You know why? Because he has to want to help himself first.
That might resonate with you. Maybe there’s someone in your life you’ve been trying to “fix” and you’re getting frustrated.
I’m not advising you to stop helping, but it’s also worth accepting that one’s life is ultimately one’s own responsibility.
Which brings me to my next point…
7) Your happiness and well-being are your own responsibility
This might sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people still fail to take it to heart.
They might rely on their partner to make them happy.
Or sometimes, they attach their happiness to achievement. “If I get this promotion/X amount of money in the bank/award, I’ll be happy.”
Sorry to bust all of that, but it’s nobody else’s job to make you happy. No external force can make you happy, at least not for the long term.
Happiness is an inside job. And because I’ve recently written an article on Stoicism, I’d like to share a useful teaching from Stoic extraordinaire Marcus Aurelius:
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”
8) Your time and energy are limited resources
This is an uncomfortable truth that addresses a lot of issues we have in today’s busy world.
Think about it – how much time and energy have you wasted on things that don’t matter? Or worse, on things that deplete you?
There are so many things we do that squander away these two precious resources. People-pleasing. Vices. Working too much.
Especially when we’re young, we seem to have an unlimited supply of time and energy. But the older you get, the more you’ll feel it dwindling away, and pretty soon, you’ll see how there’s so little left!
So take this as a reminder for you to take a closer look at how you spend your time and energy. Whittle away those that don’t add value to your life, and watch how your life begins to feel more meaningful and intentional.
9) Everything is temporary
I’m sure you know by now that life is constantly changing. But do you really embrace its temporary nature?
Now, this actually works two ways:
- It’s a useful thought to have when times are hard. It’s a reminder that your troubles will pass.
- Equally – and here’s where it gets uncomfortable – it’s a reminder that the good times will pass, too.
So, stop putting off your dreams. Stop setting aside quality time with your loved ones just because you know they’ll always be there.
Truth is, they won’t. Sometimes…
10) Sometimes it is too late
That’s right. Remember how time is precious? It’s non-renewable.
This is one of the most painful truths I realized when my dad passed away. Right while we weren’t on speaking terms.
I’d always planned to apologize and make up with him, but I kept putting it off. And then…it was suddenly too late.
Look, some things in life do have an expiry date. Dreams, relationships, opportunities – they could be gone forever because we decided to wait.
And it might seem unfair, but it is what it is. We just have to accept this one last truth…
11) Life is definitely not fair
Yup, the moment you hit adulthood, you’ll definitely find this out.
Hopefully sooner rather than later. Otherwise, you’ll be stuck in a cycle of bitterness, frustration, and you might even begin feeling like a victim.
I hope it doesn’t turn you cynical, though. Just because life isn’t fair doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful.
As long as you have a good grasp of what you can and can’t control, you’ll be fine. You might even feel more free.
Besides, when you think about it, if life is unfair, then that means, sometimes it’s going to be unfair in your favor.