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Are you really a grown-up?

By Jacque Wilson, CNN
  • When we're children, we believe that when we grow up we can do whatever we want
  • If you opt out of trying to make a good appearance, face the consequences
  • Author is least sympathetic toward people who say they don't have enough time

(CNN) -- Oh, grow up. You already know this article isn't going to give you the big secret to life. Yet you're reading it anyway because we've been told since childhood that being a grown-up is awesome. And maybe now that you're an adult, you're still waiting for the awesome part.

As children we believe that when we grow up, we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, says psychotherapist Stacy Kaiser, pointing out the problem.

"Many more doors have opened, and we're the first generation that has had that, so we don't have any skills," she said. "Our parents did not have all the opportunities that we have. And so a lot of us are kind of walking around without a guide to how to be successful."

After listening to her patients -- both on TV shows such as "Diet Tribe" and in her private practice -- relate the same problems over and over, Kaiser decided to write a guide. The result was a book called "How to Be a Grown Up."

Kaiser says that to reach grown-up status you have to do 10 things:

• Face life's challenges head-on.

• Make peace with your body.

• Take responsibility for your heart.

• Build a meaningful career.

• Learn how to handle the tough times.

• Face your anxieties.

• Take ownership of your finances.

• Master the use of your time.

• Practice dynamic communication.

• Find the right level of flexibility.

In short, own up.

"I had a mentor. ... she was the foundation for what I learned. She really taught me the importance of taking responsibility for your life, and looking at the reality of a situation even when you don't want to look."

Kaiser firmly states that you have the life you want. And if you don't, you need to work for it.

For example, Kaiser says that many people opt out of the appearance game. While that's their choice, they must face the consequences, whether it's a boss who won't send them to an important meeting or children who are embarrassed because of them.

"If you are single and refuse to put effort into personal grooming, weight management and exercise, then face the fact that the dating world could be much harder on you. ... You need to take responsibility for the fact that you are choosing to walk around in public looking the way you do."

Kaiser says everyone needs to clean house in their personal connections.

"People have a tendency to keep friends around too long," Kaiser said. "We give them second chances, we say we've known them forever. ... So it's important to take a good long look at who's hurting your life. Who is costing you time? Who is costing you money? Who is costing you energy? Take them out. Because anything you are putting out toward them is taking away from you helping you."

But that doesn't mean you should be a hermit.

Kaiser notes in her book that 27 million adults in the United States live by themselves -- no roommate, no relatives, no relationship. And living alone is making us unhappy.

"The people who are living with the right someone are happier and live longer. There's a correlation because you have a partner. You're not the only one washing dishes at night. Or cooking dinner. Or sitting in front of the TV. You have someone to download onto every night about your day."

So why aren't we working hard to find that special someone? Kaiser says it goes back to thinking we can have whatever we want, whenever we want it.

"I find that people don't give enough consideration to what they need, but instead frequently settle for what they want," Kaiser writes.

She gives the example of a mate who shares your interest of outdoor activities but isn't a good listener when you need a shoulder to cry on.

"It's crucial to get clear on what your needs are, because a real grown-up knows the difference."

Kaiser is least sympathetic toward people who say they don't have enough time. Grown-ups all have the same amount of time, she says, and we consciously choose what to do with it.

If you're constantly bemoaning your lack of time, ask yourself why. Do you want to be let off the hook? Are you hoping to be cut some slack? Are you just making excuses?

"Excuses are most frequently made when a person doesn't want to take responsibility, needs an out or pity," Kaiser says. "Every time you say you have no time or make excuses, whatever your reason is for saying it, you lose ownership of your own life and hand over your power and control to your clock."

OK, you get it. It's your life. You make choices every day. You must take responsibility for your actions. But what do you get if you do all that?

You get to be a fully loaded grown-up, Kaiser writes: "One who knows when to get down to business and when to lighten up; can bounce back from life's little spills while not blaming someone else for the mess; and most important, comes equipped with the ability to accelerate through any roadblock to success and happiness."