How to 'grow the f*ck up', from taking criticism to finally finishing life admin

Let’s face it, some parts of being an adult absolutely suck.

While the independence may taste sweet, the responsibility and painfully boring tasks can make us a little sour.

Whether you are forced to ‘adult’ at 18 or 35, it’s overwhelming and the best-selling author of The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving A F*ck, Sarah Knight, agrees.

In fact, she tells she knows that us adults have ‘so much coming at us and so much responsibility on any given day, it can lead us to say “I give up”‘.

So, she’s authored the ultimate anti-guru guide to making your adult life far easier and frankly, a little less bloody annoying – it’s called Grow The F*ck Up.

Buckle up because you’re about to gain 15 years worth of maturity without ageing a day!

The evolution of a Total F*cking GrownUp

The stages are simple: Babies, Big F*cking Babies, Theoretical Grownups and Total F*cking Grownups.

Sarah says: ‘We all start out as actual babies, we know nothing and we’re expected to know nothing.

‘We can’t be mature and responsible, those concepts are foreign to us, we don’t even know how our toes work.’

Sarah says that good behaviour is hopefully modelled for us by the adults around us, like our parents or teachers, and it gives us the opportunity to see what the right and best path forward is.

‘Big f*cking babies don’t bother,’ says Sarah.

‘They’ve had all the opportunity in the world to understand what it means to be mature and responsible and to take accountability for their actions and they just don’t care.

‘They’re lazy and unreliable, they’re impolite and are intentionally non-adulting.’

When it comes to theoretical grownups, Sarah says most of us reside in this category because we are ‘going to have some qualities of big f*cking babies’.

‘There are going to be some points in column A and B where we’re like “oh I do that, I’m not always the most reliable’ or ‘I have a hard time accepting criticism and admitting when I’m wrong,’ but we want to do better.

‘They just haven’t quite managed to put it all together yet and those are the people I can help become total f*cking grownups.’

Total f*cking grownups are the ‘pinnacle of the evolution of adulting’ according to Sarah.

‘These are the folks who have all the tools and know how to use them.’

Learn your ABCs

Before you react to anything think ABC – actions and behaviour have consequences.

‘Think “what are the consequences of what I am about to do?” You’ve been riled up by your boss or colleague and you’re about to dash off an angry email – what’s the likely consequence of that?’ says Sarah.

‘Then don’t do it and anticipate those consequences and act differently to orchestrate the best possible outcome for yourself.’

While it may sound like common sense, Sarah points out a lot of people simply don’t think about the outcome of their behaviour.

When it comes to getting what you want Sarah says honesty and politeness are also fundamental.

‘They are the two twin engines of everything that I do. That’s because I value efficiency,’ she says.

First be honest with yourself, says Sarah. What are you feeling? Why? And what can you do about it? That’s self-awareness.

‘Maybe it’s “I made a mistake at work and nobody has found out about it yet but I’m anticipating the fact that they will and it’s keeping me up at night,”‘ she says.

‘What am I going to do about it? Am I going to own up to that mistake I made at work before someone else can figure it out and offer to clean up the mess?’

Ultimately, if you’re honest about what you’ve done, what you want and what you need, you’re more likely to get it.

Then take a ride through the three Cs. Sarah says this is ‘critical thinking (thinking it through), communication (telling people what you want and what you can offer in return) and then coping’.

‘Coping is a really important adult skill, because you don’t always get what you want.

‘The conversation doesn’t always go perfectly and you need to be able to internalise that as well, then go right back to critical thinking and think: “Okay well what am I going to do about the way this turned out?”‘

Being diplomatic gets your further

Let’s be honest we all have times where we are on the verge of losing our temper.

In fact, sometimes you want to pull a Gordon Ramsay and stick a slice of bread either side of someone’s face and call them an idiot sandwich.

But alas, that type of conduct won’t get you very far and it’ll probably get you fired.

Sarah’s examples for framing a thought diplomatically:

What you’re thinking: ‘Wow, you are the stupidest person I know’

What you could say instead: ‘You may want to consider another angle on this’

What you’re thinking: ‘You could not be more wrong’

What you could say instead: ‘Let me lay out some facts that might change some things for you’

What you’re thinking: ‘F*ck you and the horse you rode in on’

What you could say instead: ‘I confess I see this issue a bit differently. Let’s discuss?’

Sarah says: ‘You’ve reached communication, and a little bit of coping, because you feel upset, threatened, annoyed and you need to express this diplomatically to someone else because that’s how your more likely to get what you want and meet your goal.

‘This all ties in with self-awareness and then minding your manners. You do catch more flies with honey. You are more likely to get what you want if you can be polite.

‘It’s not like I don’t understand how satisfying it can be in the moment to just let somebody have it. I do. I have to stop and think about my ABCs all the time, but again it’s not going to help you meet your goal.

‘If you can master these points of politeness: being quick with a compliment, being diplomatic, being quiet and not interrupting people, not letting your phone ring in a meeting and not walking out before someone is finished speaking in a meeting, then they are more likely to like and respect you.

‘You don’t have to care if someone likes you but you can acknowledge the benefits of being well liked.

‘Moreover, someone who communicates their disappointment in a diplomatic way is much more worthy of respect than the big fucking baby who spits out a tantrum with no regard for the likely consequences of those actions.

‘It does become a virtuous cycle – if you’re out there modelling the good behaviour then it’s much more likely the people will mirror that back to you.’

Sarah’s disclaimer:

‘Do not mistake my urging to be polite with being a pushover.

‘This is about wielding politeness as another tool in your tool box to get what you want. It’s not about being so nice you get walked over.

‘You can be strategically polite. It throws people off their game who are about to blow up at you, they get defanged by your adult manner.’

Suck it up and apologise

Admitting you’re wrong is never easy and Sarah admits that she personally finds this the hardest part of adulting.

‘I don’t like being told I’m wrong, I don’t like making mistakes and it’s hard to apologise when you make mistakes,’ she says.

‘It’s like you’re having to revisit it and you’re admitting out loud that you did it by way of apologising. That’s not rational but it’s how it can feel for a lot of people.’

The first step is to accept criticism.

Sarah says: ‘Hopefully it’s constructive criticism, perhaps someone is levelling it in a not particularly constructive manor, but remember that two things can be true at the same time.

‘You can have done a a really good job on the first draft of this proposal and there can still be more work yet to do.

‘So any criticism that is coming your way doesn’t necessarily negate the fact that you have done something good.’

Sarah’s motto is ‘listen to judgement without judgement’.

‘Just listen, just be quiet, let it wash over you. Don’t interrupt, don’t overreact, don’t protest, just let it come. Then you’re giving yourself a chance to think about the consequences of your actions and behaviour.’

Also, remember when someone is expressing they aren’t happy, your goals are usually the same. Your boss wants this presentation to wow the new client so that your company can sign them and so do you.

‘When you’re taking criticism that can help make it feel less of a personal attack and more like an aspirational attempt to work together towards a shared goal.’

When it comes to apologising itself Sarah says: ‘Instead of feeling ashamed, you can feel empowered by ending it.

‘The easiest way to stop that loop of that negative self talk after you know you’ve made a mistake is to just apologise and move on. It’s very empowering and very liberating.

‘That’s the adultiest thing to do, to be like “hey I messed up, I’m sorry and I’m going to fix that”.’

Habits and incentives

There are habits and incentives that our parents instilled in us from a young age, like brushing our teeth and making our beds.

Sarah says: ‘As the adult you can empower yourself with turning things into habits to make those annoying adult tasks a little less annoying and a little easier.’

The idea behind habits is that they help you optimise, they make ‘sucky things suck less’.

It takes three steps to form a habit, according to Sarah.

‘Identify the problem, implement the solution and then repeat step two until it’s no longer step two, it’s just a thing you do,’ she says.

Habits will make adulting easier because those adult tasks you hate will begin to fade into the background. To make it even less painful you can add incentives.

‘This is no different from when your mum would bribe you with something. “If you put away all of your toys before 2pm then you get a snack”,’ says Sarah.

‘But now you’re an adult you can incentivise yourself with things that are much better than sugar free lollipops.

‘With these adult tasks, whether they are every day annoying things like taking out the trash or big things like renewing your passport or insurance, they can be approached with habits and incentives to make things easier and more pleasant.

‘Because you’re the one in charge you get to decide, there’s so much power that you have to make your adult life better and those incentives don’t have to cost anything.

‘I incentivise myself all the time by saying if I write a thousand words I get to go take a walk on the beach and be done for the day and that’s just as powerful as buying that fancy handbag or going out for dinner.’

Incentives that don’t cost a penny:

  • Go to the park and pet some cute dogs
  • Watch the next episode of Severance which you’ve been saving
  • Take a nap
  • Call your friend
  • Take a walk
  • Have that last bit of chocolate you’ve been saving
  • Have a relaxing bath

Grow the Fuck Up: How to be an adult and get treated like one by Sarah Knight, £12.99

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