As a newly-minted or still-aspiring adult, you’ve got a few more guarantees in life besides death and taxes. You’re bound to run into a few obstacles in career, love, and life, and at some point, a few of these statements will more than likely cross your mind:
“This is hard.”
“I don’t know how to do this.”
“I have zero motivation to do this.”
“Welp. What now?”
“What-the-what?! We are not on the same page.”
But before you throw your hands up and proclaim, “I just can’t even,” I’ve read a book or six that might be able to get you past that bump in the road almost unscathed and a little wiser for your years. Read on for book recs that’ll help you level up your adulting skills.
- The Confidence Gap: A Guide to Overcoming Fear and Self-Doubt by Dr. Russ Harris
- Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink
- Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn
- Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck
- GRIT: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth
- The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson
“Imposter syndrome” — ever heard of it? It’s real, and it creeps up without any warning. As soon as you start questioning whether you “deserve” something or if you’re going to be “found out,” you’re in its grasp.
In and of themselves, emotions are never good nor bad; it all comes down to how you act on those emotions, and this book walks you through conquering your self-doubt and fear, all while helping you align your life goals with your values.
So whether you’re taking the next step in a career or stepping out of your comfort zone to strengthen your faith, this guide will help you face that fear to accomplish what you’ve set out to do.
Adulting skill acquired: Overcoming fear
Ever have someone else tell you, “If you accomplish [this goal], you can have [this reward]”? And how’d that pan out? Perhaps you accomplished the goal, but how’d that reward feel?
This book walks through why that kind of extrinsic motivation just doesn’t cut it, especially when it comes to people’s jobs.
If you’re in a job that seems to take you from project to project by way of carrot and stick (or you’ve found yourself managing your own team in this way), this book is specifically for you.
The author, Pink, lays out a different approach, one that harnesses internal motivation utilizing three elements: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. And the way he explains these principles might just be helpful when/if you decide to approach that boss about the micromanaging and lack of creativity that’s been draining your motivation lately.
Adulting skill acquired: Harnessing intrinsic motivation
Perhaps you’ve noticed that when a project in the professional world is completed, you don’t get a shiny gold star and you’re lucky if you get actionable feedback from your supervisor on how to improve at the next go-around.
Kohn’s subject matter also focuses on how rewards are detrimental to motivation, but he dives into how we learn (and were likely taught to learn in school) and how to get those gears moving without a teacher standing over us to give us an A+ on our work.
Those kinds of “rewards” are back in the ivory tower of academia. You’re always welcome to stay a forever-student…for a pretty penny. But the “adult” world of working for The Man, or even working for yourself, doesn’t fit into that system we were taught to look to for feedback.
Kohn details how to change this paradigm of rewards for future generations, so bookmark this read if you are (or will be) a teacher, caretaker, or parent. But as someone who qualifies as none of the above, I found it fascinating in understanding why high-school Mariah was much more motivated to complete a paper than corporate-Mariah is to write an article.
Adulting skill acquired: Understanding the psychology behind motivating others
Though we can’t all afford to be forever-students, we can and should all subscribe to being forever-learners.
Warning: this book is brain- and world-altering.
The author explains that there are two types of people out there: those who like soft cookies and those who are wrong — Wait… that’s not right.
Dweck’s research focuses on how people view the world on a spectrum of mindsets: from fixed to growth. Those who fall closer toward the fixed mindset receive feedback as judgment, while those with growth mindsets take in the information as opportunities to grow.
Long story short, if you’re more apt to take in and apply feedback, you’re more likely to grow and improve and achieve new heights.
Adulting skill acquired: Expanding your own horizons
Sure, talent is important if you want to be an all-star at a certain “role” in life. But this psychologist has researched what else it takes for highly successful people to “make it,” which she has deemed to be “grit”: a combination of passion and perseverance.
Almost every new adult struggles to balance the desire to follow their passion and find a stable career. So the good news is you’re not alone! The not-so-great news — acquiring and practicing grit is hard. It’s supposed to be.
Luckily, this author breaks down how having a “hard thing rule” and practicing perseverance even when you fall off the horse will make you a better person and help you excel in the future.
Adulting skill acquired: Making it through and excelling at hard things
Did you have a brain hiccup on the word “child” in that title?
Before you jump to thinking any “parenting book” isn’t applicable because you’re not (yet) a parent or never plan to be, hear me out. I’m not a mom. And I read this book before that was even on the horizon.
This book was written by brain scientists about brains and how the right and left sides of the brain play a role in communication. That’s right. This is all evidence-based advice on how and why it’s sometimes so hard to just get on the same page with someone — and obviously how to overcome exactly that.
As much as we don’t want to admit it, we often favor one side of the brain more than the other. And whether you’re fielding a complaint from someone at your place of work or trying to tell your S.O. why it’s important that he/she folds the towels rather than just leave them in a heaping pile, this book is the scientific way to comfort and clearly communicate to (almost) anyone.
Adulting skill acquired: Communicating based on science