How to tell if you’re a grown up

Does that look like a steady job, a relationship, kids, financial security? Maybe—but underlying knowing where you are is the Four Rs of the adult growth model.

Do you know how to tell if you're a grown up? When you're a kid, that looks a lot like being able to stay up as late as you like, eating junk food, magically having money to do adult stuff like go to the milk bar.

Outside of Hollywood crossover teen movies, it's not quite like that.

For anyone wanting to diagnose where they (or anyone in their world) is at in our stages of development, the adult growth model is a great framework to look at what’s about to happen next, where they're maybe stuck, why they’re stuck—and how to get unstuck.

If you're not familiar with. it, the adult growth model has four levels, the Four Rs.

The first level is what we call Reliance.

When a child is born into a family, it is one hundred per cent reliant on its mother, father or care givers. It can’t feed itself, change itself or regulate itself. It is completely dependent on its care givers for what it needs.

This is a functional part of life. We can’t be born independent, and it’s an important part of our developmental stage. This place of reliance

Is an important place to be able to access. Now, when someone doesn’t get looked after early on in their life, they tend to bring this into adulthood and they won’t allow themselves to be looked after again.

You're a long way from knowing you're a grown up, but at the age of two or three, something shifts. Something changes. A three year old says, “No”, and “Mine”—they are testing limits.

What is that called? It’s called the Rebellion.

The rebellion in our psychology is a healthy separation. It’s when we go from being ‘we’, being in a partnership, to being ‘I’. We are separate and we want that separation. Sometimes that separation isn’t encouraged within families, so we might want to stay in rebellion.

That’s where you see people stay in rebellion until they are 50, so you see a 50-year-old in a three-year-old’s rebellion. You see it with the way they dress, their attitude, the way they relate to other people, and that kind of energy can have a usefulness to it.

After that, we want to start learning and move to the level of what’s called Results.

Results is, ‘please help, tell me how to do it better’. Results could be the seven or ten year old asking mum and dad to help them make their bed or teach them how to make a sandwich: ‘Tell me how to do it, I want to learn from you.’

Results has to include teaching from others.

The next level up is Realisation, and that simply means that we are at the developmental stage of being aware of what has been happening to us.

Realisation is, ‘I am aware of the journey I just went on.’ How does this apply to adults and coaching? These are psychological stages but the interesting thing is they are not dependent on physical age.

We can be at the psychological stages at any age and regress because of what is happening outside of us.

Talking about this takes me back to before I became a coach. I had a lot of rebellion energy, which is ‘I am done with the problem, I want to rebel against it and propel myself to more success’.

One of the things I was rebelling against involved family and friends. I noticed people were okay but nobody was really happy. Nobody woke up and said, ‘I can’t wait to go to work.’ That was not a conversation, yet I wanted to get out of the nine to five grind.

So I rebelled against it.

I used my pushing away energy to propel me to find something else. While I didn’t even know what coaching was, I went to the Mind, Body, Spirit Festival on my own. It was the first step forward to anything like this, and I went to a workshop called Keeping Your Love Tank Full.

I learned about the importance of loving yourself. I thought, ‘holy crap, this is a great insight’. Until then I hadn’t thought about it. So when we move away from what we don’t want it can propel us to what we do want.

For me, that was I wanted to be fulfilled. I wanted to have a feeling of, ‘I like what I do’, and obviously now I do.

I found that through coaching.


One of Australia's leading coaches, trainers and speakers, and head facilitator at The Coaching Institute. In between mentoring thousands of coaches and leaders all around Australasia and helping others build incredible culture, Matt is passionate about fitness and music. His healthy office lunches whipped up in five minutes are the stuff of legend

Matt Lavars life coaching
Matt LavarsThe Coaching Institute