7 Rare Signs Of A Highly Functional Adult

These traits determine whether you are actually going to succeed in life, relationships and work.

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My mid-30s have become kind of a weird trip. For the first time in my life, I’m seeing a massive divide between a lot of my groups of friends. In a word, I’m seeing a massive shift that deals with my adult "haves" and "have-nots."

What’s strange is that the divide doesn’t have anything to do with how they grew up or how much money they started off with. Some of my friends who now own houses were homeless along with me, wandering the streets of New York at 17. Others who were once wealthy are bordering on eviction.


It’s jarring, to say the least.

The longer I’ve spoken to each of them, the more I’ve noticed that there seem to be certain traits that the "haves" all have. These same traits are ones that are often lacking among the "have-nots."

Curious to find out who has what traits? These are my casual observations about the people who are the “haves,” or as I like to call them, highly functional adults.

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Here are 7 rare signs of a highly functional adult:

1. They are willing to own up to their mistakes and work to become better

I recently had to walk away from a friend of mine whose breakup caused everyone to back away from him. We'll call him Jeff.* He recently got dumped by his girlfriend after he put his hands on her.


At first, I was sympathetic to Jeff because a) I didn’t know what he did, b) he was lying about what his ex’s friends were doing, c) he was lying about what his ex did, and d) he lied about a slew of other things.

It all came to a head when his ex-girlfriend begged me to help her hide from him. That’s when I heard the threatening voicemails, saw her police reports and also saw photos of the damage Jeff did to her apartment. My jaw dropped.

When I confronted him about it, he kept brushing it under the rug and blamed her. Jeff also refused to take any blame for his actions, following up with even more f***ing lies. He then continued to harass his ex to the point that she fled the state.

We’re not friends anymore.


Unsurprisingly, this same dude also has been facing eviction from his apartment and can’t hold down a job. Why? It’s that very same trait of refusing to own up to his issues. I don't have much faith that he’ll change.

Owning up to past mistakes is a huge sign of personal growth and development. It makes you likable and also means you’re going to be even better in the future. You need personal accountability to function in today’s society.

2. They are self-starters

Every single "have" I have in my circle is a self-starter who doesn’t wait for opportunities to drop in their laps. They make their own opportunities and then ask others to help.

When they are unemployed, they’re the first ones to hop on gig platforms and make money. When they’re rejected by companies, they make their own and start selling their services on their own.


When they are employed, they still work on their own personal brands and projects. Why? Because they don’t trust employers to keep them on staff. They know there’s no corporate loyalty, so they don’t wait around helpless until that time comes.

My friend Buddy* said it this way, "I have my goals. You can either help me, cheer me on or get out of the way."

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3. They have boundaries and maintain them

One thing I’ve noticed is that a highly functional adult is an adult who does not tolerate bulls***. If they notice someone "negging" them or trying to push boundaries, their reaction is to drop them regardless of what the initial consequences might be.


The reason why is pretty simple: they know the longer they tolerate that person in their presence, the worse the consequences will be. As a result, they tend to be very choosy with who they hang out — often to the point that they may even appear icy to those who don't know them.

They also tend to be quick to call people out on s***ty behavior unless they worry about their personal safety. As a general rule, they don’t allow things to escalate. They back away and make a note to avoid that person or keep things superficial with them.

4. They’re not afraid to ask for what they want

I have two friends, Sarah* and Peggy*. They both grew up in similar circumstances. In fact, they even grew up on the same street. There’s a major difference in how they approached dating. Sarah is still single, while Peggy’s married.

Sarah made a point of being a "Good Girl." She went to church (just like Peggy) and made a point of looking pretty. When she dated someone, she basically let the guy dictate the relationship without saying what she wanted out of it: marriage.


Because she never wanted to talk about what she wanted, guys often took advantage of her. She’s gotten to the point where she has started to drink heavily because she couldn’t get a guy to commit to her.

Peggy was more or less just…Peggy. She wasn’t trying to show that she was marriage material. She didn’t dress nice or even watch her weight. But, she would tell men plainly, "Look, I am looking for marriage. If I don’t get a proposal and a wedding date in six months, I’m out. If you aren’t ready for that timeframe, don’t date me and come back when you are."

She’s married.

There is something to be learned about these two ladies. Asking for what you want and being willing to walk when you don’t receive it is vital to getting what you want.


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5. They don’t always care about the spotlight

One of the hallmarks of a person who’s doing well is that they view attention as a "whatever" thing. In other words, they don’t mind if they are in the spotlight and getting attention, but they also don’t care if someone else is in the spotlight.

This is a sign of confidence and real growth. A person who is emotionally stunted will find a way to make everything about them. It’s a sign they’re tone-deaf and too insecure to stand up on their own two feet.

A person who is highly functional does not try to be the leader of the pack, the center of attention, and the one everyone turns to. They sometimes want a break! More importantly, they also realize that everyone’s trying to live their own lives too.


6. They don’t fold when they fail

A friend of mine in high school was a good example of what happens when you let failure get the best of you. Her name was Ashley* and she lived a charmed life.

She was beautiful, popular, an A student, and even was on a soccer team. Basically, she was the golden child. She could not fail. Moreover, her family was popular too.

When her boyfriend dumped her in a devastating way, she killed herself. That breakup was literally the very first struggle she ever truly had, and she folded like a piece of paper.


While Ashley is an extreme example, we all know of people who have let setbacks stop them from their goals. Granted, we all know that there are only so many attempts you can make doing the same thing before you realize you need to quit.

The difference between a highly functional adult and someone who’s not going to do well is what happens after. A highly functional adult will try something new or start a different path. A person who’s not functional will just…wallow in it.

7. They are disciplined

It takes a lot of self-control to get up, go to work every day, and work towards the goals you have. Most of us get distracted or pressured to walk away from those goals.

Lord knows that’s what’s keeping me plus size!


I digress. Basically, the gist is, people who are highly functional adults have a fairly high level of discipline that helps them achieve their goals. Does this mean they focus on all of them? Nah, but they get at least 80 percent of their goals met.

The cool thing about these traits is that you don’t have to be born with them. You can cultivate them, as long as you’re willing to take time to do so.

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Ossiana Tepfenhart is a writer whose work has been featured in Yahoo, BRIDES, Your Daily Dish, Newtheory Magazine, and others.