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In the Grown Zone, we differentiate between being an adult, and being “Grown.” We recognize that most people view these terms as synonymous, but there is a significant difference between the two. All it takes to become an adult is to survive puberty; it is simply a matter of biological maturation—from infant, to toddler, to child, to tween, to teen, and then, adult. However, it is a mistake to view adulthood as the final stage of personal growth. Stopping at mere adulthood is the equivalent of arrested development, just as it would be if you stopped at any of the previous stages of maturation. The alternative is not something that just happens, but must be a conscious choice to continuously learn, grow and to increase your capacity to give and receive love throughout your lifetime. That is, to be Grown.

When pain, drama, unstable relationships, and self-destructive choices are recurrent themes of a person’s life, there is a high probability that the person, regardless of their age, has not committed to personal growth. A sure sign is when a person keeps repeating the same drama (i.e. unplanned pregnancies, job firings, violent encounters, failed marriages, etc.), seeing life not as a result of their choices, but a series of things that happen or are being done to them that they have no responsibility or power to change. On the other hand, those who choose to be Grown accept and own the choices and outcomes of their lives, and proactively pursue learning and growth. They understand that “It just happened” is just code for “I made an adult choice without an agenda for Grown decision-making.”

So what does a Grown decision-making agenda look like? Following are some of the key principles of the Grown Zone:

Though we are each unique, we are created with a common purpose: to grow (i.e. learn) and to love. Love produces growth, and personal growth increases your capacity to love. Anything that prevents your ability to love and grow freely is unhealthy for you. A healthy relationship is one in which each person is committed to loving, honoring, strengthening and supporting the growth of the other. This defines all healthy relationships, not just romantic ones.

Healthy relationships are about how you are being treated, not how you are being made to feel. It’s about what and who supports and nourishes your capacity to love and grow, not just about what or who brings you pleasure.

Don’t mistake being wanted or desired for being valued and loved. Learn the difference between being “loved” for what you look like, what you have and/or what you can do, and being loved for YOU.

You don’t get what you desire or deserve in love or life; you get what you accept. For this reason, an uncompromising standard of self-love is critical to healthy relationships. Accepting responsibility for enforcing this standard is critical to your ability to not become fuquitable—vulnerable to deceit and manipulation. You teach people how to treat you by what you allow. Fail to honor, esteem and respect yourself and others will follow your lead.