Choose Your Own Adulthood: A Small Book about the Small Choices that Make the Biggest Difference

Choose Your Own Adulthood: A Small Book about the Small Choices that Make the Biggest Difference

by Hal Runkel


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Choose Your Own Adulthood: A Small Book about the Small Choices that Make the Biggest Difference by Hal Runkel

Congratulations, reader! You've successfully navigated through the trials of childhood and adolescence. Now, as you voyage through high school to college and beyond, you're set to begin your next big adventure: adulthood. A few big decisions await you, from majors and minors to jobs and careers (and maybe even marriage!). However, in between the big ones, you'll make a million other smaller, subtler choices that will underpin everything from your friendships to your bank account. These are the daily choices that will truly define you . . . so how will you choose? 

Choose Your Own Adulthood helps you approach these choices from a more thoughtful, curious, and ultimately self-aware perspective. You'll learn why responding is so much better than reacting, how loyalty is really overrated, which risks are worth taking and which are best avoided, and so much more. Exciting things await you on your journey toward adulthood: which path you take is for you to decide. Choose wisely!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781626343528
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Publication date: 03/28/2017
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 493,917
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 7.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Hal Runkel is one of the world's most trusted resources for life improvement. His books, including the NYT bestseller ScreamFree Parenting, have appeared in 12 languages, reaching hundreds of thousands around the world. Hal's been featured in numerous media outlets, including over 40 appearances on NBC's Today Show. He and his high school crush, Jenny, have been married for 23 years, and they have two children. Hal originally wrote this book to their daughter, Hannah, and gave it to her when they dropped her off at college. 

Read an Excerpt

Choose Your Own Adulthood

A small book about the small choices that make the biggest difference

By Hal Runkel

Greenleaf Book Group Press

Copyright © 2016 ScreamFree Omnimedia, LLC
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62634-352-8


"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life."


When Hannah initially asked me that question about brain development and choices, she ended it with a phrase that has stuck with me: "the life you want most." There's a lot to work with in that phrase. Most significantly, it conveys the idea that A) your life is up to you and B) your most important choices will be choosing between competing desires — it's not just about what you want, it's about what you want most. And that's what this first chapter is all about.

Behind every "more of this/less of that" chapter in the rest of this book is the idea behind this first one. Every day, all day, you and I face a myriad of decisions, and that in and of itself can be overwhelming. When do I wake up? What do I eat? What do I wear? Who should I stalk on social media? Do I have to shower today? Who do I meet with at lunch? Who do I say no to? What about yes? What are the absolute, ironclad things that I must do today? What do I work on first?

When you're in college, for instance, more of your daily life is up to you than ever before. This will bring up both the need for prioritization and the temptations of procrastination. This first choice, presented in this first chapter, is the best strategy I've ever come across to simply and surely make all those decisions easier. And it fits perfectly with the phrase the life you want most.

Pursue more of what you want most and less of what you want right now. I came across this idea several years ago, when I first started my own company. I was reading the stories of some very successful entrepreneurs, and I noticed a common theme — every single success story had a beginning phase of profound delayed gratification. Actor/comedian Jim Carrey talked about forgoing sleep and saying no to friends' invitations, because in the early days, in his own words, he would "drive all night across the country in order to do my act for free." Sara Blakely, my fellow Atlantan who created Spanx, spent every dime she had, and used her apartment as her corporate office, in order to buy more underwear inventory and pay her people. She spent all of her last $5,000 to pursue this dream, only to become a billionaire in 2014. Almost every great success story begins this way, because those leaders recognized what true failure is. We truly fail whenever we abandon what we want most for what we want right now.

For instance, one of the things I want most is a healthy, fit body my wife still finds reasonably attractive. One of the things I want right now, however, is a whole box of Krispy Kreme donuts. Now, I am a grown man, with money of my own. At a cost of only $7.74, I can easily go out and buy a dozen of those glistening-with-sugar, melt-in-your-mouth bites of fried dough deliciousness. And I have. In fact, I just did. Yum.

But doing so — saying yes to that tempting thing I want right now — does not lead me to what I want most, that healthy, fit body. It actually leads me away from it. What I want right now very often leads me away from what I want most.

Here's another example: One of the things I want most is a loving relationship with both my daughter and my son, filled with mutual respect, where each of them actually seeks me out as a guide through life. Oftentimes while they were growing up, however, what I wanted right then and there was for one or both of them to shut the heck up and do what they were told. Now, as a father, with positional (and financial) authority over them, I could have done just that and "made" them behave. Sadly, I confess, I did just that a time or ten. But doing so did not lead us toward the type of relationship I crave most — it did just the opposite. So, thankfully, I didn't resort to such immature parenting very often.

One of the easiest applications of this principle can be seen in how we manage our money. We all have large things we wish to own or experience, which take more funds than we have at the moment. A nice car, for example. Or a big house. Pet tiger, anyone? However, there are also a million smaller things we want right now, from fancy food to nice clothes, from concert tickets to video games. The less we spend on those things, the more we'll have available for exotic pets.

So, what does this look like for you, to choose more of what you want most, instead of what you want right now? Does it mean denying every current desire or never enjoying the thrill of the moment? Thankfully, no. This is not a program to turn you into an ascetic monk. Those guys figured that since what they wanted most was an eternal life in Heaven, they must rid themselves of any "right now" desires for anything here on earth. But I would argue that's pursuing the death you want most, not the life.

What we're talking about going after is the life you want most, which means we're not going to focus on all the things you have to give up. Instead, I want you to focus on all the things you crave more than anything else.

One of the things Jesus, Gandhi, MLK, and many other great leaders were reportedly so good at was appealing to people's greatest desires in life — and that's what we have to focus on if we're ever going to organize, prioritize, and strategize our choices and thus our lives. And I know a tool to help identify those greatest desires.

The tool is called "thoughtful wishing." The name comes from C.S. Lewis, the guy who wrote The Chronicles of Narnia. He observed that most people, by the time they get to be adults, have allowed themselves to get so beaten down by life that they only think about all the things they have to do. To speak of what they want to do, to these über-serious adults, was irresponsible and the worst kind of "wishful thinking."

To Lewis, though, this was horribly misguided. He believed that God had created humans with inescapably powerful desires and that God didn't see these desires as irresponsible and in need of eradication. Instead, Lewis believed, God is in the business of freeing us from the momentary desires of the flesh and releasing us to pursue the lasting desires of the spirit. Thus, Lewis called any thoughtful examination of our truest desires the exact opposite of wishful thinking — he called it "thoughtful wishing."

What I have found, in working as a therapist for so many years, is that most adults are a little scared to talk about these desires. Most of us are a little like those "responsible" adults Lewis mentioned — we either find talking about our desires a foolish waste of time or we find it embarrassing (or sinful) to even imagine. So, the tool I use is designed to help people ease into the thought process and free them up to allow their truest desires to come out into the light.

Here's how it works: On a blank piece of paper, write "Thoughtful Wishing" at the top. Try to give yourself a quiet space and a free amount of time (at least 5–7 minutes or so). Go ahead and do this now; I'll wait.

Now, start a list of anything and everything you want. Whatever you do, try not to judge what comes to mind, just put it down. At this point, don't try to differentiate what you want most vs. what you want right now. Start with whatever comes to mind in the moment. List anything and everything that pops into your beautiful head. I mean it.

You want a pizza from Mellow Mushroom? (It's a chain in the Southeast, and it's awesome.) Write it down.

You want a golden retriever puppy? Write it down.

You want to fly to Seattle, drink coffee in the original Starbucks, while reading Harry Potter and watching the rain? Put it on the list. Anything you want to own, any experience you want to try, any future you want to live out, write it down.

A million dollars tax-free? Write it down.

A beautiful wedding for you and some eligible bachelor athlete like Jordan Speith? Or Mike Trout? Or perhaps you want a hot rendezvous with a Victoria's Secret model? Write it down.

Do you also want to finish a degree in English, with a minor in Business, having spent a couple of semesters abroad, all while earning a high GPA? Write that down as well.

What you'll find is that the longer you allow yourself to dream and desire, the more trivial things open the list, and the more sincere hopes — the truest desires of your heart and spirit — start to reveal themselves. And that's where the magic happens.

See, as you learn to identify the things you want most, those things near the bottom of the list, you can begin to evaluate the things you want right now — and that helps you identify the ones to which you can say yes and no.

Let's say you do want to earn that English or Business or Biology degree. That would make sense, if you're about to devote your next four years to college — it'd be good to actually get adegree. But the truth is that American college students have a terrible record of starting college but never finishing. Only 59% of those who begin a four-year- degree will graduate within six years. At most public state schools, only 19% will finish in four years. That's a lot of students out there, who started out hopeful just like you, who are now wandering through their twenties, wondering what to do with their 63 completed hours, and their $63,000 in student loans.

So, what's happened here? Obviously, we cannot say for sure what's going on with all students, but we can say this much: Most students who drop out have, without realizing it, abandoned what they wanted most — a college degree — for whatever it was they wanted right then. Perhaps they preferred partying instead of studying, or sleeping instead of going to class. Maybe they chose traveling home every weekend instead of learning to launch out on their own and found their families needed them to come back home, whether emotionally or financially.

Each of these are small decisions at first — a simple choice to stay out one more hour, even though you have a test in the morning, for instance — but string them together and you create a trend, and a momentum, towards failure.

Where I think most people get into trouble is in how they frame those small decisions. If you think of them as good choices (studying) vs. bad choices (partying), then you actually set yourself up to fail. Why? 'Cause that is black and white, adolescent-brain-type thinking that frames all of life into all-ornothing scenarios. And, like we discussed in the introduction, such thinking neglects the nuanced, situational contexts of reality. It also causes us to build up resentment towards the "good" choices, since they appear to never allow us to have any fun, or eat any sweets, or splurge on any cool clothes, and we always end up rebelling against ourselves. This is why strict diets never work.

The most successful decision-makers among us all, however, are able to prioritize the partying and budget for the bingeing and strategize the studying. They are able to keep their main goal, the thing they want most, at the forefront of their desires. This enables them to occasionally choose some of what they want right now, because they choose more of what they want most.

So, please allow yourself to want. Want that pizza, that puppy, or that guy or girl? Just learn to weigh your wants against one another and choose activities in the present moment that lead later to more of what you want most.

This doesn't mean don't ever skip class; it just means only do it in the name of your highest aspirations. If Jordan Speith invites you to watch him at the Masters, for instance, please feel free to skip class for that. (But only if you get tickets for me as well.) Pursue more of what you want most and less of what you want right now. The choice is yours.

* Now, if you'd like to learn how peanut butter has become a threat to teenage safety everywhere, simply turn the page to the next chapter.

* If, instead, you'd like to learn why you should absolutely confront people more often, turn to chapter 8 on page 67.


"For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, plus a social media overreaction."


When I was growing up, I never knew a kid with a peanut allergy. No one had ever even heard of such a thing. But now every school in America has some sort of peanut butter panic plan. That's not what it's called, of course, but you get my meaning. Peanut allergies are such a serious issue now that we all have to be on alert. One of my daughter's friends had to change her toast preferences so she could date her boyfriend in high school. One kiss coulda killed him!

What happens is called an "anaphylactic reaction," where the body inflames itself so much it closes the trachea. Kid can't breath, so kid can die. Given all the science classes you've taken, I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't already know; forgive me. What you may not know is that scientists are fairly lost as to how to explain this sudden rise in food allergy reactions. Peanuts have been a huge part of the human diet for millennia. They even helped build the early American economy, especially here in my state of Georgia. But now, scores of kids across the country have to steer clear of Reese's Pieces for fear of death.

Why? In a word, reactivity.

Notice that earlier I said anaphylactic reaction, not anaphylactic response. If the body responds to an allergen, then it would take small steps to protect itself. White blood cells carrying helpful antibodies work to defeat the foreign invader. If the body reacts to the allergen, however, then watch out. It freaks out and does whatever it can to shut down the invasion — even if it kills itself in the process.

This type of bodily reactivity is increasing, with autoimmune diseases like Lupus, hepatitis, and rheumatoid arthritis all on the rise. This reactivity is also what's behind the gluten-free craze, with millions of stomachs suddenly unable to digest wheat.

Without minimizing all of the difficulties of all of the above, I would offer that an even worse kind of reactivity is also on the rise. And this is one that I'm sure you are very well aware of: emotional reactivity.

Don't get me wrong; people have always freaked out on each other. But I think you'd agree that in our era of instant electronic connection, people are freaking out more than ever. Quick, unthoughtful, cruel tweets. Trolls online, filling up comments pages with instant negativity. Couples breaking up because one of 'em took too long to reply to a text. ("She hasn't texted me back, and it's been over 20 minutes! She must be cheating!")

A hundred years ago, when people traveled by train or boat, the loved ones left behind would have to wait days or weeks to hear from their dearly departed. Word would finally come through a carefully written postcard or letter. And then they would, upon much reflection, craft a response letter back.

Contrast that with today. As soon as the plane touches down, people rush to whip out their phones, 'cause Heaven forbid their loved ones go one minute more without knowing if the flight went down in flames.

Yes, emotional reactivity is on the rise, and it's everywhere. It's what makes for great reality TV, that's for sure. But in true reality, it makes for pretty bad relationships. Just like when a body reacts to an allergen, people can react to a perceived threat, or slight, by choking off any future possibilities. That's the real power of reactivity — it usually creates the very outcomes you were hoping to avoid. A friend fears you're being too distant, for instance. Now, maybe you're pulling away from this person intentionally, maybe not. But your friend gets reactive and starts trying to pull you closer in (constantly texting, inviting you to all kinds of stuff, complaining about you to your mutual friends). Suddenly, you find yourself wanting to create even more distance! Your friend reacted to feelings of distance and thus ended up creating more distance in the process.

That's how reactivity works. Get reactive; get more of what you were reacting to. Or worse. You think a professor is treating you unfairly? Or a boss? Get in their face, or whine about it to others, and guess what? Don't be surprised if they give you a worse grade. Or fire you. Perhaps unfairly, but still.

So, does all this mean we should go through life in a cold, unresponsive way? Never replying to anything for fear of creating the very outcomes we were hoping to avoid? Absolutely not. In fact, that type of cutting yourself off from any and all stimuli is just another form of reactivity. Neither freaking out nor becoming stone cold and silent is advisable. Both are just reactions, bound to backfire. Think about it: If the body did nothing at all in response to an allergic threat, that could be just as destructive as an anaphylactic reaction. So what do we do?

Learn to respond more, and react less. What's the difference? A response is thoughtful, while a reaction is an automatic reflex. A response is careful, while a reaction is careless. A response is measured — informed by education, experience, and an estimate of its immediate and long-term effects. When we respond, rather than react, we actually communicate from our highest principles and deepest desires. Reactions, on the other hand, come straight from our most shallow anxieties and fears.


Excerpted from Choose Your Own Adulthood by Hal Runkel. Copyright © 2016 ScreamFree Omnimedia, LLC. Excerpted by permission of Greenleaf Book Group Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


Introduction: The Choice is Yours,
1. Pursue More of What You Want Most, Less of What You Want Right Now,
2. Respond More, React Less,
3. Be More Interested, Be Less Interesting,
4. Be More Loyal to Principles, Be Less Loyal to People,
5. Decide More, Deliberate Less,
6. Appreciate More, Tolerate Less,
7. Produce More, Consume Less,
8. Confront More, Complain Less,
9. Risk More, Regret Less,
10. Hope More, Expect Less,
11. Be More Curious, Be Less Certain,
12. Invest More, Save Less,
13. Train More, Try Less,
14. Create More, Critique Less,
15. Date More, RelationShop Less (and Never, Ever Hook-Up),
16. Finish More, Start Less,
The Most Important Choice of All,
About the Author,

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