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

Book By: Hal Runkel

Review By: Dan Geddes

University of Wisconsin - Waukesha


Although college attendance is symbolic of the transition to adulthood, the process of adult development is far more difficult to distinguish or explain. Academic Advisors are accustomed to the anxiety and sense of bewilderment students’ exhibit as they encounter new ways of thinking and undertake unfamiliar responsibilities. In Choose Your Own Adulthood, Hal Runkel addresses new college students directly and tackles the challenges and excitement of acquiring adult maturity in a fun and thought provoking manner. Runkel opens with an entertaining explanation of how decision making contributes to learning and growth into adulthood. The remainder of the book encourages readers to begin the process of making small decisions to cultivate adult competencies of benefit to personal success and fulfillment.

16 short chapters highlight the advantages of adult aptitudes, but allow students to make up their own minds on the offered advice. The book does not need to be read in any particular order. Inspired by the Choose Your Own Adventure fiction series, readers can exercise their intellectual curiosity and may choose from several topics to pursue at the conclusion of each chapter. The CYOA theme is used to reinforce the concept of autonomy and to empower students to reflect and act on their own continued journey into adulthood.

A family therapist and relationship expert, Runkel excels at making the developmental tasks many students face with apprehension approachable. The 16 topics explored are all contextualized as more or less choices. According to Runkel, the more or less scheme aids students in avoiding the “adolescent-brain-type thinking that frames all of life into all-or-nothing scenarios” (2016, p.19). For example, “Pursue More of What You Want Most, Less of What You Want Right Now” outlines an alternative to the trap of black and white rationales. Runkel argues that students can enjoy the occasional short-term fun distractions of college life guilt free, as long as the personal goals that originally led them to college maintain precedence. As put by Runkel, “This doesn’t mean don’t ever skip class; it just means only do it in the name of your highest aspirations” (Runkel, 2016, p.19).

Choose Your Own Adulthood is a scaffold for students to make sense of the importance and need for the skills required for navigating and making the most of college and beyond. The pop culture references and intentional corny humor may engage even reluctant readers. The book would be a useful facilitation resource for a gamut of higher education professionals. Advisors might use selections from the book to aid students in the adoption of advisee responsibilities and to support exploration and discernment assignments. “Decide More, Deliberate Less” and “Train More, Try Less” include practical approaches to help students overcome decision anxiety and obstacles to academic achievement. Many of the issues and author recommended skillsets also coincide with the intended outcomes of a liberal arts education. Furthermore, the CYOA format offers much potential for creative use in the classroom and as part of workshop or orientation activities. 

The book inadvertently assumes all students have had the good fortunate of a supportive family and are attending a traditional residential college, but the overarching subject matter can be extended to a wide range of students and institutions.

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