Real Adults Get Made

By Scott Schimmel

There is a crisis of adulthood happening: healthy adults aren’t being made like they should be. 

Collectively, we’ve become confused about the point of adolescence, and our systems and culture are actually at odds with people growing up, taking charge of their lives, and transitioning into mature life. Some of the best research out there examines the conditions contributing to delayed adolescence and the recent identification of a phase in life called emerging adulthood that extends the period of growing up into the mid to late twenties for women, and mid to late thirties for men. 

Something is wrong. 

People grow up, but they don’t necessarily grow up well. They will reach milestones, like age, graduation, employment, home ownership, marriage, and parenthood, but they don’t automatically become healthy, mature, or thriving old people. 

You know these people, don’t you? 

The adult-aged people who are still figuring things out. The ones who are self-sufficient, just not self-aware. The people who are searching for their real selves, their true identities, trying on for size big egos or caricatures like costumes, but not demonstrating real integrity and congruency. 

We know about this problem, and we’re going about fixing it: with student programs, teacher training, and parent education. Healthy, mature, self-aware, self-confident, and self-directed adults don’t happen by accident. They are made by communities of people who understand and demonstrate what success in life looks like and collaborate together to engage young people appropriately to develop them. Adults are handcrafted by skilled people who know how to chip away at rough edges and create just the right environment for real life to emerge. 

There are four key markers of authentic adulthood:

  • A vision for the kind of person you’re turning into
  • A mission to organize your life around
  • A contribution to make with your talents
  • A people to depend upon and belong to

Healthy, mature, authentic adults know who they are, who they’re not, and are inspired to become a better person. They are driven to solve a meaningful problem in the world, and they both know and put to work their unique talents in a straightforward, consistent way to solve that problem. They also lean on a community of people who know them, accept them, and depend on them to be consistent in their character. 

If you have young people in your life, we believe you have a tremendous opportunity responsibility to get clear about what healthy adulthood is, demonstrate it over time, and intentionally come alongside emerging adults to help them grow up.