(Distinctions are subtleties of language that, when gotten, cause a shift in a belief, behavior, value or attitude.)


To be a young adult is to experience an exciting, energizing time in life. However, it’s different from being an emerging adult.

A young adult has acquired — and knows the importance of continuing to acquire — a useful set of tools, processes, resources, and guidelines to assist them in their growth into a full life.

Young adults know they are not alone in the journey and they are beginning to be drawn by what is of interest to them rather than what they have been told to want. They have begun to suspect (or maybe even know) their life has a purpose and that they are here for reasons other than to simply take up space and burn through resources. And they know that they don’t know!

The emerging adult doesn’t yet know what they don’t know. They are at the early step of learning to become somewhat competent, but are still having to consciously think their way through each situation. (Learning to steer a car is a useful analogy — awkward at first, getting better with practice.) Emerging adults still need to have structure and be told from time to time what to do. Their motivation still comes largely from the outside, while a young adult is more internally motivated.

Classically, college is the time when emerging adults blossom into young adults. The tricky bit is that some emerging adults think they are already young adults!


Coaching Point: Is there an emerging adult you can support as they develop into a young adult?


Copyright 2013 Steve Straus. All rights reserved.