How to Make the Most of your Twenties: Complete Guide to Your Formative Years
The 20s represent an important decade in life. This period gives you a chance to transform your adolescent mindset into adulthood.
However, most things that people did in the 20s are being done in the 30s. People are marrying later, finishing school later, and getting employed later. This has given rise to the notion of 30 being the new 20.
But you would be mistaken to adopt this view. If you see 20 as an extended adolescence, you will spend this whole decade being unproductive and unprogressive. When you are parting with it, you will look back and ask yourself, “What have I been doing in the last decade?” By this time, unfortunately, it will be too late to make amends.
This article is your guide to how you must conduct yourself in your 20s? Without wasting time, let’s get to it.
1. Take Risks...
Teenagers are notorious for indulging in risky behaviors. Some examples include excessive drinking, unsafe sex, and reckless driving. But these are not the kinds of risks you must take. Being in your 20s means you are a grown-up. So your actions, even when risky, must add to your prospects of a better future.
The biggest risk is not taking any risk… In a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.
Risk taking makes you smarter. This was proved in a study by the University of Turk in Finland. The researchers’ associated risk taking with seeking challenges and concluded that challenges exercise the brain.
Another benefit that comes with risk taking is that you learn from mistakes, which are crucial for personal growth. Playing it safe does not put you in new situations, and this means no new lessons.
The biggest problem is that we amplify the dangers of risk taking. Comments like “you will become poor,” “you will have no friends,” or “you will lose your job” scare us. And we hold on to whatever mediocre comforts we have.
Sadly, we never consider the dangers of avoiding risks. These include “failing to progress in life,” “being passed over for promotion,” or “failing to achieve our dreams.”
The 20s is the best period to take risks. If you fail, you have time on your side to rebound. You will learn important lessons which will increase your chances of success next time. In addition, you will learn to control your fear of failure and increase your confidence.
Jessie Goldenberg is a good example of someone who took a risk to pursue her passion. She left her job at CBS to start her own fashion business named Nomad, a mobile fashion retailer. Luckily, she became so successful that she broke even in the first year.
2. Take Control of Your Life
A mother knows when her baby is hungry. She also knows when the baby wants to play with a toy. However, she cannot know what food the baby will prefer at a certain time. Or what toy it would like to play with.
The same is true for you—you are the only one who knows exactly what you want. While many will give you advice with good intentions, this advice is based on assumptions on what they believe may be best for you. As such, you must not let external influences decide where you should go.
Many people complain of unfulfilling jobs because somebody thought that was the best job.
You should not let your life follow this course. Make an effort to form own opinions. Know your options in any given situation and try to make your own decisions. Or else, you will surely be persuaded by others.
One study found that participants who had no idea of what they wanted chose inferior products just because that was what everyone was choosing.
Another study by researchers at the University of Exeter had a similar result. It found that we have evolved that our friends hold more influence over us than instinct. This hinders our ability to be responsive to situations. And by “following the herd,” we end up making decisions that deter our dreams and aspirations.
If you have a herd mentality, it may not be easy to let it go. But you must make a conscious effort to.
For a start, think using first principles rather than analogy. With first principles, you try to break down what is true about something and make decisions from that. With analogy, on the contrary, you make decisions based on what people consider to already be true.
For example, many believe that to succeed in life, you have to work long hours. As such, most of us try to do as much as we can everyday.
Using first principles, you will ask yourself about what is true about success. You need to work, you need to minimize distractions, and you need to minimize errors.
With this, you can then ask yourself how can I get work done in less time while minimizing distractions and mistakes? Some of your answers may include hiring experienced people to help you with other tasks.
Here is a video of Elon Musk talking about thinking using first principles.
3. Deal With Issues That Hold You Back
Have you grown up in an abusive environment? And now that you are older have you tried to address this abuse from childhood? If you are like many twenty-somethings, you probably haven’t.
However, research shows that these experiences can affect your adulthood. You are likely to have chronic health conditions, have surgery often, visit doctors often, use drugs, or even attempt suicide.
Studies show that children raised with attention, love, and care develop an internal Locus of Control (LOC). This means they believe that the keys to the life they want are in their hands. Children who grow in the absence of love, attention, and care tend to grow into adults who have an external Locus of Control. So not only do they not take responsibility for their lives, but they also have low self-esteem and confidence as adults.
The 20s is the best time to clear any bad experiences that hold you back or hurt your confidence.
There are many ways on how you can deal with traumatic events. The nature of the trauma determines the best remedy. However, you can never go wrong by seeking the support of others.
Another thing you want to deal with is your weaknesses, which if left unchecked, will hold you from progressing.
However, there is one important concept you must understand. Do not waste your time fixing weaknesses that are not fatal, even the most successful people are not perfect. Only resolve weaknesses that may keep you from your goals.
Research has shown that 70-80% of leaders and employees benefit from improving their strengths, not fixing flaws. This brings fulfillment and it lets you do what you enjoy.
To get started, make a list of your weaknesses. You may need to ask others as it is difficult to point your flaws. Now think of these weaknesses and if they present challenges to who you want to be.
While in your 20s, you also need to deal with any bad habits. You can, of course, let go of these at any time. But ignoring them throughout your 20s will make them stronger. And you will have a hard time eliminating them later.
For example, most of us like to hit the snooze button, and we find it difficult to break this habit. But did you know that it is unproductive?
Snoozing puts your body into a new sleep circle, which, unfortunately, you do not finish. Snoozing also fragments the benefits from the sleep you already had and it changes your sleep cycle. As a result, you end up feeling sluggish and tired for the whole day.
4. Don’t Settle Just Yet
Your parents would swear that it’s best to find a decent job that pays well and keep it until your hair turns gray. But that is not always a smart move. While the pay may be good, you will likely be receiving 50% less after 2 years than if you were a job hopper.
In addition, staying at the same job limits your knowledge. You don’t learn new things by staying in the same organization and doing the same things. A mind that does not seek changes cannot improve.
Changing jobs takes you away from your comfort zone. This keeps you from developing complacency, which is a bad trait for anyone.
Job-hopping will also allow you to discover your true passions.
However, careless job hopping may hurt you. Lots of job changes through the early 20s are associated with lower income at age 32. And men with more fluctuations also have lower status jobs and report lower career satisfaction by age 32. This was proved by Professors Harvey Krahn and Nancy Galambos of the University of Alberta in Canada.
Interestingly, the study said that those who completely switch careers, not just jobs, at least once, more job fluctuations predict high income and career satisfaction at age 32.
For example, before Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson started making movies, he was a famous WWE wrestler. But before even that, he had a football career which he left at 24 to become a wrestler.
Here are some resources you may need as you change jobs:
America’s CareerInfoNet - explore employment trends plus wages.
My Skills, My Future - for those who are not sure what career to pursue.
US Small Business Administration - business advice for new business owners.
A mind that does not seek changes cannot improve.
5. Understand Finance and Productivity
It’s not often that we hear of people making money just by saving. But it can happen. Take the story of Luis Renteria. He saved over $30,000 in 3 years just by using a spreadsheet to track his spending. He used the 50-20-30 rule (50% of his earnings went to essentials, 20% to financial goals and saving, and 30% to flexible spending).
The problem with most of us is that we spend money we don’t have. And this gets us into debt. With this, saving and investing become impossible. So we force ourselves to work more in order to make more.
A 2014 survey by the National Foundation of Credit Counselling found that only 39% of US adults track their spending and have a budget.
Most of us see a budget as a punishment. But you must change this mindset and see it as a firewall to protect you from unnecessary expenditures.
Another thing to learn in your 20s is how to be productive. With a constant stream of interruptions, this is not easy to achieve. As a result, most of us work hard, which means working for longer hours.
Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.
But research shows that this is not effective. Working for 9 hours does not mean you do 2 times more work than someone who works for 4.5 hours. In fact, the amount of the work would be the same. This only results in losing time you would have spent relaxing and looking after your health. (HRB)
A 2015 study showed that working long hours is a cause of mental ill health. And that it raises the risk of suffering from stroke and heart disease. So learn to work smart instead.
6. Take Care Of This Often Overlooked Aspect...
Because you are in the prime of your life, you may believe your body may take any abuse you throw at it. But this is misguided. How you treat your body during the twenties can have a big impact on your future.
So in this decade, make sure you look after your body. You must exercise, eat healthily, meditate, and relax. These activities will lower your stress, boost your confidence, make your smart, and make you feel that you are living a fulfilling life.
Here is a video explaining the psychology behind staying healthy:
The twenties is a fun decade. However, you must keep the balance between fun and productivity. If you follow the tips in this article, you can be confident that this decade will not go to waste. Doing the right things will increase your chances of a better future.
Over to you now, do you believe you have been making the most of your twenties so far?