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20 Goals to Achieve Success in Your 20s

20 Goals to Achieve Success in Your 20s

Being a 20-something is rough. It can mean desperately finding a job straight out of school, moving into your first apartment, doing your own taxes, and other stressful things that come with being an adult. It’s not all anxiety though; your 20s are also when you’re independent and most flexible, and you have a lot more freedom now than later on when you get more settled into your responsibilities.

This is the time to take charge of your life, to make opportunity rather than wait around for it. But how do you make the best of these ten years and achieve as much as you possibly can, when just yesterday, you Google searched “help my student loans are killing me”?

Sadly, there isn’t an instruction manual to making the best of your 20s (unless you count Google), but we do have plenty of parents, teachers and colleagues who have handed down their wisdom and advice over the years. Here are a few:

1. Stay organized

When you move into your first apartment or set up your retirement fund, get organized and stay organized! Whether you were before or not, now’s as good as any time to start. Your pile of paperwork is still (relatively) small – invest in a filing cabinet and some sturdy binders to keep track of your documents, receipts, work portfolios and other important files. Post-It notes and reminder apps are a great way to stay on top of your tasks, and the more you build a habit of good organization, the easier you’ll make it for yourself down the line.

2. Work on your weekends

It can be tempting to abandon all thoughts of work as soon as you’re off the job, but the best way to excel in a hectic work environment is to put in the extra time and effort. No matter if you work with your hands or with spreadsheets, spare just a few hours of your weekend and consider how you can approach a problem next time you go back to work. Maintain your work-life balance, but if you can map out solutions in your downtime, this makes you more productive when you actually step back into the workplace, and your co-workers will take notice.

3. Smile every day

We’ve all heard how smiling can predict a long lifespan, but someone who smiles a lot also appears more confident and successful to others. By smiling in workplace settings, you can make yourself more approachable to colleagues and potential business partners, and this can be an advantage for you in environments where open communication is key.

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“I can’t tell you how many patients start to see their confidence improve once they start smiling,” stated Dr. Ryan Long, a family dentist in Dayton, Ohio. “I’ve always said, keep smiling because it makes people wonder what you’ve been up to!”

4. Write down your goals

As you build your credentials and take on more responsibilities, it can be hard to set time aside for yourself. Don’t lose sight of your own goals and ambitions! Keep a record of your progress with quantifiable benchmarks along the way so you can hold yourself accountable to your target. This goes for future goals too. If you catch yourself thinking longingly about a dream vacation, write that down! You can come back to it, do some research, develop a savings plan, and work towards accomplishing your goal.

5. Workout and stay healthy

Working out is something that people either love or hate, and if you’re in the latter group, it can be hard to stick to a workout regimen that lasts longer than three weeks. There are tons of tips out there for starting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle, so keep trying until you find one that suits you! Hold yourself accountable to your health, either with a friend or with commitment contracts like stickK. Start small, and reward yourself in line with your goals when you deserve it.

6. Ask for ways to improve

Often, the people with the best understanding of your performance are your coworkers. Your colleagues and supervisors see your work on a daily basis and may be able to provide some insights on how you can improve. Schedule time with your workmates or supervisors and ask them how they think you can perform better. By showing initiative and challenging yourself, you can gain more from your work experience and continue building your skills.

7. Start a side project

When you’re in your 20s, you have heaps of time, energy and creativity at your disposal. Find a project you’ve always wanted to do, like building a bike or selling handcrafted soap on Etsy, and give it your all. If you feel like you’re in a rut, starting a side project may just be the way to get motivated again and direct your energy into something positive and challenging!

8. Stay up to date with the news

With constant, rapid-update news sources out there, there’s no more reason to be out of touch with what’s happening in the world. Make a solid effort to collect your news from more than one or two sources, and try reading more articles that go beyond your regular interests. If you’re strictly into finance articles, try subscribing to an arts and culture column (and vice versa). Expand your interests and stay well-informed.

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9. Don’t take yourself too seriously

As a young adult, it can be frustrating when people older than you in your work and personal life don’t give you due credit. It’s important to maintain professionalism, but don’t take yourself so seriously that you lose all enjoyment in your work! This is the time of your life to make mistakes and learn from them. When you slip up, be able to forgive yourself and move past the mistake – your work will be better for it in the future, and your colleagues will appreciate your positivity.

10. Drink less

As with most things, alcohol is good in moderation, but as you get older (even in your 20s) the effects of drinking will be harder and harder to shake off in the morning. The NIAAA reported that young adults in their early to mid-20s are most at risk for heavy or binge drinking. If you go out often, try cutting back on the number of drinks you have, and stay watchful of your habits to be sure you’re always in control.

You will start to notice that when you drink less, your mind will be more clear and your productivity will start to increase.

11. Blog on a topic you’re passionate about

It’s easier than ever before to become a blogger. If you don’t want to commit to a personal blog or writing on a schedule, find an existing blog where you can contribute content. Passionate about mountain biking? Local politics? Somewhere out there is a blog with your name on it. By writing about your experiences and knowledge, you can share that bit of passion with someone else and establish your credibility as an expert in the field.

12. Meet with successful/established individuals

A great way to grow is to learn from others who have experience. If you read an article by someone whose work you admire, reach out to them and ask for their insights in the field! Don’t sell yourself short by assuming it’s not worth the effort; if someone displays their email or phone number on their site, that means they’re willing to share their experiences, and it’s always nice to be appreciated by a fan.

13. Keep a journal

When you’re constantly busy, time slips away from you and before you know it, you’re another year older. Keeping a journal gives you a chance to reflect on the good times and the bad, and when you look back on your past entries, you’ll realize how much you’ve grown since. Even if you only write a sentence or two summarizing each day, having those little remembrances can be incredible when reflecting back.

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“I am in the creative industry and a million ideas are constantly popping into my head,” said Barry Eisenman, the creative director for Nutis Press. “Keeping a journal over the years has helped improve my business productivity while relieving stress.”

14. Read a new book each month

Research has shown that reading can lower your stress levels, and keeping your mind stimulated helps you focus on day-to-day tasks. Set a pace and make a goal of reading at least one new book every month. Explore different genres and authors! For non-avid readers, start out reading books that have TV or movie adaptations. It can be easier to stay engaged with the book if you have some context for the story. (Game of Thrones, anyone?) If you’re feeling ambitious, join a local library’s book club so you can talk about your monthly read with other folks.

15. Give back to your community

A little volunteer time goes a long way. Commit part of your weekend to working in your community and giving back where you can! There’s an opportunity for nearly everyone, from working in an animal shelter to tutoring students in underprivileged school districts. In a study by UnitedHealth Group and the Optum Institute, researchers found that 76% of volunteers felt mentally and physically healthier and less stressed out after volunteering. Make a routine of it by pairing up with a friend and carpooling – not only will it be a good opportunity to catch up with a friend, but you’ll feel better for it.

16. Reward yourself for major accomplishments

You work hard! It takes time, effort and commitment to finish a major goal, and sometimes, ticking that checkbox just isn’t satisfying enough. After turning in a huge project or finally running that 5K race, treat yourself to an afternoon nap, buy a $1 roll of cookie dough and eat it raw, whatever makes you happiest. It’s nice when your peers recognize your hard work, but it’s even nicer when you do too.

17. Find a mentor

Is there someone you admire in your life, an old teacher, a coworker or a relative? There’s always something to learn from the people we admire, and having a mentor can be extremely helpful when you’re not sure about something or just need a few words of encouragement. Invite your mentor for coffee and a chat, and be sure to sustain the relationship with regular updates and meetings. It’s a two-way street, and many people will love the opportunity to share their advice and help someone out.

18. Find a mentee

Likewise, you can take someone under your wing and share your own experiences! If you know someone who might want a mentor, offer to buy them lunch and talk about what’s going on in their life. This could be a younger sibling, one of the new interns at work or just someone who could use a friend. Be empathetic and open – you may learn just as much from your mentee as they will from you.

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19. Travel

From journeying across the world to the other side of town, visit someplace you’ve never been before. Whatever your means, make time to hop on a plane or a city bus and challenge yourself to visit somewhere new to you. Indulge in the area, visit local attractions, and eat its food. As author Scott Westerfeld wrote: “The best way to get to know a city is to consume it.” By visiting new places, you get an exciting opportunity to learn about yourself and the world around you, and the best part is that you can still travel on a budget!

20. Never stop learning

Your knowledge is one of your greatest strengths. Keep your mind sharp and active by continuing your education. There’s a multitude of free, online classrooms out there like Coursera, tutorials on YouTube, or apps like Duolingo if you want to learn a language. If you prefer an in-person experience, check with a local community center for informal lessons. Even if you can’t commit to a class, read up on programming or Roman architecture each night before you go to bed. Your mind will stay active as long as you keep it learning!

These aren’t the only words of wisdom out there for 20-somethings, nor is this a definitive list. Figure out what works best for you, continue to challenge yourself, and keep moving forward. If not now, then when?

Featured photo credit: BigStock via bigstockphoto.com

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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