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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 May 22, 2020

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

What Makes a Good Leader: 9 Critical Leadership Qualities

The word “leader” makes you think of people in charge, high-ranking people: your boss, politicians, presidents, CEOs…

But leadership really isn’t about a particular position or a person’s seniority. Just because someone has worked for many years doesn’t mean s/he has gained the qualities and skills to lead a team.

Getting promoted to a managerial position doesn’t automatically turn you into a leader either. CEOs and other high-ranking officials don’t always have great leadership skills.

So what makes a good leader? What are the characteristics of a leader?

Good leadership is about acquiring and honing specific skills. Leadership skills enable you to be a role model for a team in any environment. With great leadership qualities, successful leaders come in all shapes and sizes: in the home, at school, or in the workplace.

The following are some of the many characteristics great leaders exhibit.

1. A Positive Attitude

Great leaders know that they won’t have a happy and motivated team unless they themselves exhibit a positive attitude. This can be done by remaining positive when things go wrong and by creating a relaxed and happy atmosphere in the workplace.

Even some simple things like providing snacks or organizing a team Happy Hour can make a world of difference. An added perk is that team members are likely to work harder and do overtime when needed if they’re happy and appreciated.

Even in the worst situations, such as experiencing low team morale or team members having made a big mistake at work, a great leader stays positive and figures out ways to keep the team motivated to solve the problems.

Walt Disney had his share of hardships and challenges, and like any great leader, he managed to stay positive and find new opportunities. In 1928, Disney found that his film producer, Charles Mintz, wanted to reduce his payments for the Oswald series. Mintz threatened to cut ties entirely if Disney didn’t accept his terms, and Disney chose to part ways. But in leaving Oswald, Disney decided to create something new: the iconic Mickey Mouse[1].

The key is to break down huge challenges into smaller ones and find ways to tackle them one by one.

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Think about the lessons you can learn from the mistake and jot them down because sometimes you win, and sometimes you learn.

2. Confidence

All great leaders have to exhibit an air of confidence if they’re going to succeed. Please don’t confuse this with self-satisfaction and arrogance. You want people to look up to you for inspiration, not so they can punch you in the face.

Confidence is important because people will be looking to you on how to behave, particularly if things aren’t going 100% right. If you remain calm and poised, team members are far more likely to as well. As a result, morale and productivity will remain high, and the problem will be solved more quickly.

If you panic and give up, they will know immediately and things will simply go downhill from there.

Elon Musk is a great example of a leader with confidence. He truly believes that Tesla will be successful, which he has shown many times through his actions. He converted 532,000 stock options at $6.63 each, their value on Dec. 4, 2009, before Tesla went public. It was a hefty bargain considering Tesla’s stock price stood at around $195 per share at that time. He doesn’t apologize for his beliefs and has drawn fire from just about everyone for his political actions.

You can’t instantly become a very confident person, but all the small things you do every day will gradually make you more confident:

  • List 5 things you like about yourself every day (something different every day), and you’ll appreciate yourself more.
  • Work on your strengths and do your best to enhance them.

3. A Sense of Humor

It’s imperative for any kind of leader to have a sense of humor, particularly when things go wrong. And they will.

Your team members are going to be looking to you for how to react in a seemingly dire situation. It would probably be best if you weren’t stringing up a noose for yourself in the corner. You need to be able to laugh things off because if staff morale goes down, so will productivity.

Establish this environment prior to any kind of meltdown by encouraging humor and personal discussions in the workplace.

As a president, Barack Obama exuded confidence and calm during stressful situations. But he was also known for his “dad jokes,”[2] his genuinely funny speeches at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and appearing on Zack Galifianakis’s Between Two Ferns.[3] Obama’s sense of humor made him grounded, realistic, and honest, which no doubt helped during some tense moments in the White House!

Learn to laugh at yourself. Confident people laugh about their own silly mistakes, and when you do this, others will also trust you more because you’re willing to share your experiences.

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Be observant and learn from the jokes others make. You can also get a lot of inspiration from the internet.

4. Ability to Embrace Failure

No matter how hard you try to avoid it, failures will happen; that’s okay. You just need to know how to deal with them.

Great leaders take them in strides. They remain calm and logically think through the situation and utilize their resources. What they don’t do is fall apart and reveal to their team how worried they are, which leads to negative morale, fear, and binge-drinking under desks.

Great leaders do, in fact, lead, even when they’re faced with setbacks.

Henry Ford experienced a major setback after designing and improving the Ford Quadricycle. He founded the Detroit Automobile Company in 1899, but the resulting cars they produced did not live up to his standards and were too expensive. The company dissolved in 1901. Ford took this in stride and formed the Henry Ford Company. The sales were slow and the company had financial problems; it wasn’t until 1903 that the Ford Motor Company was successful and put the Ford on the map.

Get to the root cause of any problem so you can prevent it from happening again and learn from the mistake.

By asking “why” 5 times (or more) on why something happened, you can find out the key factor that caused the problem and can find the best solution to tackle the problem.

You’ll also learn how to prevent this from happening again in the future after finding out a problem’s root cause.

5. Careful Listening and Feedback

This is far more complex than it actually sounds. Good communication skills are essential for a great leader. You may very well understand the cave of crazy that is your brain, but that doesn’t mean that you can adequately take the ideas out of it and explain them to someone else.

The best leaders need to be able to communicate clearly with the people around them. They also need to be able to interpret other people properly and not take what they say personally.

The Dalai Lama, as a symbol of the unification of the state of Tibet, represents and practices Buddhist values. The Dalai Lama’s leadership is benevolent and aims toward truth and understanding, alongside the other Buddhist precepts. This is a great example for all leaders: if you want to give good directions to others, you have to get feedback from others to understand the situation properly.

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Encourage communication between team members and establish an open door policy.

Practice not interrupting team members when they’re talking. Instead, summarize what they say and ask for feedback after you have talked about your ideas.

6. Knowing How and When to Delegate

No matter how much you might want to, you can’t actually do everything yourself. Even if you could, in a team environment that would be a terrible idea anyway.

Good leaders recognize that delegation does more than simply alleviate their own stress levels (although that’s obviously a nice perk). Delegating to others shows that you have confidence in their abilities, which subsequently results in higher morale in the workplace, as well as loyalty from your staff. They want to feel appreciated and trusted.

Although Steve Jobs was known for focusing in on the smallest of details, he knew how to delegate. By finding, cultivating, and trusting capable team members, Jobs was able to make Apple run smoothly, even when he had to be absent for extended periods of time.

To know when and how to delegate work to team members, you have to be very familiar with each of them:

  • List out all of their strengths, weaknesses, and personalities.
  • Talk with your team members more to know about their passion and interests.

Take a look at this guide and learn more about delegation: How to Delegate Work Effectively (The Definitive Guide for Leaders)

7. Growth Mindset

Any good leader knows how important it is to develop the skills of those around them. The best can recognize those skills early on. Not only will development make work easier as they improve and grow, it will also foster morale. In addition, they may develop some skills that you don’t possess that will be beneficial to the workplace.

Great leaders share their knowledge with the team and give them the opportunity to achieve. This is how leaders gain their respect and loyalty.

Pope Francis has been unusually popular with many Catholics and many non-Catholics. His position isn’t totally traditional, which is part of his appeal, but he also has admirable leadership skills. Pope Francis’s TED talk[4] drew attention because he encouraged leaders to be humble and to demonstrate solidarity with others. This inclusive, kind, and respectful style of leadership is incredibly important for any situation.

It’s important to spend time talking with other team members individually to understand them.

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Find out team members’ current challenges and try to give feedback and encouragement so they will grow and do better.

8. Responsibility

Great leaders know that when it comes to their company, work place or whatever situation they’re in, they need to take personal responsibility for failure. How can they expect employees to hold themselves accountable if they themselves don’t?

The best leaders don’t make excuses; they take the blame and then work out how to fix the problem as soon as possible. This proves that they’re trustworthy and possess integrity.

Howard Gillman is the chancellor of UC Irvine. You might have heard of how the university rescinded a bunch of acceptances, and then changed its mind[5], This past spring, an unusually high number of accepted students decided to matriculate; the school initially responded by rescinding offers over things like missed deadlines. But the college realized this was a mistake and reversed its decision. Gillman and the university accepted responsibility and decided to move past their earlier bad decision.

Always ask yourself what you can do better or what you should change. Take responsibility and think about what you can do better to prevent this from happening next time.

9. A Desire to Learn

It’s safe to say that all great leaders will have to enter unchartered waters at some point during their career. Because of this, they have to be able to trust their intuition and draw on past experiences to guide them.

Great leaders know that there’s always something to learn from everything they have experienced before. They are able to connect the present challenges with the lessons learned in the past to make decisions and take actions promptly.

You can either recall what you’ve learned from your memories or search your notes (ideally, a software that you can access anywhere with things well-organized).

Warren Buffett, one of the richest people in the world, has mostly made the right calls. But in dealing with huge amounts of money, Buffett has also made several multi-million (and sometimes multi-billion) dollar mistakes. He has stated that buying the company Berkshire Hathaway was his biggest mistake[6]. From that poor choice, he realized that it was unwise to pursue “improvements” and “expansions” in the existing textile industry. Despite mistakes like this, Buffett has invested wisely, and it shows.

To effectively learn from the past, write down lessons you’ve learned from any mistakes you’ve made. Have all the lessons well organized, and when similar things happen again in future, take these lessons as references.

The Bottom Line

Leadership traits are learnable. If you practice consistently, you can be a great leader, too.

Make small changes to your habits when you work with your team, wherever that may be. Most of us aren’t presidents or CEOs, but we all work with other people, and our actions always impact others. This gives every person the chance to develop leadership skills and to stand out from the crowd.

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Featured photo credit: Markus Spiske via unsplash.com

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