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20 Goals to Achieve Success in Your 20s

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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 July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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