Your twenties are a time of self-discovery and trying to figure out what you want out of life. Many 20-somethings are finishing up college and university studies or are embarking on such studies. Most 20-somethings are determining what they want to be in life, and what kind of life they want to live.
In the process it is easy to develop useful and helpful habits that will last you for the rest of your life. Whether you are studying in school or working a full-time job, you will learn necessary life skills such as time management, organization, and leadership. Skills like these can only be cultivated when you are independent and on your own, which is what many 20-somethings experience after “flying the coop” they have been accustomed to for many years.
Concurrently this is also a time where you develop not so useful habits and activities. Being out on your own offers you a freedom unlike any you have ever had. Your 20-somethings is the perfect time for you to explore yourself and the world around you. Trying new things is a part of the process but often so is continuing desultory habits since you no longer have mom and dad telling you what you should and shouldn’t be doing.
As someone who experienced plenty of ups and downs throughout my twenties, I believe I can offer a refreshing anecdote. I don’t regret any of the experiences I had during my twenties because they have helped mold me, but I realize now that giving up certain ways of thinking, acting, and living that were prevalent during my twenties, was fundamental for my progress in life. I am not suggesting 20-somethings shouldn’t encounter struggles and unfavorable experiences but there is a time to move on from these, and truly flourish in life.
1. Don’t Think Self-Centered and Ego-Centrically
I want to preface this by stating I am not suggesting that all 20-somethings are selfish, egotistical, and narcissistic. There is a tendency for 20-somethings to be completely absorbed in their own agendas especially when they are attempting to determine what they are going to do with their lives. It is an important time in a young person’s life where a lot of time and effort is put into studying, working, etc.
Amidst this grind it is easy to get completely wrapped up in everything you are doing. It is ok to be ambitious and focused on achieving your goals. That is essential for a fulfilling life. But don’t forget that the world doesn’t merely revolve around your needs. Try exploring not only what you can accomplish for yourself, but also concentrate on what you can do for others. If you haven’t already learned this or implemented this kind of thinking into your life as a 20-something, than make the effort to integrate it as soon as possible.
If there is one thing I wish I would have done sooner in my life, it is to think about others more. I wish I would I have focused more on serving others and performing more random acts of kindness. Not that I was a selfish person before but I was definitely more selfish during my twenties than I am now in my thirties. It is never too late to begin living a more selfless life, and from experience, it is one of the most gratifying transformations you can make.
2. Don’t Focus Too Much on Money
I know there are a lot of people who will probably disagree with me on this but I think 20-somethings fixate too much on money. I am sure the opponents of this argument would find my thinking backward and unreasoned but I am standing firm with my opinion.
I suspect that 20-somethings who just graduated from college assume they have to find a great paying job right away in order to start saving and building for the future. There are typically more expenses to consider specifically if you are living on your own and not under your parents’ roof so the pressure is magnified.
Society tells you money will make you happy, or at least that was the old way of thinking. This distorted ideal about money becomes ingrained in many 20-somethings so they are willing to endeavor in high paying and stressful job situations even though they are completely miserable in the process. Eventually the money is supposed to make you happy, but when does that occur?
If you have a healthy concentration on earning money and you love the way in which you do so, more power to you. Getting paid well to do something you love is what most people aspire from life. Money is not evil and it should not be viewed as such. Still, too much focus on money, especially at a time in your life when you are in search of your niche, could be detrimental. It could take you away from other opportunities that might be more meaningful.
3. Don’t Feel Pressured to Marry and Settle Down
I know plenty of people who married young right after college, settled down, and had children. They are completely happy and content with the lives that they lead. These are examples of people who desired this kind of life because they were deeply in love with their partners, and they were ready to take this enormous step in life.
I have also encountered people who wish they had experienced more during their twenties, and not been in such a rush to marry, have kids, and settle down. They feel they missed out on a lot of wonderful experiences in life because they felt pressured or they felt like they were supposed to settle down.
It obviously depends on the situation you are in, but in our society I believe there is an assumption, especially if you are in a relationship, that you need to get married when you are in your twenties, and determine which path your are going to take in life. It is often viewed as the right thing to do. I believe women feel this pressure more than men simply because their biological clocks are ticking. I have spoken to women who feel that if they don’t get hitched, or at least find a partner by the time they are thirty, they might not ever have children. It seems a bit drastic and outdated to me, but I presume, perhaps, this is the portrait our society has painted for twenty-something females.
As I stated previously your twenties are a time for self-discovery and self-revelation. Take time to travel and see the world or engage in other hobbies and activities you might not be able to partake in once you marry and have kids. You might learn something about yourself and other people. Don’t tell yourself you will do it after you settle down because that time may never come.
4. Don’t Live in the Past
No matter how painful the past was for you, and how difficult it is for you to move on from it, the past is over. It is not coming back. You won’t relive past moments again. When moments pass, they are in the past. All you can do is live in the present.
Living in the past is destructive because it prevents you from enjoying the present moment. You don’t know how many moments you will be given. Yes I said given because every moment you experience is a gift. You aren’t entitled any moment in life so why not take advantage of them? You can’t enjoy the present moment when you are living in the past.
As a 20-something you have a wonderful opportunity to become aware of the toxic thinking which is replaying your past. Your mind is often going to attempt to suck you into its stories of past occurrences but with a present awareness, you can combat this thinking and flourish in life. As a teenager you might not be mature enough to understand how your mind works, but this is something you can take advantage of as a 20-something.
It took me 29 years to understand that my incessant thinking of the past was not out of my control. When I finally chose to accept responsibility for living in the present, my life changed for the better. It is a relief knowing that you have a choice in what thoughts you want to have in your mind. Focus on being present and don’t let your twenties pass by without doing everything possible to live in the moment.
5. Don’t Consistently Stay Up Late
You tell yourself if you don’t get enough sleep tonight you will make up for it tomorrow. Tomorrow turns into the next night and the next night, etc. Before you know it you are exhausted and not yourself. It is easy when you are a 20-something to develop poor sleeping patterns. It is often popular when studying for exams at colleges and universities to “cram” with late night study sessions even though it behooves you to undertake a more planned and organized study schedule.
It is easy to get distracted with the multitude of social media and entertainment options at your disposal. 20-somethings like staying up late even if they need to get up early the next day. 20-somethings often feel invincible in that they don’t need much sleep. You might get away with this kind of lifestyle for a while but eventually it will catch up with you.
Developing healthy sleeping patterns is imperative for you as a 20-something because you are in the prime of your life. You are most likely involved in a lot of activities at this point of your life, and your body needs proper rest. Staying up late on a consistent basis is not going to benefit you mentally, physically, or emotionally.
It is important to remember that if you don’t get enough sleep at night because you stay up too late, then your body is going to attempt to get it sometime during the day. This could be during crucial parts of the day where you need to be productive (at work) or focused (while driving), for example.
6. Don’t Live With Unhealthy Eating and Drinking Habits
When you are young you can seemingly eat whatever you want and drink whatever you want because you can get away with it. Your body is typically metabolizing at a quicker rate when you are younger so your body is more lenient when you eat fatty foods and drink sugary drinks.
As a 20-something your metabolism may start slowing down which means it is vitally important you begin eating and drinking healthier. Unless you want to be overweight, diabetic, or incur some other health issue, you want to make this change better sooner than later. When you are living on your own as a 20-something you aren’t going to have your parents there preparing your meals and providing you with proper sustenance. It is easy to fall into the trap of eating out all the time or consuming unhealthy foods and drinks. Often it is quicker and perhaps cheaper to eat McDonald’s than to go home and cook a well-balanced meal because you are just too busy.
Unhealthy consumption doesn’t merely include foods and drinks loaded with sugars but it also includes alcohol and other harmful products. As someone who drank my fair share of alcohol throughout my 20s, I can say without a doubt that I feel much better, much healthier on a day to day basis since I have really limited the amount of alcohol I consume.
20-somethings are prone to excessive alcoholic intake, and while it can be fun and a way to socialize with your friends, it can have damaging effects to your health when abused. Enjoy alcohol responsibly, and pay attention to what you put into your body. Your body will thank you!
7. Don’t Live Without Intent or Purpose
Intent and purpose is defined as resolved or determined to do something. It is synonymous with setting goals and objectives, or seeking to achieve an aim or target. Living with intention and purpose helps you determine what is important to you in life and what isn’t. It keeps you focused on the things in life that matter, and prevents you from being distracted by things that don’t matter.
In order to live with intent and purpose you have to define clearly what your intent or purpose in life is. There is no better time in life to do this than during your twenties. Often as a teenager you might not be mature enough to really understand what your intent or purpose is in life, and as you get older it becomes easier to just “float” through life aimlessly. Use your twenties to ascertain what you want to do with your life. You don’t have to develop a grandiose plan of everything you are going to do in life from the time you are twenty until you die. That would be absurd, but you can make an intention or seek out a purpose that is meaningful for you.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a major purpose either, rather one that is important to you. Being grateful for everything you are given in life is an example of a simple, yet powerful intention. If you carry this intent with you from the time you are in your twenties throughout your life, you are probably going to live a very contented life. Your intent and purpose can always change as you continue on your journey through life. You are constantly changing and evolving so your intentions and purposes may shift as well. That is ok.
Use this pivotal time in your life to figure out what makes you excited about getting out of bed in the morning and living your life. What are you passionate about? What brings joy into your life no matter what is going on? The sooner you discover your intent or purpose in life, the sooner you can begin really living.
8. Don’t Plan Every Detail of Your Life
In the previous paragraph I outlined the importance of having an intent or purpose in life. Living a well-intentioned life doesn’t mean you are required to live a well-planned life. You don’t have to have every detail of your life planned out before you. Often this kind of obsessive planning can lead to high levels of stress and the inability to live presently. This especially becomes apparent as plans don’t unfold the way you hoped they would.
Part of the innocent joy of life is taking in all the experiences you are blessed with on a daily basis. Learning how to accept what life delivers is an extremely useful skill. Often your twenties can be an anxious time when you become so focused on obtaining a job and/or starting a family. These are great things to have in life but don’t let these plans cause you unhealthy amounts of tension and strain. Enjoy them as they occur.
As life gets busy people often forget to live because they are so worried about planning for the next step. If you learn as a 20-something not to over plan and relish life, you are more likely to experience the life you desire. It is easy as a young person to tell yourself that you will plan everything out now and burden yourself when you are younger so you can enjoy life later. But often when later comes you are still living the same life as before, planning out the next detail in your life.
9. Don’t Carry a Sense of Entitlement
There is a sense of entitlement that accompanies being a 20-something that you might think vanished after your teenage years. I think this sense of entitlement is quite profound in 20-somethings who are very educated.
After you finish college the next step is finding a job. You assume you will be granted a job of your choice because you graduated from college and procured a diploma that proves you are willing and able to work. Unfortunately a diploma doesn’t mean you are entitled to a job. Especially today college degrees don’t hold the weight that they used to. More people are attending college so the job market is much more competitive. Entering into the job market with a sense of entitlement is not going to increase your chances of securing a job, rather it could be detrimental to it.
When you are fortunate enough to get a job, doing your job with a sense of entitlement will not behoove you in the workplace. Just ask your coworkers. No one wants to work with the young, inexperienced newbie who thinks he or she knows everything. It is best to eliminate this sense of entitlement as soon as possible.
Perhaps sense of entitlement is a fancy way of saying that young people have too gaudy expectations, and maybe it is a term older folks came up with. Whatever the case is, don’t let your needs guide your decision making in life. You aren’t going to get everything you want. You aren’t privileged in the sense that you deserve everything you desire. Be humble and learn to accept adversity.
I am not offering this advice because I feel the need to talk down to 20-somethings, rather I am offering this advice as someone who lived with a sense of entitlement. I expected things to go a certain way and when they didn’t, I shut down. I didn’t know any better at the time so I am trying to save you the burden of living with unreasonable expectations.
10. Don’t Keep Friends That Hold You Back
I know how difficult it can be to disassociate yourself from a friend whom you have known for you entire life. But what happens when this “friend” begins to become less of a friend and more of a nuissance? If you have any person in your life who is holding you back for any reason, your twenties is a great time to move on from this relationship. If you have friends who are regressing, than you should be focused on progressing.
It sounds rude and harsh but associating yourself with people who add no value to your life is eventually going to bring you down. I am not suggesting you should merely discard friends from your life completely but you can limit your contact with them.
Let’s be clear what kind of “friends” I am referring to. I am referring to people who are completely self-absorbed; people who are constantly pessimistic all the time; people who misuse your friendship and take you for granted. These are not the kinds of friends most people want to be around. It is great to be compassionate and loving and caring and understanding. You aren’t going to throw away a lifelong friendship without at least trying to help, but you can’t change people.
You can’t choose family but you can choose friends. You know deep down if there is someone in your life whom you shouldn’t be spending a lot of time with. As a 20-something there is no better time to strengthen your development by giving up anything, including friends, that is holding you back.