How you spend your twenties is hugely important for determining who you’ll become — personally and professionally — in the future. It’s worth taking the time to work out how to make this decade as enjoyable and useful as possible, in order to maximise your chances of having a successful and fulfilling life. This time period has been called the “defining decade“ which sets the stage for the rest of your life.
Here are 19 pieces of advice about what you should start (and stop) doing in your twenties to lay the foundation for lifelong success.
1. Start writing down your goals. Try to imagine what your ideal lifestyle would be in five, ten, even 20 years down the road. To ensure that you’re not just fantasising, write down what you hope to achieve and how you might get there. The act of writing your goals and dreams do[es] a couple of things for you. It forces you to nail down what’s really in your mind, and it gives you a tangible record that you can refer to over time.
2. Start letting go of your ego. you shouldn’t let pride or vanity get in your way, and should stay open to alternate viewpoints. Learn how to kill your ego. It blinds and fetters us from possibility and progress. Learn how to burst your bubble with simple questions [such] as, ’What if things aren’t what they seem to be?’ and vitally, ’What if I am wrong?’”
3. Read as much as possible. Become a voracious reader. Engage in a campaign to educate yourself on any subject that inspires you. One book will lead to another. Over the years you’ll learn ten times more than you ever learned in high school or college. We’re not advocating autodidactism over formal education, but reading is a great way to learn more about topics that aren’t necessarily covered in class.
4. Stop trying to live someone else’s life. It’s tempting to use other people’s expectations and values as the yardsticks by which you measure your own accomplishments. But doing so can prevent you from ever feeling truly fulfilled. If there’s one thing you can do that will help more than anything else, it’s this: Live life on your own terms. Don’t do things because you think you ’should.’ Don’t do what other people tell you to do. Don’t do what society expects you to do. Don’t sit around waiting to start living your life. This life belongs to you and to nobody else. You will not get a chance to do it again. Live it on your terms.
5. Stop feeling bad about the past. There are two kinds of people in the world: People who live their lives looking back, and people who live their lives looking forward.
6. You can recognize people who live their lives looking back by their heavy use of shoulda-woulda-coulda. I should have taken that job. I could have gone to that college. I would have married the girl. I could have been a contender. These people are constantly looking for things to regret. To them, life is a series of failures, and every future opportunity is a chance to [mess] up. You can recognize people who live their lives looking forward by their heavy use of shall-will-can. I shall get that job. I can go to college. I will take care of my family. I can, will and shall be a champion. These people are constantly looking for challenges to beat. To them, life is a promise of unrealized wins, and every past failure is a lesson.
7. Start showing loved ones you care. If you really care about a certain someone, make it a habit to show it. Little gestures, kind words. It’s not about constant contact, but more about finding mutual ways to share your life with the people you care most about…And if you have a partner, show your love. Take nothing for granted. Life happens.
8. Start taking care of your health. The simplest and most important action you can take is to protect your health. Once it’s gone, it’s really hard to bring back. Most people in their 40s and beyond would trade money for health. Exercising is especially crucial at this juncture in your life. If you start early, you’ll establish the habit for decades to come, which will be especially beneficial in your late 30s when you start losing muscle mass. Just remember to choose physical activities you really love, since you’re less likely to continue exercising if you dislike your workouts.
9. Start saving for retirement. Spend less than you earn and put money in an IRA. Compounding does amazing things and you will be able to retire when you want, instead of working forever. The earlier you start saving for your golden years, the more time your money has to accrue interest.
10. Start asking questions. By asking questions, you’re getting different perspectives from different people. To a greater or lesser extent, all of our lives are enriched by sharing the thoughts and ideas of others. Scientists say this kind of curiosity and knowledge-seeking can strengthen your personal relationships because you spend time listening, and boost your performance at work because you always want to learn and improve.
11. Start flossing. It’s disheartening how many sit in dental chairs for hours later in life forking over thousands. Dentists say you should floss at least once a day to help remove plaque from the areas between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. Otherwise, you run the risk of gum disease and cavities.
12. Start practising mindfulness. Mindfulness is about becoming more aware of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings. Experts say it can help you perform better at work because it allows you to deal with stress in a more healthy way. It’s recommended that you start cultivating mindfulness by setting aside a certain period of time every day or week for quiet meditation or reflection. This could be anything from writing in a journal, to listening to quiet music in the dark in your room, focused deep breathing or doing yoga. Anything that allows you to separate yourself from the daily trials of life…and have an open conversation with yourself in regards to how you’re feeling.
13. Start learning how to read a scientific paper. Learn a bit about medicine, including how to read a scientific paper. This will not only help you learn to take care of yourself better, but will also insulate you from con artists and frauds trying to sell you ’detox’ remedies and miracle cures. Over at The Huffington Post, Jennifer Raff, Ph.D., a professor of physical anthropology, offers nonscientists a (nonscary) guide for reading and understanding a scientific paper.
14. Start learning how to cook. Learn how to prepare a meal for more than just you. You might live alone now, but chances are at some point, you’ll be cohabiting with a significant other and/or kids — and this skill will come in handy. Plus, cooking most of your meals at home saves money and tends to be healthier than dining out.
Start getting involved in meaningful causes. Consider joining a Meetup or another group of people who are interested in similar political and cultural issues. You will never have this much energy, health this great, or this much disposable time again in your life. Make the most of it. This is your best chance to make a difference in the world.
15. Start following current events. Chances are if you keep up with the latest news, you’ll find your passion, whether that’s a cause you’re interested in or a niche you believe you can fill. Moreover, you’ll be better able to make small talk if you’ve got a few hot topics on hand.
16. Start travelling. Don’t be a tourist but a traveler. This will help increase your vision and make you realize how big and small the world is at the same time. Go beyond the landmarks and discovering the cafes, stores, and parks that exist off the beaten path. You may also want to consider renting a home instead of a hotel in a neighborhood far from tourist attractions.
17. Start spending some time alone. It’s recommended that you spend half an hour every day in solitude. Make sure you don’t have your phone with you: Researchers say humans need true solitude, away from texts and Twitter, in order to understand their own behavior and experiences.
18. Start conducting weekly reviews. One great habit is a weekly review to look back at the past week and lay out the one coming up. Use these three questions: 1). What went well last week? (Celebrate and continue these.) 2). What didn’t go well? (Stop, overcome, or remove these from your plate.) 3). Based on the answers above, what changes do I need to make to make this week better?
19. Start appreciating failure. Here’s some advice to a twenty-two-year-old who wants to know the best way to invest time: Fail. Merely out of our teens this is the best thing that can contribute in the making of an adult. The more we fail, the more we learn. Failing productively involves trying lots of new things, failing in a safe space, and being prepared to ditch your plan if it’s just not working out.
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