Clinical psychologist Meg Jay has famously argued that your 20s are your defining decade. She believes that twenty-somethings have been fed misinformation, making them look at their 20s as a throwaway decade. She wants you to realize that the decisions you make now are crucial for the rest of your life. 80% of life’s “defining” moments happen by age 35. 70% of lifetime wage growth occurs during the first ten years of a career.
Color me skeptical about the idea that your 20s must be the defining moment of your life. And yet, I feel like the overall message of her book is on point. If traveling the world is what you want to do during your 20s, do it. If you want to learn a language, do it. If you want to launch a startup, do it. But whatever you choose, be mindful of it.
In other words: how can you move towards your goals during your 20s? I’ll share a few ideas to get you started.
Build Your Emotional Strength
When it comes to dealing with setbacks and hardship, we all cope in different ways. But some of us buckle under the pressure more than others. This is why improving your response early on is a good idea.
Learn to identify your emotions. Recognize your coping style. E.g. some people react to stress by freezing; others respond with flight, by leaving their job, partner, or city. Work with those impulses rather than take decisions blindly. And remember Buddha’s famous saying: “It is your resistance to ‘what is’ that causes your suffering.” You don’t choose what happens, but you can control how you perceive it.
Assume Positive Intent
Former CEO of Pepsico, Indra Nooyi, said this was the best advice she ever received:
Whatever anybody says or does, assume positive intent… When you assume negative intent, you’re angry. If you take away that anger and assume positive intent, you will be amazed. Your emotional quotient goes up because you are no longer almost random in your response. You don’t get defensive. You don’t scream. You are trying to understand and listen because, at your basic core, you are saying, “Maybe they are saying something to me that I’m not hearing.”
Giving people the benefit of doubt allows you to better navigate work relationships and avoid misunderstandings with friends and family. Assuming positive intent makes it easier for everyone to engage in a productive conversation rather than getting defensive. And with trust, you’ll attract people who are whole, healthy, and ready to treat you with the respect you deserve.
Write Down Your Future in Broad Strokes
Writing your dreams and thoughts on a piece of paper forces you to organize and get specific with your thoughts. Writing things down doesn’t just help you remember, it makes your mind more efficient by helping you focus on the truly important stuff. And your dreams should definitely qualify as truly important stuff.
Those are just a few ideas to think about. Share this article with your friends if you think they could find it useful.