If you’re in your twenties, it’s possible you feel torn. Some people are telling you that you have “all the time in the world” while others are pressuring you to make big decisions. It’s difficult to know what exactly you’re supposed to do with this decade.
Neither camp is completely right and neither is completely wrong either. Your twenties are a time of exploration and self-discovery (yes, that means it’s okay to make mistakes), but if you want to lay the groundwork for your future, you shouldn’t resign yourself to just wandering aimlessly through 10 years of your life.
Instead, it’s essential that you use these years to grow both personally and professionally. That doesn’t mean you have to have everything figured out when you blow out the candles on your 30th birthday cake, but you should be able to reflect on this decade and look back on it as a period of significant growth.
Why Saying “30 is the New 20” is Dangerous
While people throwing around the phrase “30 is the new 20” are likely doing so in fun and to reduce the pressure many young people feel, this saying can have hazardous consequences. If you trivialize your twenties and see this decade as an extended adolescence, you might be tempted to drift through it without any real plan.
However, the opportunity to learn and grow during this period of your life shouldn’t be minimized. Biologically, it’s a time to capitalize on your openness and malleability.
During your twenties, your brain is still developing. Research by the Young Adult Development Project at MIT revealed that the prefrontal cortex, which is the part of your brain associated with problem-solving and decision-making, is still maturing at this age making this an optimal time for adaptation. If you want to change something about yourself, you’ll never be more flexible to do so than in your twenties.
What to Focus on in Your Twenties
Your twenties are a time for exploring life with purpose, learning about yourself, and growing into the person you want to be. To make the most of this decade, you should have some sense of direction. At minimum, it’s imperative you understand what you do (and don’t do) during these years will significantly impact your future.
Take a deep breath. No one is trying to overwhelm you, but rather, encourage you to approach your twenties mindfully. Unsure where to start? Begin with writing down your goals and dreams. Where do you see yourself in five years? Ten years? Knowing where you want to be in the future will give you direction in the present.
If you’re having trouble picturing life in your thirties and beyond, then there are actions you can take now that your future self will thank you for regardless of the path you end up choosing. For example, start taking care of your health (both physical and mental) in your twenties. Find types of exercise that you enjoy, learn how to cook for yourself, and make reading books a habit.
Similarly, get your finances in order. Start saving for retirement and work toward paying off your student loans. Choosing a default paying option can help boost your credit score, which will put you in a good position for big purchases down the road. Learning fiscal responsibility, such as spending less than you earn, is an important part of your twenties.
How to Grow Personally and Professionally
Perhaps someone has already told you that these are “the best years of your life.” While you should certainly prioritize exploring and learning, don’t put pressure on yourself to make this decade the most thrilling one of your existence. Setting out to do so would overwhelm just about anyone. Seeking personal and professional growth is much more manageable.
Look at your twenties as a chance to experiment with jobs and relationships. If you’re unhappy, have the courage to try something different. By the same token, refrain from viewing commitment (whether to a career or a relationship/friendship) as giving up your freedom. You don’t want to limit yourself, but you also shouldn’t turn your back on something good simply because you think you might find something better.
You’re probably starting to see that your twenties are a balancing act. It’s a pivotal time in your life, and society is telling you all the things you “should” be doing. But, if you focus on just one thing in your twenties, let it be your personal growth. Even when the years of gen-ed and core curriculum requirements are behind you, get in the habit of learning.
Learn about alternate viewpoints. Learn how to manage your time. Learn a new hobby. Learn how to say “no.” Learn that it’s impossible to know everything.
From learning about yourself and the world around you to dreaming about and working toward the future, your twenties are an important time for growth. Without putting too much pressure on yourself, the best way to make the most of this decade is utilizing a mindful approach toward personal and professional development.