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Your 20s are a time of figuring out your blueprint for life. You’re officially an adult, moving beyond the naivety of your teenage years, but not yet entrenched in the responsibilities of adulthood. You’re launching toward your future, full of energy and possibility. But you’re also at an age where the uncertainty and heartaches of life can leave you deflated and drained. So how do you manage all these ups and downs and put yourself on a path to a fulfilling and rewarding life?
You start by building a foundation that will give you the insight, experiences, skills and knowledge you need to become who you’re meant to be. You learn to leverage your talents and build your best life, step by step. Each person will do it differently and each will find a unique path that works for them.
To help you find your path, here is a basic roadmap of things you can do now to help you achieve your ultimate success in the decades to come.
1. Discover your passions.
Your 20s are a time to discover who you are and what you care about. This is when you should be embracing big, audacious ideas and dreams, and using your passions to energize you and propel you forward.
What motivates you? What areas do you feel driven to pursue? This is the decade of your life when you should sink your teeth into projects and work that you care about. Find your purpose and pursue your dreams. You may discover that your ambitions and goals change course over time. But you have to start somewhere. Start big.
2. Build foundational life skills.
No matter what career field you’re pursuing, there are certain foundational skills that will help you succeed. We all need to learn coping skills and how to deal with uncertainty, stress and anxiety. After all, even the best-laid plans can fall through.
Too often, people in their 20s fail to learn the delicate art of respectfully disagreeing with others. You must learn how to stand your ground and defend yourself when necessary. But equally important is learning how to listen to others nonjudgmentally and without jumping to conclusions.
Don’t underestimate the importance of learning how to ask for what you want. If you want something, go after it, and don’t let anything hold you back. Learn how to clearly communicate your expectations and needs to other people, including friends and family.
3. Be open to different paths.
Your 20s are an important time in which to run experiments and figure out what’s important to you, and where your talents and interests intersect. It’s a time to figure out what you’re really good at. To do this, you need to be flexible and open to trying new things out.
You may think you’re cut out to pursue a particular career path, but when it comes down to it, it may not be the job for you. Or maybe you find that your ideas and personality simply mesh better with another area.
Sometimes life throws us for a loop, and we have to think on our feet and allow ourselves to find a new, and possibly even more exciting, path forward. Embrace change and make it your own. Be open to new opportunities and trying out new things.
Strategic networking is a key driver behind increased salaries and career advancement, yet many of us spend our 20s networking haphazardly. Now is the time to begin building strong, mutually beneficial relationships with others who can help you, and whom you can help in turn. No one becomes successful on his or her own. Our friends, colleagues, mentors and acquaintances play important roles in helping us find opportunities.
Approach networking with a plan of action. Ask yourself who you should be meeting. Who are the people that can help you reach your career goals? And what talents and skills do you have to offer them that sets you apart from others?
5. Learn to manage your money.
Your 20s are filled with making big life choices. Will you go to college? What career path will you pursue? But there’s one crucial life choice often overlooked by young adults, and that’s money management. How you handle your money and the decisions you make regarding your finances will affect you now and for decades to come.
For example, a low credit score can keep you from goals such as buying property and attaining business loans. And debt and financial problems can lead to debilitating stress and prevent you from taking opportunities.
Learn to set a budget and control your spending. Set financial goals for yourself, such as how much you’ll put into savings and retirement funds. Doing all this will help you build credit and financial stability, which are foundational to your future success.
6. Cultivate marketable skills.
You should be spending your 20s honing skills that will help you achieve your goals. Increasing your marketable skills will pay off for you now and into the future. These are the kinds of skills that all employers need. No matter what career path you choose, having these abilities is always desirable and helpful. However, note that these skills often require ongoing education and learning.
One area many people overlook is the importance of communication. No matter what field you’re in, being able to convey a message and communicate ideas to others, both in person and through written correspondence, is crucial. Other important job skills include problem solving and persistence, which include being able to come up with a variety of solutions, finding workarounds and having the stamina to see a project through.
7. Find your balance.
There is a tendency to burn the candle at both ends when you’re in your 20s. We’re driven to work hard and get ahead in our careers, but of course we want to enjoy life and have fun, too. There’s nothing wrong with that. However, if you grind hard at work and then socialize and party nonstop in the evenings and on weekends, you may quickly become burned out. You have to find ways to restore your mind and body if you’re going to produce at the highest level and achieve success both personally and professionally.
In the midst of whatever craziness you have going on, seek to create calm and harmony in your day-to-day living. Find ways to achieve balance in the different components of your life so that one area doesn’t consume and overwhelm you. Take note of your mental and physical health, and find an equilibrium that works for you.
8. Push outside your comfort zone.
Your 20s are a decade where you should be taking risks and leaping at opportunities. Yes, finding that reliable job with an established company seems like the responsible thing to do, and sticking close to home and living near family and friends feels safe and secure. But these options will keep you firmly rooted in your comfort zone.
Don’t allow yourself to become entrenched, but be willing to try things that scare you a little and push you beyond your limits. Being willing to take risks can pay off tremendously. Opportunities can bring financial rewards, but more importantly, embracing change can give you valuable experience and insight. Spend your 20s seeking new experiences and being open to doing things differently.
9. Set good habits now.
Many people think their 20s are a time to live free from restraints and worries because the consequences of poor behavior still seem so far away. But this is also the decade when it’s crucial to start setting good habits that will support you in creating a healthy, happy, successful life, long into the future.
Start setting good habits now, such as healthy eating (including adding something green to your diet on a regular basis) and exercising regularly (you may find breaking a sweat gives you a natural high). Avoid adopting bad habits like smoking or drinking in excess. And don’t underestimate the importance of getting enough sleep, because an eight-hour snooze every night will give you the energy to help you accomplish all your goals and feel amazing while you do it.
10. Be persistent.
Any great achievement in your life will come only with hard work and persistence. Working diligently and consistently toward your goals is one of the most important things you can to do in early adult life. This means pushing yourself, never giving up and finding ways to continue to move forward even after failures and mistakes. Persistence is one of the key skills that will lead to success.
It’s so much easier to give up, to do nothing, to relax and forgo responsibility. Persistence requires you to face uncertainty and put yourself in challenging and uncomfortable situations. It requires you to stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone. Ultimately, persistence will create the positive mental mindset necessary to achieve success.