You will never be more invincible than you are right now. Your 20's are years of more freedom, discovery, and energy than ever. However, this untethered attitude can lead us 20-somethings to do some pretty stupid things.
Hopefully we can learn from these mistakes – and the mistakes of others, if we’re wise enough – and set a positive tone for each decade to come. Below is a list of the top things we should all avoid in our 20’s. Just a few tips to help us emerge as wise, happy, fulfilled, well-adjusted 30-somethings.
In no particular order, Avoid …
For our fast-paced, high-tech generation, it is easier than ever to miss the forest for the trees and overwhelm ourselves with events, plans, and projects. Somanypartiesthisweekendaaaah! And to what end? Make it a regular habit to take deliberate pauses during the day and during the week to calm down, and be grateful for one thing in your life. Learning mindfulness techniques will help you fully experience your days in a much richer way than the average 20-something. So … STOP. Collaborate. Listen.
2. The Gimmes
You may feel invincible, but the world does not revolve around you. Our generation is not known for our humility. Get over yourself, perhaps by choosing a cause that you deem worthy – whether or not it’s trendy – and truly dig in. Don’t just show up casually at chapter meetings or pick two Saturdays a year to volunteer. Put aside part of your paycheck every week to donate directly. Make this cause your cause, and not for any brownie points.
You think cliques are just for high schoolers? Think again. Join clubs and teams and have tight groups of friends, absolutely. However, if these groups trend toward exclusion or discrimination, it may be time to take a step back and assess the situation.
4. A low ranking on your own priorities list
That is, don’t give up on investing in yourself and your health, just because you’re feeling pretty good now. Our generation is set to become the first in history that dies younger than our parents. We can reverse this trend! Your 20’s are your time to form healthy habits and the health you build now will serve you in 30 years. Pay a little more for healthy foods, and pay a little less for junk. Give up smoking and soda while you still can (and let’s be real, you really can’t afford them anyway). Buy a high-quality face wash, because what you put ON your body matters too. Invest in nice underwear. For yourself.
5. Ignoring your spirituality
Many 20-somethings see religion as something for their parents or grandparents. We’ll decide someday who God is, but we don’t have time to think about that now, right? But taking time to figure out who God is and how you will relate to this Being is one of the healthiest things that you can do for yourself, and can be a core building block for becoming your best self. So, spend some quality time facing this question boldly and humbly.
6. Relying too much on your parents
Thank them for all the ways they’ve supported you, but do your own taxes. In fact, mail THEM homemade cookies.
7. Small horizons
Sure, you may be safe & comfy in your friend group or awesome job (Health insurance! Score!) or familiar city. However, you will never have as few attachments and responsibilities as you do now. Travel. Travel alone, too. Outside the USA. For at least a month. To at least one country on the State Department’s Travel Advisory list. Take the Great American Roadtrip with friends. This experience will teach you more about yourself and humanity than almost anything else ever. As a nomad on a boat crossing the Gambia River once told me, “Travel while you’re still young, stupid, and broke.”
Avoid as much as possible. With the high cost of education, our generation will inevitably be saddled with school loans and credit card payments which severely limit our freedom. We can avoid this by paying off our student loans as early as possible. And it is important to establish GOOD credit. So if you get a credit card, then pay it off every month. And not with another credit card. Even if that means skipping out on a happy hour per week, or a latte every other day. Invest that money towards your freedom. See #7.
It’s time to forgive all those jerks who hurt you in high school (and elementary school). Spend time actively forgiving old lovers and betrayers, even if they never know. Don’t allow them to dictate your feelings into your adult life. They may have darkened your past, but from this moment forward, they are no longer allowed to own part of your future. And most important: Forgive yourself for past failures.
11. Becoming too dependent on technology
Have a backup plan for your passwords and important documents. Computers still crash. Especially, when you’re almost done writing your thesis.
12. Going to an 18+ club after age 25
Also, see #9.
13. Guarding your heart too much
There’s nothing like love/heartbreak in your 20’s. Be wise, of course, but now is not the time to be shy. Also, have a summer romance.
14. Wasting your time on romantic relationships that don’t contribute to the person you want to become
Here, try this:
LIST 1 - Write a list of the qualities you want to cultivate in your 20’s. (I want to be more responsible with my money. I want to figure out my spirituality. I want to be more mindful of how I treat my body, etc.)
LIST 2 - Now, write a list of the qualities you want in a mate with two columns: qualities they MUST have (Shares my views on marriage and family.), and BONUS qualities that are not essential (billionaire.)
How does your person measure up to List 2? How do they contribute to List 1? Be honest.
16. Losing the important friendships
Our relationships never flux more than these years when our lives seem to be in constant upheaval. However, make it a priority to call your besties and your siblings and your mentors. These are the relationships that will last you into the next few decades.
18. Microwaving your food in plastic.
19. Being in such a rush to grow up
Don’t waste your youth on money. Don’t be so quick to join the 9-5 rat race. There will be plenty of time for that later. Take a gap year. Go do something with few strings attached and spend some time thinking about #5, 10, and 14.
As corny as this sounds, this is your moment to plot your own course for the next 60, 70, 80 years. (Unless you keep microwaving in plastic … then maybe just 50). Don’t be scared to think a little broadly. This month, sit down and write a list of the 30 things you want to do before you’re 30.