The life of twenty-somethings is all about balance. We struggle to balance our short-term and long-term goals because this chapter of our lives is often incredibly unstable, uncertain, and unknown.
Many of us are high school graduates, college alumni, entry level professionals, and possibly grad school bound. We are millennials, which most commonly means we are discovering ourselves, the things we feel passionate about, and ultimately how we want to build the foundation for the rest of adulthood.
Being a young professional and member of Generation Y often feels limitless and limiting at the same time. On the one hand, the world is our oyster and in 2016 it seems twenty-somethings can enter any career path or create their own through entrepreneurship.
Conversely, the number of graduates from each field each year makes the job market unbelievably competitive, making it challenging for us to secure an entry level job with our college degrees. Where’s the balance there?
Ultimately, our lives at this stage orbit around our short-term goals and the achievements we hope to accomplish in the long-term. The decisions we make during this chapter of self-discovery and early experience have potential to impact the rest of adulthood.
During our twenties we are free, young, experimental, and creative. We have the ability to dabble in different fields, explore our interests, and consider opportunities before making a firm commitment. These luxuries, however, can affect our experiences later, making the stretch of our twenties a critical time to improve ourselves.
Here are ten ways to improve yourself during your 20s:
1. Take big risks. The stretch of your twenties is probably going to be the most autonomous, independent decade you’ll ever have. Right now there’s no rush to have children, get married, or commit to a thirty year mortgage. Take big risks in other ways, such as dating around, studying abroad in a foreign country, moving for a new job, or applying to grad school. You’ll have plenty of time to settle down after you’ve experienced some independence.
2. Save money. Right now your bills should be fairly small. Student loans aside, your cost of living should be minimal and reserved for things like rent, electricity, groceries, and gasoline. Don’t blow through your paycheck by purchasing unnecessary toys, clothes, gadgets, or “stuff”. Choose to tuck a decent percentage (5%, 10%, 20%) of each check into your savings if you can. Your future self will thank you, later!
3. Gain experiences. Whether it’s in the form of an internship or your first entry level job after college, acquire experience to beef up your resume and help polish your craft. The only way to know what you want to do for a career is to experience it first hand. On paper, job descriptions are vague and generalized. By working in the daily routine you’ll get a feel for what’s required and your experiences will grow.
4. Get organized. The best way to figure out what your goals are is by writing them down and tracking steps you can take to reach them. Get yourself organized by purchasing a planner, making an organizational chart, or marking your calendar. Hold yourself accountable for each step required to get you from Point A to Point B. Checking off and marking your progress will help you visualize your goals and see results.
5. Respect your elders. Older relatives, mentors, family friends, and supervisors have a fountain of advice to share. Understand that when your elders are giving you advice, sometimes it’s actually sound guidance that can help direct you. Our elders have already been where we are during their youth, and while they may not always have the answer, their experiences can certainly help us explore our options.
6. Read more. Even after college and grad school, reading should remain a part of your daily routine. Reading not only keeps your mind sharp, but also has many educational benefits. Read nonfiction just as much as novels. There are so many fantastic reads about self-discovery, twenty-something development, career advice, and relationship help. We all could use some unbiased opinions, and reading is the perfect way to do that.
7. Master the art of listening. We tend to get carried away with speaking during conversations, and sometimes as consequence we forget to listen. Make it your personal mission to listen to others more, without the intent of answering or responding. This skill is especially good practice for future careers. By being a good listener you’ll become a more analytical thinker and can avoid making rash decisions without hearing pros and cons from others.
8. Be confident. Confidence is not something we are all gifted with, and for some of us summoning the confidence to make a decision, put ourselves out there, or just seem more bold can be intimidating. Confidence must come from within. There’s no external measure you can take to find the inner confidence deep inside you. Learn to believe in who you are. It takes time, but when you are happy with yourself, proud of your achievements so far, and excited about life you really will learn to be confident inside and out.
9. Choose happiness. The best way to live life (any life) is to choose to be happy every single day. Even at our worst, there’s always a silver lining. Choose happiness because ultimately only you can love who you are and the life you’re living. There’s no secret recipe for having the perfect life. It’s all about defining what happiness means to you and working hard every day to make it happen.
10. Never stop growing. Though in many ways your twenties is the most influential and defining decade of all, growing doesn’t magically stop on your thirtieth birthday. We learn new things and grow in new ways every single day of our entire lives. There’s no need to feel like who you are by the time you turn thirty is who you will be forever because your twenties are so critical. Yes, this chapter sets the foundation, but we all grow, change, and learn endlessly.
Improving yourself during your twenties happens in a variety of ways and is different for everyone. Some of us need to work on our confidence, while others are struggling to define goals and save money. We all have areas where we shine and other places we could use some TLC.
Don’t be afraid if you’re still growing. We all have spots we need to polish to become our best self. At the end of the day, the best way to improve yourself is by being true to who you are. Choose to be YOU.