What You Need to Learn in Your 20s

Posted on: November 25th, 2019 in mindset by Pat Mesiti | No Comments

A friend of mine pushing 60 recently told me that he thinks he has never grown up. And he got me wondering, what are ‘life’s markers’ for being a grown-up. Are you meant to move out of home by say age 23? Be married by 35? Buy a property by 40 (at the latest)? Are there certain things that you are meant to achieve by certain ages? Or is it down to the individual as to what you learn and when?

To get an idea of what is expected at different ages I began again with that great reservoir of research information and public thought – the internet. I’m going to write a series of blogs about what you should have learnt or achieved and by what age.

I’ll start with what you should have got out of your 20s. I wonder if you will agree with these ‘recommendations’.

What should you achieve in your 20s?

According to the Huffington Post (a great lifestyle website), in your 20s you should:

1. Pay attention to your mental health.

Huff Post does not advocate positive mental health exercises so much as growing your mind— stimulate it, challenge it, be conscious of what you’re exposing your mind to on a daily basis, and look after yourself. It also recommends being kind to friends and family.

2. Chase your dream job.

Yes, in your 20s you have time to focus on your career so Huff Post say move around and be creative with your career. Now is the time to mess things up, work somewhere you hate and then find a job you like.

3. Travel.

Yes, in your 20s you have fewer ties and travel opens your eyes. The site recommends finding the courage to go it alone.

4. Make time for your friends.

Yes, if you don’t have a partner and children you do have time for friends, and Huff Post says the friends you make in your 20s are important, because if you are lucky you’ll have them for life and they will stick by you through good times and bad. 

5. Live alone.

Living by yourself gives you the chance to get to know yourself. You also learn how to manage your money and take care of yourself.

6. Love yourself and be loved.

Or course your 20s are a time for experimenting with relationships and trying to learn how to be a good partner … some of us are still learning that.

7. Be indulgent.

Don’t’ overdo it, but in your 20s you probably won’t have children to support. It may be the only time in your life when you can splurge and spend some money on you, but I also recommend saving up for property. 

8. Ask questions.

Young people are often afraid to ask questions for fear of appearing stupid. This is the time to stand up for yourself and ask questions. Also value yourself – ask your boss for a pay rise if you deserve one, ask your boyfriend or girlfriend if they are serious about a future or just wasting your time. Ask for what you need – many people later feel short-changed in life because they never asked for what they wanted or needed.

9. Look after yourself.

In your 20s you are drop-dead gorgeous, in your 30s you start to age and in your 40s age is hot on your heels. Establish an exercise regime and stick to it! Exercise at least two to three times a week. Think of this as an investment in your future health.

10. Eat some naughty stuff.

Sorry to break it to you, but by your 30s the kilos start to cling. Now is the only time in your life when you can get away with eating junk food. So exercise and splurge … sometimes!

11. Don’t’ tolerate people who treat you badly.

At school you couldn’t escape the nasty popular kids, who made themselves look good by putting others down. Now you are a grown up, rid yourself of toxic people. Anyone who makes you the butt of jokes, or doesn’t care about you or doesn’t respect you, needs to go!

12. Work out what you want in life.

Don’t run on a treadmill of work, partying, holidaying. Sit down and think what you want to contribute to this world and what you want your future to look like. Where will you be? What will you be doing? Who will you be with?

Ok, now I’m going to take a look at the recommendations of another website, Forbes – this is what they say you ideally should have learned in your 20s.

You will feel lost and dreams require hard work

Forbes says that most people in their 20s at times feel lost and lacking direction. It’s true, life doesn’t come with a road map, but I always tell young people, even if you don’t know what you should do, just do something! Do a building apprenticeship and if that’s not you, change direction later on. Just don’t spend your 20s sitting on the couch looking at your navel.

Nothing in life is handed to you, so Forbes is right in saying if you want to achieve then work really hard.

Stop Caring About What People Think. 

This is so true. Teenagers are acutely hung up about what other people think of them. I had daughters and the amount of grooming they had to do before leaving the house was incredible, but in old age we realise it doesn’t matter what others think. You just need to respect yourself.

Forbes’ other advice was similar to Huff Post’s.

  • Embrace failure 
  • Never give up
  • Don't compare yourself to others 
  • Don't make excuses, but take responsibility for situations
  • Sometimes things don’t work out for a reason (ie accept when things go wrong)
  • Invest in experiences, not things. I believe it is very important you spend your money on new adventures and experience over electronic gadgets or lots of pricey clothes!
  • Save money ASAP. This one is vital, and I also tell people in their 20s to invest in property as soon as they can.
  • Accept that you and your friends will change. I guess in life some people you hold on to and some disappear – and it’s hard to predict who the stayers will be.
  • Everything takes time Yes, young people – Rome was not built in a day.
  • Don’t waste time staring at a screen. (Love that piece of advice!)
  • Time is precious. I don’t think it’s possible to teach young people that. You only learn it with age!

Know you’re enough

You spend much of your 20s feeling insecure and sometimes not worthy of being loved. Unfortunately parents and dysfunction make many people feel like that. And sadly many people often don’t figure out until much later how wonderful they are. When did you learn that?

In my next blog, I look at what you should learn or achieve in your 30s.


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Pat Mesiti is a best-selling author, coach and educator in the area of personal development. Having built some of Australia’s largest people-driven organisations, Pat understands the power of harnessing human potential. He has shared the stage with some of the world’s great business minds and has sold over millions of copies of his books and materials.


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