Success is not just about keeping your credit pristine and marrying a trophy spouse. Defined broadly, it is about living a fulfilling, personally meaningful life that makes you happy.
Of course, when you’re in your twenties, it’s hard to know what that really means. Sometimes, you think you know, only to have Life slap you back down with a humbling reality check.
What can you do in your twenties to set a foundation for a life well-lived? The specific details will be different for everyone, but the following list will point you in the right direction.
If you want to find success, broadly defined, and enjoy it till you’re old and gray, implement this advice as a twenty-something. Before you know it, people will start saying you are wise beyond your years.
1. Travel your heart out.
If you have the means to explore different countries – or know how to even without the means – do it. Travel widely and engage with people wherever you go. Speak to people of diverse races and backgrounds. Kick it with the rich and the poor. Learn about the experiences of the opposite sex. Sample unfamiliar cultures. Get lost in translation.
Learn to be comfortable outside your comfort zone. Having a planetary perspective and the ability to communicate with many different kinds of people are major assets in a globalized world.
2. Resolve your childhood issues.
Some people have constructive, loving upbringings. Others have awful, empty, traumatizing childhoods. Many more have middle-of-the-road experiences. Form a realistic understanding of your own upbringing, accounting for the fact that your parents were, after all, mere flawed humans.
If you have unresolved childhood issues, parental or not, face them head on. Feel all the feelings, forgive if applicable, and then let it go. Don’t wait until your 30s or 40s to resolve your issues. Plenty of people have tried, only to find themselves miserable and confused as older adults.
If you fail to work through inner conflicts when you’re young, they will only fester and bug you later in life at the most inconvenient time. And you just might find yourself repeating some of the same mistakes that were made when you were young.
3. Embrace failure, mistakes, and self-love.
Regret is pointless and fully optional. Instead of regretting your mistakes, recognize that most are extremely valuable if you come to understand them. Life is not about making as few errors as possible; it’s about learning from as many of them as possible.
Get married too early? Get a divorce and start over fresh. It’s an option for a reason. Get burned by back-stabbing ‘friends’? Pocket the lesson and employ higher standards next time. Get drunk, lose your wallet, and end up in jail with a black eye? Review the nefarious incident, forgive yourself, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
4. Don’t settle down.
Especially if you get a good corporate job early on, it can be tempting to conclude that it’s time to ‘settle down.’ Don’t do it! Instead, try out multiple jobs and industries without worrying about finding the perfect one right away. Try not to make all your work decisions exclusively about money.
Your twenties are a golden and time-limited opportunity to think outside the box. It’s your last best chance to experiment with your interests, explore unusual career options, dabble in different industries, and broaden your horizons. Diverse work experiences will help you identify what you truly enjoy doing, and they’ll make you look more impressive on paper, too. Many employers like to see someone with experience-honed maturity and a broad-based skill set.
5. Learn time and money management skills.
From both a personal and business perspective, there are few abilities as useful as time and money management. If you can master the delicate art form of planning ahead, budgeting your time and financial resources, and practicing dependability early on, you will save yourself boatloads of stress over the course of your life. You’ll become a better employee, parent, friend, and lover.
6. Acknowledge your privileges.
In this world, equality is an ideal, not an everyday reality. Some people are more privileged than others. Nearly everyone has benefited from some amount of privilege; there’s always some one worse off. The idea is not to feel guilty for your privileges, but to account for them and, when possible, compensate for them. That can be as simple as giving a person a break when they’re down and out.
Recognizing the ways in which you have been enriched by happenstance and society will greatly inprove your personal maturity and social skills. You will develop a more realistic and compassionate perspective that will pay back lifelong dividends in your ability to successfully and ethically engage with other people.
7. Develop balance.
There is a tendency to burn the midnight oil in your twenties. And hey, if you can’t party hard in you’re young, when can you? There’s nothing necessarily wrong with partying, experimenting with different substances, or losing sleep to have weird adventures with friends. Get it out of your system, but realize that your body won’t calmly accept abuse forever. Your youth is the best time to learn the importance of moderation and sustainably.
In the long run, you will find more success by practicing a balanced lifestyle. If you find yourself drunk or high a majority of your waking hours, give sober socializing a try. If you tend to bury yourself in work and avoid socializing, strike out and let your hair down every once in a while. Whatever you do too much of, find a way to balance it out.
8. Practice targeted responsibility.
There are so many rules facing you in your twenties. Do this, don’t do that. The truth is, some rules are meant to be broken and some aren’t. You’ll enjoy a richer life experience if you learn to recognize which ones are which on the fly. Some rules that are totally worth obeying include: Practice safe sex. Don’t steal from other people. Avoid crack and PCP. Never be mean to children.