“Any recent college grad mired in a quarter-life crisis or merely dazed by the freedom of post-collegiate existence should consider it required reading.”
-Slate.com, Staff Pick
The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter — And How to Make the Most of Them Now by Meg Jay, PhD, is an excellent guide for navigating your 20s. There are three main sections in the book, and each section has multiple chapters to deal with individual circumstances. These case studies help give practical examples of problems 20-somethings face, and the author’s advice for each.
Well worth the time to read, and I highly recommend for anyone in their 20s or approaching their 20s. Below are my notes, broken down by each section of the book.
Many of the authors clients struggled with unemployment, (nearly 25% of 20-somethings are unemployed) or underemployment. Working a job that you are overqualified for, is underemployment.
Both Unemployment and underemployment are common, and are pitfalls to avoid. A study found unemployment may lead to eventual alcoholism.
Good jobs are not typically found on job boards, but through what the author calls “weak ties.”
Weak ties are people you “sort of” know. These people are high school or college classmates or friends that you haven’t talked to in a while. These “weak ties” are responsible for helping many 20-somethings land jobs that can develop into careers.
Optimize learning over salary. Don’t take the lucrative job that is a dead end job — instead take the job that can teach you new skills.
Entering the work world you should expect to be anxious about the work you are doing and feel incompetent — if you don’t you are underemployed.
We imagine that we will enter into a job and immediately add value or be taken seriously. This is not the case; it will take years of experience.
“Follow your passion” and “do what you love” are bad advice. You can’t realistically understand what you love or are passionate about until you try something. Your understanding is based largely on opinion and conjecture until you learn first-hand — you can’t think your way into clarity, or your “passion.”
When it comes to beating the competition, your resume is not the deal breaker. Those who can tell a good story about who they are and what they want will win.
Most 20-somethings feel that their life should look perfect on Facebook, and assume that their peers are much happier than they really are. 80% of Facebook users use it for “social surveillance.”
Who you spend the rest of your life with will impact your happiness more than any other major decision.
Dating down or “settling” is common: a kind of musical chairs where you marry whoever you are dating at the time when you turn 30. Take the time to write out the qualities that you want in a mate, and view dating as a serious undertaking and learning experience.
People love those who are like themselves: you will be attracted to others who are similar to your age, religion, attitudes, attractiveness, values, intelligence, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status. The Big Five personality traits is a useful guide to gauge similar others.
Photo Credit: GoodPsychology
Marrying before age 25 increases risk of divorce; after 25, age no longer predicts divorce.
75% of 20 year old’s believe that moving in together before marriage is a good way to avoid divorce. The cohabitation effect claims that couples who live together first are less satisfied with their marriage and more likely to divorce than couples who do not.
When you are choosing a mate, you are also choosing their family. Make sure you keep in mind that you are picking and creating your family which will define the decades ahead.
Traveling in a third-world country with your partner is the closest thing to getting married and having kids. Since you can’t get away from each other, it can make or break the relationship.
Work on your marriage before you are in it.
The Brain and The Body
The brain changes in response to the environment, and in your 20s it is finishing its final growth spurt. At no other time in your life can you learn as quickly and easily as in your 20s.
The brain keeps the neurons and connections that are used and those that are neglected die off. The, “use it or lose it” saying is not a myth.
A growth mindset — believing that you can change, success can be achieved, and failures are opportunities for improvement — is conducive to reaching your desired outcomes.
A fixed mindset — believing you have it or you don’t — leads to disappointment, distress, shame, and less confidence.
A longitudinal study showed that growth mindset individuals, when faced with adversity, tried new strategies and worked harder, while those with fixed mindsets, gave up.
Increased goal-setting in the twenties led to greater purpose, mastery, agency, and well-being in the thirties.
Goals are the building blocks of adult personality — who you will be in your thirties and beyond is being built out of the goals you set today.
Managing fertility is a race against time. The late 20s is the time fertility peaks. Fertility starts to decline at 30, and by 35, a woman’s ability to carry a child drops considerably. By 40, fertility is rare.
Fertility treatments are possible, but very expensive, and increase in cost as you get older.
Write down what you want in your thirties, forties, or sixties, and work backward from there. This plan of working backwards will allow you to live the life you want.
Don’t let yourself be defined by your past, decide what you want now, and for the future.