What to expect in your 20s
Updated: Mar 13
If you're in your late teens and heading into your 20s or new to your 20s and feeling confused and lost, this article is for you. We will be exploring what your current reality most likely looks like, what you think your 20s have in store and what the world of adulthood will be and then looking at the hard facts of what it actually is.
What is your current reality
If you're in your late teens, getting ready to finish off High School or a young adult in your early 20s studying or working in a starting position at some business, big or small, what you are most likely experiencing and still not fully aware off is how outlined and pre-determined your current reality and environments are.
As a teen, your school life is telling you when you have what classes, when to have a break and for how long that break should be. You know who teaches what and where to go if you need to ask something. When you get home, you know you can make lunch from whatever is in the kitchen, you know you have to do your homework and you can watch TV or play video games afterwards.
If you're studying or working, you will have a similar outline, you know when your classes are or when your shift starts and, you most likely still live with your parents that has the same household set up as it did in your early to late teens. If you moved out in your early 20s you most likely still have your parents fully involved in financial and legal issues and highly dependent on your decisions on the advice given by them or lecturers or your boss.
If you're either getting ready for the adult world while in your teens or newly entering it in your early 20s, you are most likely fully aware of the amount of freedom you are starting to get. You get to make your own decisions, you determine when you complete your tasks with minimal control from outside factors on things such as your time, transport and free time activities. You might even eat McDonalds more often than your mom would allow you back in the day.
In short, you're either already going balls to the walls or strongly getting ready to and probably thrilled to finally be getting behind the wheel that drives your life. There's absolutely nothing wrong with this.If anything this, article will be encouraging you to make mistakes and get to know yourself in your 20s, but in the same breath your probably dealing with a lingering sense of fear that "you might not make it" or "what am I going to do with my adult life" or even questioning what it means to actually be or become an adult and what the hell it even means to be mature and how do you know you've reached maturity?
I'm here to tell you that as scary as it might sound, there is no definite answer to these questions and that although it might not sound so great that being confused and overwhelmed right now is exactly where you should be in your 20s it's a good thing. It's a good thing because in the next 10 or so years, you will be getting to know yourself, what you deem worthy of your time, what your actual purpose should be and so on. The video below explores the concept of maturity and how it is perceived and measured over the general human years.
My dad always tells me and my sisters, if you're not confused in your 20s, you're not doing it right. You'r supposed to be confused now so that when you reach your 30s or even 40s, you know what you want out of life and how you are going to get it.
Let's imagine the latter for a moment, lets say your 21 and you know what your doing with your life, have it all figured out, studied a specific field, have a job at a specific company or started your own business in that line of work, your getting married and having kids a little down the line. Everything seems stable. Fast forward to your 30s or 40s and suddenly, you are questioning everything you have done so far and whether or not you did it for the right reasons, whether it is what you truly wanted and maybe even questioning what it is you wanted in the first place.
Now having it figured out early also isn't the end of the world; for some people it works and they are really happy. Kudos to them. But most of the time, we force ourselves into a direction out of fear of the unknown, pre perceived expectations from the people around us and even a hint of global indoctrination.
In reality, your 20s should be focused on trying and exploring many avenues in life. This helps to filter the confusions we have in life because in truth, once you leave your safe and heavily pre constructed environments, being mostly our educational and home environments we slowly realise that its now up to us to shape our own structures and safety. You can only know what you truly, want if you try, explore and try again.
By doing this, along your journey, you will start to learn self-leadership, because as we all know or maybe a little less willing to admit, the hardest person to lead in your life is you. It's easy to shrug off your health plan and eat that extra donut, or sleep in that extra hour. Getting it right to lead ourselves in the direction of what we want to do and figuring out why we are REALLY doing what we are doing, will help us shape our purpose, maybe even help eliminate the guilt we have for not following the crowd in the typical copy and paste direction of go study, get married, get a job, and die.
I don't mean to sound dramatic but this is the reality for a majority of people out there. There is this awesome video on leading yourself well by Andy Stanley which is also below if you would like to watch the full 25-minute video but for those that want a quick summary, continue reading.
Andy Stanley highlights that leading others which is required in different roles we play in life is only as successful as we are at leading ourselves. As he says, the most difficult person to lead we face in the mirror everyday. How we lead the person in the mirror, will demonstrate our ability to lead ourselves to the people who look up to us.
He further elaborates that there are 3-important decisions we have to make on a daily basis to help ourselves lead ourselves well, whether or not you have others looking to you for direction.
I will not LIE to myself, even when the truth makes me feel bad about myself.
He further explains that convincing ourselves of our choices is easier than looking at the truth. He explains that by determining your truth you have to ask yourself the question; "Why am I doing this REALY?".This allows you to fire your inner Lier and employ your honest truth. If your answer to this question makes you feel bad, that's okay because it is better to feel bad about your truth and do something about it, than to do it based on a lie and fast forward to your 30s, 40s and even your death bed to only then realise you have not done what you truly wanted. In other words, not giving in to the instant gratification but rather aligning your decisions and actions with your long term aspirations. This brings us to decision number 2.
I will prioritise what I VALUE most over what I want now.
This decision will require you to be aware of your own values, and there are many ways to go about identifying these values but one that Andy recommends and that I have done myself and found to be very successful in helping me identify my values is by doing the exercise that is also featured in the book "The 7 habits of highly effective people" by Stephen Covey. This exercise encourages you to think of your funeral (a little sad I know) but think of your funeral and specifically think about what it is you want the people that matter to you most and what it is you would want them to say about you. Be it your parents, partner, kids, boss or friends. Knowing what you would want said about you will help you identify what you value most. By knowing what you value most, you will know which direction you want your life to move towards, and you can start to align your short term decisions with your long term aspirations.
I will not attempt to lead myself by myself.
This decision refers to the people around you, Andy explains and although it may sting a little, it did for me, he explains that your worst decisions and failures had a specific set of people in your space that either encouraged your bad decision or did not help you redirect your bad decision. This is because our friends determine the direction and the quality of our lives. I know, not an easy pill to swallow, but if you had to reflect back on any bad decisions you have made, you will most likely be able to identify these individuals. The other truth is that this doesn't end in your teens or young adulthood, this is for life. The big mistake we tend to make is having friends based on common interests, interests do not determine values. Thus when you make the decision to not lead yourself by yourself, make sure that your support, your friends share the same values as you. This way you can be sure that your values align and that they will support you in making the best decisions for yourself. And of course, if you have done the exercise in making decision number 2, you will know what values to look out for.
So, in short, it is important to understand that life phases will introduce new and vastly different chapters in your life, which is okay! it's exciting if anything. The best place to start is to start with something in your field of interest or that aligns with why you are or want to do it REALLY and figure out how you are going to do it along the way, and for some of us we want to know a bit more about what we can do well and what will excite us in life beyond our values. Our values determine our end goal, but knowing how you naturally drive yourself with how you think, feel and behave will help you better align your short term decisions towards that bigger goal.
Being able to do so will help filter the process of eliminating fear and confusion a little quicker, and for myself and so many others, the Clifton Strengths Assessment helped identify our natural energy and need. In other words, what naturally energises and motivates us and what needs we have to satisfy for this natural energy to flow. Understanding yourself better on an internal level can really help shape your external areas in life and what you should potentially focus on to give you a life that is fulfilling and exciting. Not based on what the world says, but based on your internal compass.
If you are interested in taking the assessment and having an awareness session to understand the results in depth then you can get in touch and we can explore what process will work best for you.