If you’re in your twenties, congratulations! You’ve already come so far—you’ve survived the teen years and are now an adult. But with your 20s, as with every other decade of life, comes new challenges and struggles that can be hard to navigate on your own. That’s why it’s important to learn some valuable lessons from the experiences you have in your 20s, even if you don’t think you need to yet.
Here are 10 lessons you should learn in your 20s to set yourself up for a lifetime of success.
1. Time is precious
You’ll never get a minute back. Every year in your twenties should be used as an opportunity to learn something new, push your limits and make progress toward your goals. It may sound obvious, but there’s a good chance you won’t feel like you are making progress during each passing year. That’s why it’s important to recognize when you are learning and growing, even if it doesn’t feel like much at first.
Take time to reflect on how far you’ve come instead of just looking at where you haven’t gone yet. If we could all spend our twenties so dedicated to self-improvement and personal growth, we’d all be better off for it.
2. Dreams require sacrifice
As a 20-something, you might feel invincible—and with good reason. The world is yours for the taking and you probably have more energy than you know what to do with. But dreams don’t come easily; they require an investment of time and effort—sometimes years of it—before you see results. If achieving something in your 20s seems difficult, think about how bad it will feel if you don’t even try!
3. Stop caring what people think
One of my favorite quotes is from Dr. Seuss, who wrote those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind. If you find yourself fretting over what others think of you, remember that not everyone cares about your business. And if they do? They might actually be rooting for you to succeed rather than trying to bring you down!
When you learn to stop caring about what people think, it can be one of your most powerful tools for career success. It’s also a good idea to remember that we all care what other people think in some way or another; it just doesn’t make sense to let them get in our way.
4. Embrace Failure
Failure is something that we all must embrace, even if we don’t like it. No one likes failing but as Henry Ford once said: Failure is simply a stepping stone to success. Even some of history’s most successful people have had moments of failure. The key is learning from those failures and taking them into account so that you can improve on them in future endeavors.
If you don’t embrace failure, then you aren’t truly pushing yourself to be better than you are right now; you will stay stagnant and that means your ultimate potential won’t be reached.
5. Things don't work out for a reason
When you’re young, it’s very easy to pin every negative situation on some external source of negativity—your parents, your boss, your ex. But even though these people can make life difficult sometimes, things usually don’t work out for a reason. Accepting that bad things happen to good people is one of life’s greatest challenges.
The sooner you learn that not everything goes your way all of the time, you’ll be able to accept and move on from tough situations more quickly—and focus on building happier relationships and a brighter future.
6. Start saving money
If you’re in your twenties, you should already be saving money for retirement (at least a little bit!). It seems like an obvious concept, but saving for retirement early is one of most important things to do if you want to live comfortably in your later years. Start by establishing a consistent savings habit—something that takes less than five minutes a day.
Aim to save at least 15 percent of your income and make sure you’re getting a good return on your investments. When it comes time to retire, having a healthy nest egg will certainly make living well easier. So, start saving now—no matter how old you are!
7. Your friend will change
As you grow up, your friends will change not because you don’t care, but because you are growing. When you’re 20, your closest friends are often fellow 20-somethings. They go to bars with you, watch movies with you, and take road trips together. As we get older, though, our best friends change. They might have kids and their lives become more complicated; they may move away or start taking different career paths.
In your thirties and forties and beyond, these people are suddenly replaced by different types of friends—people who have children around your kids’ ages or a colleague you really hit it off with at work—that help teach us valuable lessons that we wouldn’t necessarily learn from just being young.
8. You're going to feel lost
When you’re an adult, one of your greatest fears is feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing. For example, if there’s a problem at work and someone asks you how to handle it, you’ll want to feel like you have a firm grasp on how things should be handled. But when we step into our twenties and try our hands at real-world jobs, most of us will experience that familiar feeling—that we really have no idea what we’re doing.
Don’t let self-doubt cause you to question your ability to take care of yourself; everyone goes through periods of feeling lost during their twenties. It’s part of learning how to become an adult and defining who we are as individuals in relation to our work environments.
9. Love yourself
It’s easy to look at our flaws and things we should be doing and become upset with ourselves for not being perfect. Try not to get down on yourself; you are young and growing! Focus on your strengths, accept your weaknesses, continue to learn from past mistakes, and let them help make you into a better person.
When it comes to making big decisions (such as choosing a major or career), know that if you do something that ultimately doesn’t turn out right—whether it is right for you or not—you will have another 20 years of opportunities in front of you. So go ahead: try new things; learn more about who you are; fall flat on your face; and then try again.
10. Don't give up
If you don’t remember anything, remember this:
Never give up. Keep going, it’s worth it.
Research shows it takes anywhere from seven to twenty-one times of attempting a new behavior for it to become automatic. That’s right: It may be hard in the beginning, but keep at it and eventually you’ll start getting more out of life. All you need is three seconds of courage, said former professional basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in his book Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court (coauthored with Kip Roush). It takes guts to have confidence in yourself when no one else does. But that is exactly what successful people do every day, he wrote.