Your twenties: the era when you’ve got to make moves, but all you want to do is chill. And by chill I don’t just mean spend hours on Netflix, I mean thrill seeking, whether it be fraternity parties, nights spent at bars or that music festival coming up.
I convince myself that my twenties are the years for memory making, the crazy stories I may or may not want to tell my kids. But the truth is, although fun until the hangover hits, this isn’t the sort of “finding yourself” we should be doing, at least not in large doses.
So here they are, 20 things that will build self-awareness and set you up for the future.
1. Keep a book by your bedside and read it before bed instead of falling asleep to Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest.
There is something still one-dimensional about what we can learn from these websites. We’re shortening our attention spans. When was the last time you actually did the assigned reading for class? Maybe if we spent more time settling our minds into books, it would have a positive impact on our studies.
2. Open yourself up to the world around you.
Watch movies with subtitles, follow international blogs and read travel books. Being cultured is cool.
3. Stop giving chances to people who don’t treat you how you want to be treated.
In college, we cross paths with a lot of different types of people, some of whom don’t treat us as well as we’d like. As we mature, we learn not to fall for the people who don’t see our value. We also learn what it means to be the kind of person we want in a partner.
4. Start to take responsibility for the holes you dig yourself instead of looking for others to rescue you.
I need to take my own advice on this one. That means not calling my dad when I need “emergency” money for spring break in Cabo. Learning to become self-sufficient is a big step.
5. Time is space; learn how to design your space.
Find out how to manage your time efficiently. College is the perfect time to master time management because we’re often juggling work with school and internships. Wake up every morning and write a short list of what you want to accomplish that day. I’m an avid list maker, and getting everything out of my cluttered headspace and onto paper really helps.
6. Start reading The New York Times (or any respectable news outlet for that matter).
You don’t have to make it a daily thing, but try to skim the headlines of The New York Times on a regular basis. Being informed about what’s going on in the world can instantly boost your credibility.
7. Ignite your fire for the causes you believe in.
Tap into what you’re passionate about. What type of “giving” makes you the happiest?
8. Mind Map it out.
You may still be thinking, WTF am I going to do with my life? Sometimes it helps to look at a bigger picture. I learned the mind mapping technique from one of my professors; it’s great for brainstorming. Start in the middle with what makes you happy and work your way out.
9. Start to develop your personal aesthetic.
The teenage years are for following the trends. Your twenties are the time to discover your own personal style, whether it’s fashion or interior design. Seek inspiration in art galleries, magazines and blogs.
10. Constantly change up your environment.
Maybe it’s just going to the independent coffee shop instead of Starbucks or taking a trip from Arizona to the beach. Norman Parkinson, a celebrated photographer said, “never fall asleep in the car because you may miss an opportunity to be inspired”. Our minds are like cameras trying to capture as much of the world as we can. In the end, you don’t want a roll of repetitive film.
11. Venture outside your typical crowd.
If you’re Greek, reach out to non-affiliated classmates once in a while to see what they’re involved with on campus. I know it sounds crazy to imagine a world outside of Greek life.
12. Connect with a mentor in the field you’re interested in pursuing.
Don’t be afraid to chat with a professor you idolize over coffee or during office hours. They may be the key to new career or internship opportunities.
13. Ask more questions.
Exercise your curiosity; converse with strangers. Whether it’s an Uber driver or someone in line to board the plane with you, everyone has a story or perspective to share.
14. Develop your people skills.
Knowing how to communicate the best version of yourself is crucial in all areas of life. Learn to move people with a speech or knock that interview out of the park. Also listening is just as important; practice becoming a better listener. You have two ears and only one mouth.
15. Invest in a mature wardrobe.
Try to break out of crop tops and denim cut offs once in a while. You have no idea how much of an impression your attire has on employers. And dressing well can definitely improve your confidence. It’s time to discard the G-shock and opt for a real watch.
16. Save money from each paycheck for needs you’re not able to conceive of right now.
You should always put a portion of your paycheck in savings for a rainy day. Strive to never be in debt. If you start saving now you could avoid having a mortgage over your head.
17. Know your flaws and focus on ways to improve rather than being insecure about them.
Always strive to better yourself. Consider your flaws to be a natural part of you. If it’s not something you’re willing to embrace, work to fix it.
18. Travel, study abroad, or move to a foreign place
As cliché as it sounds, we all should experience a different cultural perspective. Americans are often criticized for living in our own bubble and traveling is a great way to break out of this.
19. Hang out with kids under the age of four.
Young kids can teach you a lot about creativity, imagination and whether or not you want to deal with your own in the future.
20. Learn about food.
Get to know the labels of products and what’s in them. Pay attention to what foods react well to your body and what leave you feeling sluggish. Invest in a cookbook and build a repertoire of recipes you’ve learned through trial and error. Experiment with different cuisine and go grocery shopping at a foreign grocer.