What My 20s Taught Me About Life

Lessons from a millennial on the eve of the big 3–0

Photo by @clint.images

From ages 25 to 29, most peoples’ lives get a massive shakeup. It’s the years of experimenting and finding yourself —all while juggling new jobs, confusing relationships and big dreams. It moves fast, and the learning curve is steep.

I’m going into my 30s feeling like a completely different person, thanks to all the lessons of my late 20s. And it’s crazy to think how much deeper and more fulfilling this human experience gets with each year that passes, if you’re open to change and growth.

Every year I write this list so that I can see how much has changed, and hopefully share some insights, so here are the top things my 20s taught me;

  • Authentic communication is the best way to level up every area of your life, so tell people how you feel! At the same time, learn when you need to have the uncomfortable conversation, and when it’s better to say nothing.
  • Being honest with yourself about your emotions is the most freeing thing you can do, even if it’s hard and you have to confront sides of your mind that you’d rather ignore. Question the thoughts and feelings that are coming up for you.
  • ‘All or nothing’ thinking is dangerous. Situations are shifting subtly all the time, so when the sh*t hits the fan, it’s better to take a step back and flow, than to overreact and burn bridges for good.
  • Writing is a fantastic way to reinforce ideas, and get mental clarity. Even if you think you’ll remember something, it’s likely you won’t, so get that pen and paper out!
  • Embrace uncertainty – the answers will come exactly when they’re meant to, but only if you don’t force them.
  • Everything exists in opposition. There will be good days and bad days, sunshine and storms. Learn to love the struggle as much as the success, and be at peace knowing relief is always just around the corner.
  • People are often not what they seem. Be curious and make the effort to get to know people who aren’t your ‘type’. You might be pleasantly surprised and it’s from our opposites that we learn the most.
  • If you’re a creative, don’t get so hung up on each project that it stops you from starting again. It’s hard to put your ideas out there into the world, so do it for you and no one else. Create something, reflect, repeat.
  • Hold on to the people and things that get you out of your head, and into the present. Genuine, deep connections are rare. Don’t take them for granted.
  • Distractions are fun, but every now and then, have a break from your attention vices – TV, shopping, drinking – whatever they are. The clarity that comes from the extra space is amazing.
  • Creating boundaries is a necessary skill as an adult. Learn to protect your energy because energy vampires exist, and they will not feel bad about zapping your empathy/ optimism/ kindness.
  • Don’t ever feel like it’s too late to start. Some of the most successful people in the world didn’t really ‘make it’ until their 50s or later. Invest in your passion today and keep at it.
  • For the most part, people are just trying their best. If ever you can’t see the good in the world, be the good! Like attracts like.
  • Reframing negative situations helps you find the growth potential. If everything feels like it’s falling apart, see it as freedom to start afresh, exactly as you want to.
  • The qualities you’re drawn to in other people are often the secret sides of your own personality that you either love or despise. Relationships are big mirrors, reflecting back on us what we’re blind to. Use that knowledge, (especially if someone really annoys you) instead of resisting it.
  • It is 100% true that what comes easy won’t last long, and what lasts long won’t come easy. Don’t run away as soon as things get hard or confusing.
  • If you keep experiencing the same kind of drama or resistance, it’s because you haven’t learnt the lesson you need to yet. Take the time to learn your emotional patterns and triggers.
  • It’s fine, in fact it’s great, to be a contradictory, complex human. Stop explaining yourself all the time and just let people assume incorrectly. Shock people.
  • Sometimes despite your best efforts, it will feel like your life is on pause. Energy ebbs and flows, so take it as a sign to step back. Clear out the old, rest, learn, and quietly prepare yourself for when the energy shifts and momentum is on your side again.
  • In relationships and life, just because someone doesn’t say it, it doesn’t mean they didn’t feel it. And just because they felt it, doesn’t mean they’re aware of it. Acknowledge your own feelings, but be OK with the fact that you can’t control anybody else’s.
  • Trust your gut. People will always show you their true colours, you just have to pay attention.
  • Consistency is far more effective than short term intensity. This applies to absolutely everything. Short bursts feel better than the daily grind but the more you stick to a schedule, the more your brain hardwires that new habit.
  • It can feel very lonely to live your truth until you find the right tribe. Push through it and practice giving to yourself what you’re seeking in others. ‘The cost of seeking approval is abandoning your dreams’.
  • There are enough people out there who will be unkind to you, don’t let your inner critic join them.
  • Your brain doesn’t care about your happiness, only about avoiding judgment. The limbic system reverts back to caveman days and will do anything to keep you in the comfort zone, with the pack – so you have to outsmart your own brain to live up to your potential.
  • Search for purpose, not happiness. Happiness is fleeting, but contentment from living intentionally is real and worth it.
  • Your trauma, no matter if it’s serious or small, is not your fault, but your healing is 100% your responsibility.
  • ‘To surrender doesn’t mean to be passive, but to be active, in a positive way’ — David Hawkins.
  • Don’t wait. Ever. For anyone or anything. Go with the flow and trust that all the right people will stay, and all the wrong people will go.

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