6 Ways That Self-Aware Young People Can Thrive in Their 20s

Girl in her 20s in front of a mural.
You can do a lot of living by the time you’re 30 years old, and if you have enough self-awareness, you can set yourself up for exponential growth.

The best way to think of your 20s is as a time for investment. Not just for money, but for life experiences, self-discovery, skill building, and determining what happiness means to you.

Here’s what you need to focus on to thrive in your 20s:

1. Planting the Seeds for Mastery

A great thing to do in your 20s is to find something that grips you, be it an instrument, a journal, a business, or a sport, and commit to it.

Attempting to master a skill will give you a means of progression; a rewarding process that you can watch develop over time like growing a plant.

And yes, it’s not true that you have to master a skill to enjoy it. But there is so much significance in seeing something become the best it can possibly be.

If you can implement your mastery skill into your daily schedule (even if it’s only five minutes a day), then you could become great at something quicker than you think. It is not so much about how often you practice, but the deliberate quality of your practice (e.g., your level of focus and paying attention to your mistakes so you can make adjustments).

Imagine composing your own music, winning a martial arts tournament, or writing a great novel — all of these dreams can be nourished with daily practice and an awareness that the sooner you start, the sooner you can get better.

2. Learning About Money and Becoming Financially Literate

Most young people entering adulthood in 2023 will be faced with financial burdens.

But, the key to mitigating these issues is learning how to manage money early, before you start running into issues.

If freedom, independence, and a mind clear of money struggles is your goal, then you should…

  • Learn the basics of economics and how money works.
  • Make a list of everything you earn and spend in a month, and keep track of changes.
  • Consider the long-term aspects of seeking more education. (This includes all types of higher education and trades).
  • Understand the significance of a credit score.
  • Understanding investing and retirement accounts. 

The sooner you can get your finances in check (even if you aren’t making that much money yet), the sooner you can start off on the right foot.

And believe me, you’ll thank yourself later.

3. Finding Your Fears

It’s fairly generic advice to tell a young person to “step out of their comfort zone,” by here is the real reason you should.

The things that scare you are the things that can come to control you. Avoiding fear can negatively impact your mental health by boxing you into certain ways of thinking and making you averse to risk.

You want to be prepared to face any challenge in your life, especially the things you’re afraid of.

This could mean…

  • Finding the sources of your anxiety and gradually exposing yourself to them.
  • Doing things that feel true to you, even when you know others will judge you.
  • Opening up to the people in your life to deepen your relationships.
  •  Being bolder in your social life so you can find new friends and romantic partners.

Life’s most beautiful experiences are almost always hidden behind risks. So, when life asks you to be brave, you should be proud to oblige.

4. Finding Your Idea of Happiness

Adulthood is your chance to choose who you want to be.

You get to experiment with what you believe, who you spend time with, where you want to live, and what you want to be doing with your time on Earth.

You can completely remake yourself if you want to. You can discover new hobbies, experiences, ways of thinking, and ways of looking at the world.

But sometimes, despite your best efforts, life will happen to you, and you’ll find yourself in places you didn’t expect. Your life won’t look like your friend’s or coworker’s lives, it will look like your life.

In the uniqueness of your own path, you can determine what’s going to be most meaningful to you. In the end, it will always be your choice.

So when you get lost in social media, remind yourself that other people’s lives are not your life, and your definition of happiness doesn’t have to look like someone else’s.

5. Exploring Your Past

Once you move into adulthood, traumas from long ago can start to manifest in your life and in your relationships.

In therapy, you can work to overcome the things that hold you back and cause you pain (before they can affect you later in life).

You can…

  • Learn how to be more assertive with Dialectical Behavior Therapy.
  • Learn how to use Exposure Therapy to face your troublesome fears (see # 3).
  • Explore why you act certain ways in relationships, or why you have trouble attracting a partner.
  • Understand why certain things make you upset and understand what will make you truly happy.

Therapy allows you to increase that essential aspect of thriving in all stages of life: Self-awareness.

Knowing yourself is the first step on the road to mental health, and perhaps inner peace. It’s one of the most worthwhile things you can do.

6. Having Fun, But…

Yes, it’s ok to want to have experiences in your 20s.

Traveling, going to concerts, and meeting new people is exciting, and if you sacrificed all that just to be successful by 30, you would still feel like you left something behind. Laughter, memories, and connecting with others are the lifeblood of human experience.

The catch is that many young people get so caught up in their fun that they forget everything else. This looks like…

  • Drinking/partying.
  • Reckless spending.
  • Putting thousands of hours into video games.
  • Consuming media/ becoming too absorbed in social media.

Years can go by getting lost in easy distractions.

So enjoy life, figure out what you’re looking for, but always be conscious of how you’re spending your time.

If You Feel Like You “Wasted” Your 20s…

Maybe you’re on your way out of your 20s, and you don’t feel like you got the most out of them. If that’s the case, then you need to see this all as a learning period, and your newfound self-awareness as the moment you can start living. 

Self-awareness, and maybe even youth itself, is a choice. It’s a choice to live consciously and learn from your mistakes. It’s a choice to stay healthy. It’s a choice to try and do things that other people say you shouldn’t do. You are the final judge of your life, and how best you live it is up to you.

Anyone can apply these bits of advice at any stage, and they will be just as worthwhile. 

So here’s what you should try to do:

  • Commit to something you love and plant the seeds to mastering it.
  • Learn the basics of money so you can start with a strong foundation.
  • Address your fears, and face them.
  • Find what happiness looks like for you.
  • Keep reading books, taking courses, and learning.
  • Address the things that hold you back.
  • Seek new experiences, and don’t get so caught up in work that you forget about joy and spontaneity.

People are living longer lives than ever. So, learn from every mistake, and start living now.