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10 Life-Changing Lessons You’ll Learn in Your 20s

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thoughtful young business woman

Think of your 20s as Life 2.0. There are certain improvements to the operating system, such as the legal age of drinking, a diploma, your own income and the ability to finally say to your parents, “I’m an adult. Stop treating me like a child.” (BTW, if you’re acting like a child, it doesn’t matter what age you are.)

But as with all system upgrades, there are still bugs that need to be worked out. By the time you arrive at Life 3.0, you’ll realize even more updates have occurred.

Prep for the 2.0 updates with this handy list of truths and realities about life in your 20s— and beyond.

1. Being selfish isn’t selfish

Many of us are taught to put our family and friends first. That lesson needs to be rewritten. Your friends and family are important. But you are just as important.

Putting yourself first isn’t selfish (assuming you don’t walk all over other people to do it.) To advance your career, you need to be a little bit — or a lot bit — selfish.

If not you, who else will take control of your life? You deserve to be happy in your career. Your needs are as important as anyone else’s.

2. Your career is just as important as your girlfriend’s or boyfriend’s

If they imply otherwise, it’s time to find a new partner. A real companion is proud of — not intimidated by — their partner’s success.

Seek a romantic interest who has enough sense of self to say, “I deserve this amazing, ambitious person. Together we’re a great team.”

3. The only thing that’s constant is change

Learn to go with the flow and you’ll be happier in the long run. When something happens you don’t like or didn’t expect, ask yourself what you can learn from the experience.

I have a friend who was on her way to speak at a conference when she found out she’d lost everything, including her home and life savings (long story, so I’ll spare you). She walked to her place on the stage in shock. She found herself seated next to the Dalai Lama, who asked her what was wrong, and she unloaded on him. He listened kindly, and when she was finished, he simply asked, “What can you find to be grateful for in this situation?”

Now, even she admits she couldn’t find something to be grateful for at that very moment. But the very concept struck her as a wonderful way to go through life. There’s always something to be grateful for.

4. There is no set timetable for success

Everyone hits different markers in their life at different times. Just because you’re not yet working your dream job doesn’t mean you’re running behind the pack.

Your journey is your own. You don’t have to follow anyone else’s standards or timeline to achieve success. If your way is a bit more scenic and less straightforward, and even if you get lost on occasion, celebrate the beauty of your path.

5. Find your bliss

Stay close to anything that makes you glad you woke up each morning. (Click here to tweet this thought.)

Whether it’s doing yoga, taking foreign language classes or volunteering at the local animal shelter, try to make room in your life for activities that energize you.

6. Accept that life isn’t fair

Bad things happen to good people, and vice versa. Sometimes what you perceive to be a bad event that happened for no reason will transform into one of the best things that’s ever happened to you.

7. Walk through life with a sense of interest and awe

I have a friend whose daughter taught me a valuable lesson when she was only two years old. She would walk (or toddle, I suppose) into every room with an expression of awe on her face. It was if she was thinking, “What fabulous thing could be happening in this room?”

It was such a lovely education in choosing an attitude of being ready to embrace every little thing in life, at all times.

8. Save — even if it’s only $20 a week

Your 20s are the perfect time to hone your personal finance skills. Each paycheck, put aside a little bit into your savings account. If you have it automatically direct-deposited, you won’t even have to think about it. Put that money in an interest-bearing savings account or other earning-potential cache.

If you’re able to average a 10 percent return on your savings every year, you’ll have saved over half a million dollars by the time you’re in your 60s. All for the price of about three lattes you didn’t buy every week.

9. Go easy on your parents

Your parents did the best they could with the skills (or lack thereof) and parenting examples they had. You may think it’s hard to be a kid, but soon enough you’ll realize it’s far more difficult to be a parent.

Don’t blame them for the choices you make. Remember, you’re an adult now. Take responsibility for own actions.

10. Go easy on yourself

You’re a unique and wonderful individual who deserves to be treated with respect and kindness. But to earn that respect from others, you must start by treating yourself with respect and kindness.

There will be times in your 20s when you feel as though your software has crashed and you’d simply like to hit the reboot button. But keep in mind you’re not a machine; you’re human and have complicated feelings. So hang in there, and look for life’s equivalent of the computer’s Easter Eggs.

Heidi Nazarudin is a former CEO of a Nasdaq-listed company turned success-oriented blogger and author. For more inspiring career tips and tricks, visit her blog at TheSuccessfulStyle.com.

Brazen powers real-time, online events for leading organizations around the world. Our lifestyle and career blog, Brazen Life, offers fun and edgy ideas for ambitious professionals navigating the changing world of work.

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