Our shuffle toward middle age got me thinking about everything I'm experiencing in my 20s. I love figuring out adulthood, even if I'm not perfect at it. I still struggle with breaking promises to people, choosing sleeping in over working out and wearing TOMs instead of heels to work. But, by combining the things I'm trying to prioritize with M's sage 30-something insights, this manifesto for my 20s came together.
In no particular order, here's what we considered our top ten priorities:
1. Build your integrity.
Understanding your level of integrity starts with honestly answering this question: how do people view you? If your actions don't reflect how you want to be viewed, figure out what you need to change. Work on being proactive and responsive. Show up for the commitments you make. Or, if you're forced to break a commitment, make sure you let someone know beforehand or follow up immediately afterward.
2. Take your finances seriously.
Because the earlier you start funding your 401(k) or understanding investments, the better off you'll be in the long run. A good book that helped me better understand the basics of finances is The Elements of Investing. I recommend it to anyone interested in going beyond simply a checking and savings account.
3. Enjoy your job/career.
Easier said than done, right? I'm grateful for the job I have, but I didn't always feel happy with where I was or what I was doing. Most people transition so quickly from high school to college to "real life" that I think it's easy to forget to take the time to really think about why we're doing what we're doing. Determine for yourself what inspires you to feel significant and find a way to incorporate it into your work.
4. Take yourself seriously.
I love finding the humor in all situations, so I never imagined that I would prioritize being taken seriously. But, I really believe it's so integral to growing personally and professionally because when you take yourself seriously, others notice and will do the same. Think about the way you dress, the way you act, and the impact and influence you have on others and take the steps to make your actions (and your voice) matter.
5. Be kind to your body.
Cut back on late nights. Drink more water. Find a workout that fits your interests. Reading this article really made me aware of the day-to-day health decisions I make and their long-term impact on my life.
6. Find someone who believes in you.
This can be hard because it goes beyond friendship or romance. Someone who believes in you will see you make big mistakes; but, they'll know that you are more than a summation of your failures. This person will recognize your potential and supports you as you work at embracing it.
7. Take action on what you care about.
This might mean putting your money towards a cause or finding some other way to make a meaningful impact on your community, city or world. Change doesn't happen when individuals choose to sit back and let others call the shots.
8. Prioritize travel.
Take advantage of this period of your life. Michael and I love exploring new places together and our ability to get up and go is made easier by our lack of kids or big commitments. I don't think travel needs to be limited to expensive trips to far off places – we're always trying to find ways to take more time for short trips around the Midwest. Map out a few destinations within five hours of your location and start there.
9. Be OK with your past mistakes.
If you're not quite to this point, at least try and make amends with them and understand how they shape who you are.
10. Start learning.
Better yet, never stop learning. Subscribe to The Economist, New Yorker, Atlantic or any kind of publication (or podcast) that will expand your worldview and explore topics you don't yet understand.