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Life Skills to Learn in Your 20s

Your 20s are the prime time of your life. Brimming with idealism and youthful exuberance, you feel ready to change the world or take on whatever challenges come your way. After more than a decade of formal education, you are all set to embark on your career and perhaps settle down and start a family.

For some, the transition from adolescence to adulthood is fraught with uncertainty, confusion, and even fear. Society expects you to live like a fully functioning adult – to earn your keep, be successful, be a productive member of your community, and so on. Yet, deep down, you may still feel like you are no different than when you were 18.

If you are feeling lost in your 20s, you are not alone. It is okay if you are still figuring your way in your 20s. Age does not provide all answers; it provides perspectives. 

Here are five life skills we think people in their 20s should learn to navigate the adulting journey better.

1. Accepting and Dealing with Rejection

Failing the interview. Unreciprocated love. Getting passed over for a promotion at work. Family estrangement due to conflicting values. Receiving the rejection letter from the graduate school that you had hoped to attend. Rejection hurts. Rejection is part and parcel of life, even if nobody likes it.

Dealing with rejection in a healthy way will build our resilience and allow us to grow through failures and come back stronger. Give yourself time and space to process your feelings instead of suppressing your emotions. Confiding in a trusted family member or friend for support can help you see the situation from a different perspective. Be honest with yourself and reflect on what you can learn from rejection. For example, identifying and addressing your skills gap may help you clinch your dream job.  

2. Focusing on What Matters

Do you ever find yourself mindlessly scrolling through social media feeds in your free time or staring at your phone while having a meal with friends? In a hyperconnected and media-saturated world, we are distracted by endless streams of information vying for our attention. Studies have shown that excessive screen time leads to a shorter attention span, disrupts sleep patterns, and reduces concentration, especially among Millennials and Gen Z. 

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If you struggle to focus on an assignment or meet deadlines, keep your devices away or set it to airplane mode when working on an urgent task. Disable push notifications on your phone to avoid interrupting your train of thought by checking your devices each time you receive an alert. Dedicate specific pockets of time each day rather than respond to every message or notification in real-time. Keep track of your phone usage with apps such as AppDetox, Flipd, Moment, and OFFTIME. The point is to be intentional with our use of technology and how we spend our time.

3. Managing Personal Finances

The rise of YOLO and FOMO has resulted in poor financial management and decision-making, especially among the young generation. For the uninitiated, the acronyms stand for “you only live once” and “fear of missing out” respectively. It is a mindset that emphasizes the present over the future, a tendency to reward ourselves with experiences and purchases that make us happy here and now rather than worry about the future. 

In an attempt to feel better about our social status, we seek external validation from our peers (gotta do it for the gram!) and keep up with the Joneses. An increasing number of young people are splurging on things they cannot afford. If you are drowning in credit card debt, living paycheck to paycheck, and struggling to pay your college loans, it is not too late to learn personal financial skills in your 20s. 

For starters, learn basic financial skills such as budgeting, differentiating needs vs. wants, and saving a portion of your income for rainy days. To grow your wealth and secure your retirement years, pick up investing through various financial instruments such as bonds, exchange-traded funds, index funds, and stocks. Know your risk appetite, do your research well beforehand, and engage a credible financial advisor to help in your financial planning. A word of caution – beware of get-rich-quick schemes. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

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With adulthood comes responsibility. Managing our personal finances is one of them.  

4. Leading an Active Lifestyle

If you are a typical office worker, you probably spend most of your working hours sitting at your desk. In addition, an increase in screen time (bingewatching Netflix, anyone?) and long commutes are causing people to sit for long periods. A sedentary lifestyle raises a host of health risks such as obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise in a week. Exercise is not only good for our physical well-being. It is also beneficial for our mental health by reducing stress, boosting self-esteem, and improving sleep. When you exercise, your body releases feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which explains a “high” you feel after working out.  

With the rise in working from home arrangements due to Covid-19 restrictions, you may find it challenging to sit less and move more. Some tips for incorporating physical activity in your daily routine include standing up to move or stretch every 30 minutes and doing desk-based exercises. There is a wide array of workout videos available on YouTube, which you can do in the comfort of your home, and with your friends virtually. Consider investing in an ergonomic chair or standing desk to relieve strain on your back from long hours of sitting.

5. Learning Again and Again

Learning does not stop the moment you graduate from college. In an age of technological disruption, some jobs today may be replaced or taken over by automation or artificial intelligence in the not-too-distant future. It is therefore vital that your skills remain relevant to ensure employability.

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Source: Your Learning Organisation

Learning outside the confines of brick-and-mortar educational institutions is possible thanks to the advent of Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs). Leading providers such as Coursera, edX, and Udacity offer a wide range of free online courses for anyone. Unlearning is also part of the overall learning process. It involves questioning assumptions and challenging old mental models and perspectives. Unlearning creates room for relearning. Adopting a learner’s mindset will help us be open to new knowledge and skills.

May we find joy in learning as we grow older.

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