post written by: Marc Chernoff

20 Good Habits to Start in Your 20s


20 Good Habits to Start in Your 20s

Now well into my 30s, there are several good habits I’m thankful I started in my 20s, and several more I wish I had started a decade ago.  If you’re still in your 20s, or even if you’re not, I challenge you to implement the habits below into your daily routine, one at a time, starting today.  A year from now, I guarantee you’ll appreciate the results.

  1. Focus on the activities and people that make you happy. – Sometimes we make things complicated when they are really quite simple:  Find what it is that makes you happy and spend more time doing it.  Find who it is that makes you smile and spend more time with them.  Living your dream is really just a state of mind.  It’s feeling comfortable in your own skin, and realizing that where you are at any given moment is exactly where you want to be.  Thus, happiness and success in life is simply the gratifying combination liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking who you do it with.  Read Stumbling on Happiness.
  2. Trust your instincts on new opportunities. – Life is too short to wait.  Every new day is another chance to change your life.  Every great accomplishment starts with the decision to try.  Trust that little voice inside your head that says, “What if…” and then GO DO IT.  You would be surprised how often “what if” works.  And no, you’re not obligated to win every time.  You’re obligated to keep trying – to do the best you can do every day – to be better than you were yesterday.
  3. Build the courage to face your fears. – Everything you want is on the other side of fear.  Don’t ever hesitate to give yourself a chance to be everything you are capable of being.  It’s better to cross the line and suffer the consequences of a lesson learned, than to just stare at that line for the rest of your life and always wonder.  And remember, courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid; courage means you don’t let your fear stop you.
  4. Focus on the resources you do have access to. – It all begins and ends in your mind.  What you give power to has power over you, if you allow it.  Too many of us are hung up on what we don’t have, can’t have, or won’t ever have.  We spend too much energy being down, when we could use that same energy – if not less of it – doing, or at least trying to do, some of the things we really want to do.  So focus on the opportunities you DO have, and exploit the resources you DO have access to.
  5. Be less busy, and more productive. – Incessant busyness is often a sign of ineffectiveness and laziness.  Because it’s easy to be busy – just partake in a bunch of random activities that drains all your time.  Doing so justifies never having enough time to clean, cook for yourself, go out with friends, meet new people, etc.  Right?  Wrong.  Don’t just get things done; get the right things done.  Results are always more important than the time it takes to achieve them.  Read Getting Things Done.
  6. Make your goals a priority. – Never put off or give up on a goal that’s important to you.  Not because you still have tomorrow to start or try again, but because you may not have tomorrow at all.  Life is shorter than it sometimes seems.  Make today count.
  7. Accept your humanness. – You can stop pretending.  It feels good to own up to stuff… to admit that you’re human – a work in progress – a beautiful mess.  You’re fine.  Having a little anxiety is fine.  Being a little fearful is fine.  Your secrets are fine.  You’re a good person.  You’re intelligent.  You’re blowing things out of proportion.  You’re fine just the way you are.
  8. Seek less approval from others. – Your ideas and choices don’t have to be on everyone’s ‘approved’ list.  Regardless of the opinions of others, at the end of the day the only reflection staring back at you in the mirror is your own.  Make sure you’re proud of who that person is.  Approach others with the belief that you’re a good person, whether they respond positively or not.  It’s normal to want the people around you to like you, but it becomes a self-imposed burden when too much of your behavior is explicitly designed to constantly reassure you of their approval.
  9. Ignore society’s comparisons. – Constantly checking your life against one of society’s prewritten stories of how things ‘should’ be is a phony way of living.  It’s sort of like renting your identity.  Just be you.  You are far more nuanced than anyone else’s narrative you try to fit yourself into, and more complex than society’s story of what ‘should’ be happening.
  10. Believe in your ability to succeed. – You control the ultimate result of where you will end up, what you may become, and how successful you can be.  No matter what your current circumstances are, always maintain a strong belief in your ability to succeed, and then put your beliefs to work.  Do so, and in time you will amaze yourself.
  11. Manage your money before it starts to manage you. – Too many people buy things they don’t need with money they don’t have to impress people they don’t know.  Don’t be one of them.  Bottom line:  It’s easier to find long-term wealth by needing and spending less, instead of making more.  So spend less than you earn, and always go without until you have the cash in hand.  Keep six months of your salary in an emergency savings account just in case you lose your job or have an emergency that prevents you from working for a prolonged period of time.  And keep a few extra hundred dollars on hand for unexpected expenses, such as car and home repair.  Read I Will Teach You To Be Rich.
  12. Let the wrong people go. – You can try your hardest, you can do everything and say everything, but sometimes people just aren’t worth trying over anymore, and they aren’t worth worrying about.  It’s important to know when to let go of someone who only brings you down.  The moment someone tells you that you’re not good enough is the moment you know you’re better off than they are, and better off without them.
  13. Appreciate your true friends, and return the favor. – A friend who understands your tears and troubles is far more valuable than a hundred friends who only show up for your smiles and joys.  Because a true friend accepts who you truly are, and also helps you become who you are capable of being.  Friendships like this require more than just finding the right person, they also require you to be the right person.  When someone believes in you enough to lift you up, try not to let them down.  True friendship is a sweet responsibility to be nurtured, not an opportunity to be exploited.
  14. Do everything with a touch of kindness. – Whatever can be done, can be done more effectively when you add kindness.  Whatever words are spoken, will always be more compelling when expressed with kindness.  The kind deeds you exert in just one moment can have a positive impact that lasts a lifetime.  Your days will be brighter and your years fuller when you add kindness to your purpose.  Choose to be kind every day, and you’re truly choosing to live in a better world.
  15. Choose happiness. – If you can find joy in doing nothing, you can find it in everything.  Learn to experience happiness without a reason and you can create happiness for any reason.  Realize that happiness and joy are not always the result of good things, oftentimes they are the cause of good things.  There is nothing you need in order to be happy other than the choice to be.  So let go of the worries you have for what may or may not come your way.  Focus instead on the good things that you can give, create, inspire and choose to experience, right here, right now.  Don’t allow the world to pull you down with its negativity.  Choose to transform the world around you with your own positivity.
  16. Learn to cope with anger effectively. – When you’re infuriated with someone else, take a few deep breaths, sit quietly, and think for a moment.  Acknowledge the true source of your anger.  Anger bleeds from the inside out.  Remember that we need to fix ourselves first before we attempt to fix or influence others.  Trying to change others is a common recipe for prolonging the suffering.  Taking responsibility for changing yourself, and how you deal with the actions of others, is a recipe for growth, freedom, and happiness.
  17. Accept some responsibility for the way others treat you. – Yes, on occasion you will run into someone who is downright wicked, but for the most part, others will look to you for direction on how you want to be treated.  They will test you to see what is acceptable, and then treat you the way you let them treat you.  Remember, you can’t control them, but you can control what you tolerate.
  18. Work on your inner beauty too. – Our outward acts are a manifestation of who we are on the inside.  Let’s remind ourselves to love who we are from the inside out – to be pretty happy, handsomely kind, pretty smart, handsomely unique, pretty loving, handsomely lovable, pretty quirky, handsomely funny, pretty cool – and not just pretty and handsome.  Read A New Earth.
  19. Introduce a little variety into your routine. – Remember that the way you’ve always done it isn’t the only way.  It’s unlikely that one of the things you’ll regret when you’re 70 is not having consumed enough beer in your 20s, or not having bought enough $6 lattes from Starbucks, or not having frequented the same night club for years.  But the regret of missing out on opportunities is a real, toxic feeling.  You’ve figured out drinking and going out.  You’ve had enough lattes.  It’s time to figure something else out.  Every corner you turn or street you walk down has a new experience waiting for you.  You just have to see the opportunity and be adventurous enough to run with it.
  20. Always keep in mind that life is somewhat unpredictable. – Some of the great moments in your life won’t necessarily be the things you do; they’ll be things that happen to you.  That doesn’t mean you can’t take action to affect the outcome of your life.  You have to take action, and you will.  But don’t forget that on any day, you can step out the front door and your whole life can change in an instant – for better or worse.  To an extent, the universe has a plan that’s always in motion.  A butterfly flaps its wings and it starts to rain – it’s a scary thought, but it’s part of life’s cycle.  All these little parts of the machine, constantly working – sometimes forcing you to struggle, and sometimes making sure you end up exactly in the right place at the right time.

Photo by: Garry

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27 Comments

  • These habits are fantastic. People of any age would be wise to follow this advice. I turned 30 this year and it is amazing what you learn in a decade and how different things are than what I expected at 20, 21, 22, etc. Experience really is the best teacher and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I really appreciated your straight forward “No frills” approach with this post.

  • I’m new to your blog, in my mid-20s, and want you to know that your messages are uplifting and are helping me through a hard time in my life. I just picked five of these habits, and I’m going to start working on them today, and every day in the upcoming year.

  • I hope lots of twenty-somethings get a chance to read this, and I pray they take it seriously.

  • This is good advice for anyone, it’s never too late.

    Dan @ ZenPresence

  • Wonderful post. I needed this and I read this at a very right time. I want to implement all of these habits, but often our close loved ones stop us from doing them.
    Courage and self love are the what’s needed to put yourself first.

  • Just turned 21. Thanks! These tips are very useful.

  • I’m in my 50s, but I’m loving this and sharing it never the less.

  • I’m about 20.5 years old and this article, along with the rest, really helps with the idea of gaining perspective to create a better outcome for yourself in any situation. A lot of this advice is internalized, but that’s where most problems are caused, so again, excellent read. :)

  • These are great points, although I would advise teenagers to implement these now instead of waiting until they reach the age of 20. Why wait until your 20s? The sooner you begin new habits the better. Our planet would be a much better place if people learned how to be self aware at a young age.

    And if you’re in your 30s, 40s, etc., you still have time…

  • Dear Marc & Angel; Thank you from the depths of my heart. This post arrived in my inbox just as I was going to sleep, contemplating all the reasons and finer points of why it’s unrealistic or pointless to commit to a great idea that keeps coming to me. The words you wrote stepped off the page (screen lol ;) ) and into all the doubtful voids in my mind…. So thank you for inspiring me to embrace what life is offering and trust that “little voice” on this one, you’ve also hit home about the $6 lattes and other indulgent but often mindless pursuits. You two are a total inspiration. You can happily know that today you absolutely and completely “reached” someone (many I’d imagine) in a wonderful way. Hope to live my life in as inspiring a way one day too xx Thank you xx

  • Great post, not just for 20 somethings. For everyone who truly wants to live a full and happy life.

    As always, thank you for sharing.

  • All of these are very good tips for people of all ages.

    I have a question on #17 :
    If a person has shown time and time again they are dedicated to treating you badly (in spite of the fact you have calmly told them that you do not appreciate being treated that way) how do you control their behavior?

  • @Argan, see #12

  • This was inspiring. Thanks for posting… :)

  • Thank you so much for this. I just subscribed to your site only a few days ago, and I am so taken by the inspiring words you are providing. I am 26 and at a big fork in the road, with my heart leading in one direction and my social programming trying to drag me in the other. It’s great to feel supported by other people who have walked in my shoes and faced their fears. Life is short!

  • I absolutely love your site. I am going through many changes in my life right now and every time you post something new, it’s usually pertinent to what I am going through. While I am not in my 20’s anymore, these habits carry through life and I am facing them in my 40’s. Thank you and keep it up!

  • Loved this - one of my favorites - shared with friends in their 20’s and well beyond.

  • great reminders. thank you.

  • THANK YOU . . . JUST. . . THANK YOU for this site and your postings!!! They are always so uplifting, encouraging and a road map reminder for daily positive thinking.

  • I’m out of my twenties but nevertheless this is great information. I plan to start applying these suggestions today. Thank you.

  • Really enjoyed reading these Marc - a solid collection of great habits and really well explained. There’s a few new things on my daily hitlist now thanks to you :)

  • Thanks for this - and all your posts - they usually hit home.

  • These lessons are very nice and inspiring, please keep writing posts like this. They make a difference.

  • Habits have made a comeback!! Or did they ever go away? I was a bit dismayed by the intense focus on “positive thinking” over the last few years, at the expense of positive doing. Habits rule!

  • Great advice! Wise habits to follow.

  • Thanks for this really good and helpful advice again. Reading your posts always makes me feel so much better, because I realize that I’m often too hard on myself. I’m 24 and it’s hard to figure out what you want in life. Could you write more about standing up for yourself? I always have trouble to say no or to express my opinion or to set limits, because I always shy away from conflicts and I’m such a coward. I hate this about myself. By the way, can’t wait for your book if it’s published! Thanks a lot! Many hugs, Tess

  • What an awesome list. I really like number 7, accept your humanness. If we don’t accept at an early time in our lives, that we are only human, that we make mistakes, that we have limits, we will be heading towards a life of disappointments. We must learn to accept what we can and cannot do. But we shouldn’t give up right away if things are still feasible.

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