Your twenties can be some of the best years of your life. You’re finally an adult, and with that comes true freedom while still maintaining a resilient and youthful body and mind. While you certainly should enjoy the prime of your life, there is also an element of preparation and a long-term game that one should keep in mind. In this post, we’ll go over how to have a blast in your twenties, but also set yourself up to be successful long-term.
It is a common misconception that becoming a doctor means you are signing away your 20’s and even your early 30’s. I often hear medical students complain that they are missing out on all the fun that their non-medicine friends are having, and that they won’t be able to enjoy themselves until after residency. I see where this sentiment comes from, but I reject the emphasis placed on delayed gratification – why not enjoy your twenties, become a doctor, and set yourself up for success in the future? It certainly will not be easy, but it is definitely not impossible. Here are the keys to getting this done.
“…I reject the emphasis placed on delayed gratification – why not enjoy your twenties, become a doctor, and set yourself up for success in the future?”
1 | Prioritize Efficiency
Anyone familiar with myself and Med School Insiders knows that I am a huge proponent of efficiency. Time is our most valuable asset – it is about time we begin treating it as such. The majority of twenty-something-year-old’s have not yet come to terms with the fact that our time on this planet is quite limited.
By being highly efficient with your time and maximizing each moment, you will be able to free up time for other important things in your life. The key is to be highly deliberate with your time. Every few minutes, I ask myself if I am spending my time wisely. If not, how can I change that?
Be mindful of wasting time on social media, TV, other pursuits that do not bring long-term value. One hour less of TV or Facebook means one more hour for exercise, sleep, or quality time with friends and family. Both Facebook and board games with friends/family can be considered leisure time, but one of them is higher value than the other.
2 | Take a Stance – Be True to Yourself
The cliche of “don’t care what others think” is a good underlying principle, but is in some ways misguided. You do in fact need to care what others think in order to be empathetic, get good evaluations in medical school, match into good residency, and even make lasting friendships. Rather than “don’t care what others think”, I suggest “be true to yourself.”
During adolescence (between the ages of 12-18) we enter the Erikson Stage of Identity vs Role Confusion. Erikson postulated that this is the time when individuals discover their adult selves and solidify their beliefs and values. I argue that this very much continues into most people’s twenties.
It is helpful to care what others think in many situations, but we often prioritize and overvalue their opinions even in cases when it shouldn’t matter. In medical school, I would ride my bike with a lunch box strapped to my backpack. I would wear pasty white zinc oxide sunscreen, and I still wear a ridculous looking wide-brimmed hat that protects me from UV rays. Some find these things ridiculous, but I own it and their opinion on such trivial matters doesn’t concern me.
I do care, however, how my colleagues relate to me, how they think of me as a leader, and how they think I can improve as an individual – both personally and professionally.
As you get older, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do rather than the things that you did. I love the story of Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon. Before starting Amazon, Jeff Bezos held a secure and well-paid position at an investment company in New York. He wasn’t sure whether he should stick with his job or quit, take a huge risk, and start a book company.
To aid him in making the decision, he turned to what he coined a “regret minimization framework”, and what others call the rocking chair test. He imagined himself at age 80 looking back – what would he regret more: taking a leap, starting Amazon, and taking part in this thing called the Internet that he believed would be really big; or not having ever tried at all? He knew that if he failed he would not regret it, but he would certainly regret not ever having tried in the first place.
3 | Don’t Enter a Career Because of Parental Pressure
This ties in nicely with the above point, but deserves to stand on its own. Remember that while your parents want what’s best for you, it is ultimately up to you to decide what that is.
Some parents pressure their children to pursue medicine. They have the best intentions, but it is incredibly important to set some boundaries between you and your parents in order to figure out what you want personally and professionally. At the same time, value parental support, as they often have life experience and wisdom that you have yet to acquire.
You need to be going into medicine for the right reasons. Going into medicine for the wrong reasons, such as parental pressure, will result in burn out, depression, and ultimately regret.
4 | Schedule Exercise
It is much easier to build healthy habits for a sustainable lifestyle in your twenties. As you get older and additional responsibilities pile on, it becomes much more difficult.
There are a multitude of benefits to regular exercise. You will likely look better and be more attractive to the opposite sex, but you will also experience higher sustained energy levels, improved focus at school which translates to better grades, and improved mood, sense of well-being, and happiness.
If you’re finding it hard to be regular with exercise, we have a few videos that can help. Remember to choose a form of exercise that you enjoy. I personally opt for cycling and weight training over running for exactly that reason.
5 | Enforce Healthy Dietary Habits
In high school and college, your metabolism allows you to get away with a suboptimal diet. As you get older, physiologic changes in your metabolism catch up with you. Those late night pizza runs are not going to cut it anymore. Neither will binge drinking – hangovers come with a newfound vengeance.
There is a common misconception that eating a healthy diet is mutually exclusive with enjoying your food. As someone who has eaten a very clean diet for years, I can confidently say that this is not true. Our taste preferences are molded by cultural influences, which often includes highly processed foods high in simple carb0hydrate or saturated fat content. Healthy food is actually tasty. Once you break the cycle of sugar addiction and loving processed foods, you’ll see what you missed.
Your dietary habits are some of the hardest to change, and they will stick long term. It is easier to change while you are young, so invest the effort now in learning how to practice healthful eating. You will be glad you did.
6 | Choose Your Friends Wisely
I am sure you have heard this one before: you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. There are two lesson to learn here. First, choose your friends wisely. You may outgrow certain friendships, and that is totally reasonable. I have experience that myself and while it does not feel good in the moment, it is often for the best.
Second, prioritize relationships that matter to you. As you enter your twenties, everyone, including yourself, seems to become busier and busier. For that reason, it becomes even more crucial to put in the effort to reach out to those who matter. Do not expect that they will reach out to you — be proactive and cultivate life-long friendships that will bring tremendous value to you for years to come.
7 | Get Outside Your Comfort Zone
Lastly, get outside of your comfort zone. Chances are you think you are already getting outside of your comfort zone, but you could likely take it so much further. For some people, that means traveling solo around the world. For others, it means quitting a safe and secure, high-paying job to follow their dreams. To those that are afraid public speaking, join Toastmasters and overcome your fears. Even better, join an improv class and work your way up to stand-up comedy.
Your twenties are a pivotal time in your life. The more you put in, the more you will get out. The most significant and life changing habit for me has been adopting a growth mindset and critically assessing how I can improve my life. If you are here watching this video, it means you are already cultivating a growth mindset yourself and are on the right path.
These are my 7 tips to living more effectively in your twenties. I would love to hear any additional tips you may have down in the comments below. As always, thank you all so much for reading!