11. Learn how to teach yourself things. It doesn’t matter so much what they are—a new language, basic programming, car maintenance—as long as it’s something you care about and something that improves your life. Developing the discipline necessary to self-teach something will take you far; plus, you’ll come out of it with some awesome (and potentially marketable) new skills.
12. Travel, but not like a tourist. Which would you rather have: a photo of yourself in a Hawaiian T-shirt holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa, or a cool story about visiting an off-the-beaten-path town that doesn’t specialize in selling overpriced trinkets? Often the best adventures are the ones that aren’t being planned for you by the travel entertainment industry.
13. Don’t forget your family. As you’re striking out on your own, it can be easy to forget where you came from. It can be as simple as a text or phone call now and then, but don’t let those relationships decay.
14. Learn about finances. Maybe you’re still a little daunted by terms like “APR” and “stock investing,” but knowing how to manage your money (and use it to the best of your advantage) can make the difference between living paycheck-to-paycheck and having a stable savings account to fall back on.
15. Realize that plans don’t always work out, and that it’s okay. Life isn’t about making ten-step plans that go exactly how you want them to. It’s about embracing the opportunities that come your way, even if they’re different than the ones you expected.
16. Resist the temptation to compare yourself to others. Everyone is walking their own path. You’re doing the best you can on yours; so are they on theirs. Try not to look at people in terms of “more successful than me” or “happier than me.” It’s not a competition.
17. Do things even when you don’t feel like them. Sleeping through your morning class might have been okay now and then in college, but sleeping through work, not so much. And even though nobody’s around to make you eat vegetables…they really are good for you.
18. Practice gratitude. Do your best to find something positive in every situation you encounter. For the most part, your attitude is up to you, so if you find yourself constantly feeling frustrated or angry, take a deep breath, re-evaluate, and try to think of at least one way your hardship is teaching you something or making you a better person.
19. Take care of yourself—but also recognize that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Young people are often stereotyped for being self-absorbed navel gazers, so don’t be part of the reason! “Finding yourself” doesn’t have to mean being obsessed with yourself.
20. Make a difference. It doesn’t have to be a big one. Maybe your plans of joining the Peace Corps and saving the world kind of fell through somewhere along the way, but there are small things you can do every day. Volunteer at a homeless shelter (or an animal shelter). Help a senior citizen with yard work. Pick up litter once in a while. Donate blood. Make a habit of noticing opportunities to help—and taking them.
If you can think of any ways to add to this list, please do! Whether you’re in your twenties now or have made it out the other side, I’d love to hear your perspective.