The Defining Decade – Meg Jay

Woo another self-help book! Fiction is awesome because they tell epic stories. Self-help books are also awesome because they tell real life stories. Stories you didn’t think were possible in real life or stories you didn’t think anyone else experienced other than yourself. This, with a mix of psychology, is what really makes me enjoy this genre of books.

The Defining Decade is focused on one’s twenties. It speaks about how much of an impact one’s twenties has one’s future life and that there are a lot of misconceptions out there about pushing off marriage, having kids and pursuing a career. The author is a PhD who serves as a therapist for adolescents.

The book is divide into three major sections: work, love and the brain and the body. Each section recounts many of the author’s interactions with her clients and how they come in to talk and try to resolve certain aspects of their lives.

In the first section, the author emphasizes the importance of getting into the industry or pursuing our careers that challenge us and help us grow. Yea, it is going to be tough but our twenties is the time where most of our growth occurs. Our careers and salaries in our forties are defined by what we do with our twenties. Thus she says how it is important to establish ourselves in such an ever-changing world. Where I related most to in this section was about how one client came in to tell Jay how he felt trapped in the middle of ocean without land in site. Thus scared to swim not knowing if he would be going the right way. This part is exactly how I feel right now. I have friends in film, software, architecture, medicine, etc. They all seem like cool things to do and here I am feeling stuck and overwhelmed by the amount of choices facing my future. Having read this section, I have learned that I need to take action and laser in my focus to one thing at a time. As long as I am working towards something I enjoy with a future, more opportunities will present itself and there will be room for change in the future. Sure the twenties is a defining decade but I still have a few more decades to pursue other interests afterwards. The most important thing is to take action and work towards my goals.

Love. Ha. I still haven’t had a girlfriend. This part kind of freaked me out. Hook up culture is intriguing. Relationships… not so much. I guess I haven’t experienced it to understand it. This sections focuses on looking ahead when it comes to dating. It talks about compatibility. Sure people say opposites attract, but studies have shown that is not true. It is actually people who are similar on The Big Five that stay together. It is not just how we get through the good moments in our lives together but the bad ones too that is important. I have learned from this section that some flaws can be overlooked and that sometimes when we feel like our significant others aren’t doing what we expect of them, we are just caught up in the moment and forgetting to see things from their perspective. I believe it is important to have those uncomfortable talks and deal with problems at their face value. Although I haven’t had a girlfriend before, those are values I live by in all my relationships in life.

The last section takes the ideas in the first two sections and extrapolate them into general life models. Jay talks about the importance of goal setting, developing confidence and looking long-term. It feels good to have goals to work towards. This can be personal goals like learning a new language, professional goals like getting understanding the new software at work to increase productivity or even one’s next big trip to Europe. Having goals in life help us progress in an upward trend. It helps us stay focused and work towards developing a better self. Now I used to believe that such goals always had to be intrinsic but now I have come to realize they could be either intrinsic or extrinsic. It is more about how badly you want it that determines how much you are willing to sacrifice to get it.

I really enjoyed Jay’s section on confidence. Confidence is built on experiences, sure some people are more naturally confident than others, but it is a skill that can be learned and developed. It is about mastery. It is about putting in the hours and putting in the sweat, blood and tears that build confidence. We build confidence by challenging ourselves in uncomfortable situations. We build confidence by starting new jobs that we may not be fully qualified for in order to give ourselves plenty of room to learn and grow. I have been pushing myself to build better social skills recently. This includes reaching out to friends I haven’t been in touch with for a long time. Introducing myself to people who I have only met once or twice to further build on those relationships and even trying tinder!

The last part and the final part I got out of this book is the idea of looking really long-term. I have only been thinking about my short-term life lately. About how I want to travel, go to music festivals, and have crazy nights with my friends because that’s what the twenties are for right? Not completely. Having just finished this book, I have come to broaden my scope a little. Not that I don’t want to experience all those things, but more of the fact that I have come to realize there is so much more to life after the twenties. Settling down, raising a family, and building a solid career might not seem too interesting to me right now but when I reach that time in my life, it just might. Piggy backing of an idea I came across in Stumbling Upon Happiness by Dan Gilbert. I remember that we are not good at predicting the future because we tend to overlap the future with our present values. Thus, future me in ten years might be completely different from present me. He says that the only way to know what our futures look like is to ask people who are presently experiencing what we think we want and to get their opinion on it.

Overall, this is a very short book to read and I think it provides a lot of value. There is so much about other about people marrying later, not starting their careers until later, and it seems like every body just wants to be in their twenties forever. I can definitely say I have been thinking like that lately and this book has made me realize that there is so much out there past our twenties. On top of that, it has made me realize that we have so much potential to grow and change in our twenties that is it more than okay to make mistakes and to really push yourself into becoming the person you want to be.

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