Your 20s are a time of change and development. Learning harsh but necessary life lessons will smooth the path for your future success.
Advice

20 harsh, but necessary, lessons you learn in your 20s

1. Communication is everything

If you learn how to effectively command a room, think on your feet, articulate yourself exceptionally and present your ideas in a way which others can digest, understand and feel inspired by, you will be a force to be reckoned with. If you do not, you may very well find yourself frequently ‘out-shone’ by people who have mastered this skill.

2. Listen, before you speak

It is often in our nature to talk out of turn or readily project our opinions onto others. However, it is an extremely valuable and necessary skill to develop a habit of pro-active listening. Make a point of being an active listener, consider and digest information before you respond and treat conversations as a constantly evolving learning practice because, that is exactly what they are.

3. Your success is up to you

In your twenties, you will quickly learn that no one owes you anything. Your family, friends and colleagues will look out for you and support you, but ultimately it is up to you now to pave your own way. The level of reward you experience directly correlates to the level of effort and work you invest. Low effort = low reward and vice versa

4. The path to success is not short

Don’t assume your career path will be an overnight success story. When it comes to success, both professionally and personally, you will likely endure a number of learning curves before you hit your stride. As such, your habits, work ethic, mindset and gumption truly matter. View your goals as a long-term, evolving destination and commit yourself to the individual, daily tasks and practices which will nudge you closer to that destination. Success is a marathon, not a sprint and remember that there are no small plans.

5. Being present takes conscious effort

Try to remember the importance of grounding yourself in the present moment when you can. Take the time to examine your mindset, meditate, reflect or whatever you need to do to quiet the rest of the noise in your mind and focus on the present, entirely. This takes a conscious effort, but is continuously important in a world where we are constantly plugged in and self absorbed.

6. Never think you have it all figured out, because you don’t

If you ever think you know all there is to know about something, you’re wrong. In order to grow, adapt to changing environments/demands and stay ahead of the rest of the group, you have to always be hungry for new information. You have to always be learning. Read, ask questions, consider other answers, debate topics, admit when you’re wrong and surround yourself with people who are equally passionate and curious, as they will help propel you forward. Your University degree won’t define you, your desire to learn and continue learning will. Remember this or you could be left behind.

7. The dynamics of your friendships will change

As we get older, friendships become a little less convenient. Most of us work or study full-time, move around, develop important daily demands and shift into different stages of our lives. During this time, the company we keep is the company we make a conscious effort to keep. Don’t view this as a negative change, but instead learn to invest in the people who invest in you. Understand the difference between a friend who is fun to grab a drink with occasionally, and someone who you would call if you were in trouble.

8. Kindness matters

No matter what, remind yourself to be kind. Try to be self-aware enough to check yourself and admit the moments when you’re being a jerk. When you have the opportunity to improve someone else’s day, even in the smallest way, you should act upon it. Maintain your manners, hold the door open, smile readily and put basic kindness into practice whenever you can. The more positive energy you put out into the world, the more you can expect to get back.

9. Don’t take people for granted

At the end of the day, the people we love are the reason all the hard, messy stuff we work through is so worth it. Relationships and connection are everything. Don’t ever take this for granted. Love, be loved and be eternally, openly grateful for the connections you keep.

10. Take responsibility

It is so easy to conjure up excuses for the mistakes or bad judgements we make, but ultimately, we have to take responsibility for ourselves. If you screw up, take ownership of it. That, in itself, is admirable (although not easy). The more you commit yourself to the ownership of your actions and choices, the more likely you are to prioritize them and make careful, calculated decisions.

11. Stop saying “later” 

Seriously, procrastination is a quiet killer. Do you really want to start each day with something hanging over your head from the previous day? The time is now, act accordingly.

12. Stay true to what moves you

There is no sense working a job which makes you too tired to go home and live the life you are working to live. You shouldn’t spend your hours counting down the hours on a clock in an office, just to feel that there aren’t enough hours remaining for everything else. We have to be practical, yes, but that shouldn’t mean sacrificing personal fulfillment. If you stay true to what move and excites you, you should have the motivation to become a master of your craft and live a life which grants you stability as well as passion and internal reward.

13. Don’t obsess over the past

Don’t cheat on the present by remaining stuck on the past. Keep moving forward, always.

14. Make your health a priority

Take care of yourself, body and soul. Eat well (food is fuel, seriously), laugh often, sweat every day, get enough sleep, limit harmful habits, give yourself a day off when you need it and treat your body as the critical vessel that it is.

15. Look up

Get your head out of your phone, your laptop and away from the TV. We live in a digital age, which means we really need to work to ensure it doesn’t consume all of our attention. When you’re with someone, focus on them and keep the phone out of sight. When you have a free night, consider reading instead of a Netflix binge. If you need to talk to someone, consider meeting up with them instead of messaging them via text or email. Give yourself an hour of screen-free time before bed. These are little things we can do to un-plug ourselves from the technology we so firmly attach ourselves to.

16. Dating culture exists, but you decide what you accept

When it comes to dating, especially in your twenties, it’s easy to feel like you are swimming an upstream battle. While we are often painfully aware of the dating cultures which exist and feel their effect, we decide whether or not we accept them as a rule to which we need to abide. If you aren’t comfortable with a situation, you can remove yourself from it. Don’t abandon your values and intentions to suit someone else’s. You can’t expect to find what (or whom) you want if you’re constantly betraying your own desires, after all. Always remain open, remain confident and remain honest with yourself and your heart.

17. Learn to forgive

There is no sense in continuously investing precious energy into malicious emotions and engagements. Of course, we will find ourselves angry or hurt at times and we have the right to feel the levity of those emotions when they come, but it is absolutely crucial to learn how to acknowledge those feelings and then let them go. Forgive yourself, forgive others, understand when someone or something is introducing negative energy into your life and forgive that too, but let it go as you do. Leave it and your anger behind you. Unburden yourself so you can remain open to alternative experiences as you move forward. If you don’t, you will define your future based on your inability to forgive and forget the wrong-doings of the past.

18. Your time is valuable

If you ask me, time is our most precious commodity. We are a busy breed, generally speaking, so the time we invest is meaningful and holds a distinct purpose and intention. Value your time and engage with people who value and respect your time, not those who waste it or take it for granted.

19. Travel when you can

“We travel because we need to, because distance and difference are the tonic to creativity. When we get home, home is still the same, but something in our minds has changed and that changes everything.”

20. Let yourself be scared, but also be organized

The best things in life are often the ones that scare you the most. When we are in our twenties, we have to give ourselves the freedom to take risks, some of which will scare the living crap out of us. That fear, those nerves, those are okay. They are human. But, while we should embrace the madness that comes with transitioning into adulthood and sorting out our passions and future, we must maintain a method to the madness, too. To do this, make a habit of setting your intentions and having mental check-in’s with yourself. Write your to-do lists in the morning, schedule your time, stay on track to the big picture on a daily basis but grant yourself permission to take a few leaps of faith, risks or breaths where necessary. We can’t control everything, we can only be well prepared.

This post originally appeared on Quora.