20-advice-for-20-somethin-teen therapyg

20 Pieces of Advice for 20 Somethings

1. You don’t have to love it, just get out there

I use to work at John Wayne Airport for a specialty cargo company shipping mostly exotic fish, dead bodies, and cigarettes – no joke. I took the job when I was 16 years old after thumbing through a website called monster.com (now something comparable to Indeed). This is going somewhere, I promise.

I spent the summer working with military vets packaging and shipping the most random things anyone could think of below the cargo decks of commercial flights. I memorized all of the airport codes, how to operate a forklift and every piece of technology involved in getting items from point A to point B.

I learned a lot that summer, mostly, that I never wanted to work in shipping, cargo, or airports ever again. This was valuable.

On the plus side, I learned that I liked technology, and on the slow evenings I ended up chatting with one of the vets I worked with about life after deployment. I was fascinated with his story, symptoms, and how he sang the praises of therapy. It inspired me deeply and I have to say it was something that hung with me for a long time afterward. It was a piece of my original interest in psychology. Funny enough, I ended up running into him more than a decade later when I was a resident at the VA! Im sure you are thinking “cool story Dr K.” The wisdom of doing what you don’t love is captured in this story. 

Doing what you don’t love opens doors. It changes how you think and exposes you to things you would have never chosen otherwise. Engaging in life is the solution to “figuring things out.”

Experience changes you, thought alone won’t get you there.

Taking internships, classes, etc. that seem approximate to your interests is a great idea. It often leaves you closer to the mark even if it wasn’t your “thing.” Take risks, indulge your curiosities, and say “yes” to as much as you can. It’s not all so serious, be at play as you try on different hats. We are all grown up 20 somethings taking ourselves way too seriously out here, don’t be scared. You don’t have to love it, just get out there.

2. Get really good at something

After years of surfing the jetties in Newport Beach, I finally made my way down to the Wedge in the summer of 2001. It is the token-heavy, big-wave spot in Southern California. I remember the weightless feeling I had dropping into the first 15+ foot set wave on a hot summer morning, pulling into the barrel, and coming out clean. I had worked years and years, paid my dues, and finally could tackle and handle a wave like the wedge with confidence.

There is nothing quite like sucking at something, working on it, and developing yourself in some craft over time. It is deeply satisfying.

The rule of 10,000 hours to mastery exists for a reason. Mastery takes time, plain and simple.There is no shortcut. We are designed to become experts in things as human beings. It is an essential ingredient to our happiness and sense of well-being. Why? We can’t all be the experts on everything, there just isn’t enough time, so all of us go and become ultra-specialized in a particular skill or trade and return to the community to offer that service to others. We are built to work together as a species, this is “community.” It scratches a deeply social element in us and leaves us feeling immensely satisfied to do this.

Find your niche and dig in, be patient, mastery takes time but it is oh-so-worth-it. As for me, after surfing, the journey to being a psychologist was the answer. I am still not a master by any means, but hey, that’s the point, right? Keep going.

3. Don’t let anxiety make your choices

If you could remove fear from the equation, what would you do differently in your life?

Let’s say there is a pure and unadulterated YOU in there. Without fear, without a past, without judgment, without, without, without. A freer version. How would that person get on with their life?

Consider this. What if all of your major life choices were made from a fearful place? Add these moments up over time. Would that life that you created really be your own?

I imagine it would be some handicapped version of who you could have become. Some watered-down you. Is there really anything to be more fearful of in this life than a life unlived? Anxious decisions are stifled choices and most importantly, they are not your own. In any major crossroad, ask yourself if the choice you are about to make is made out of fear or made out of a desire to live.

4. “Success” is not a goal

Start by answering this question: Without imagining an audience, Instagram likes, or your parents’ approval, what kind of life do you really want to live?

Success is about as bad of a goal as happiness. It’s too undefined and the goal post tends to move. In fact, when most people describe “success” I think they often try to describe the conditions under which they believe they might be happy.

No one thing makes anyone successful or happy. It requires balance and attention to many parts of life. It is a mindset. Happiness and success are ongoing dances that require new steps in each new chapter.

I could give you countless examples of financially successful people who are both happy and unhappy. The job title, big income, and millions of followers don’t seem to exactly correlate with the feeling that life is good. The truth is, that nothing, in particular, can ultimately make you happy.

A better goal is aiming for a sense of satisfaction with your life. 

Aristotle first tried to tease apart this difference between happiness and satisfaction, coining the term “Eudaimonia.” Eudamonia is a word that tries to capture a “life well lived”, of well-being and a sense of human flourishing. Happiness is the belief that you can enter into a state of permanent euphoria about life. It is a mistaken goal. 

In my experience as a psychologist, satisfied people live a life steeped in meaning that they have constructed themselves, they are amidst a story. They have at least a few close, healthy friendships. Satisfied people have engagements in line with what they find important about life. It isn’t always their work (what pays the bills), and its not always enjoyable to them. This is a common misconception. Those who seem satisfied have hobbies and activities they enjoy simply for the act of engaging in them. They have a deep sense of values, and routine, and aim to be present and grateful in their lives. Satisfied people work on themselves daily but also accept and have grace for their shortcomings. Satisfied people allow their emotions. They grieve fully, laugh fully, cry fully, love fully.

Satisfied people tend to be authentic and have personally determined what would make their lives enjoyable. In my work, I encourage my patients to get in touch with themselves on a deep level and begin constructing and imagining a personally satisfying life. Imagine your daily routines, rituals, people, and the activities you would be a part of. I am a fan of articulating an internal vision board of the future. The more vivid and tangible you can imagine your future, the more likely it is to become a reality.

How else do you make decisions? Micro decisions over the course of a long time ultimately create the life you are living

5. Life isn’t short

Time is a strange thing. There are 2 modes of viewing our lives in any given moment. Think of your third-grade classroom. Hasn’t so much happened since then? Hasn’t it been an eternity? I bet you are hardly the same person. Simultaneously, think of how vibrant those experiences are, doesn’t that seem like yesterday? What a strange paradox.

Life is really a long time and thinking of life as a short journey won’t serve you.

The same person who is depositing money into their retirement account will hardly be the same person withdrawing those funds at age 59 and a half. We have to make choices today that our future selves will enjoy. Picturing life as longer than you might imagine is a psychological hack that will lead you to make better choices today. Invest in your future self with an education, a trade school, or self-disciplined study. Assume your future self will exist. The decisions you make today will make his or her life better or worse.

Take a moment and reflect. If you went under the assumption that life is a longer thing than you feel it might be at this moment, how would it influence the way in which you are going about your daily life?

I imagine you would exercise more patience, work out difficulties in friendships with more grace, take breaks, and accept challenges that had a longer time horizon to name just a few ideas. Life is a marathon, not a sprint, approach it as such.

6. Get rid of attention junk food. Put down your phone

Right now you need to utilize time as best as you can. You are laying the foundation for the rest of your life. These years at the building blocks. You need more time to do things, not less.

Track your distractions, I think for most this is probably your phone and social media. Social media in and of itself is not bad, it’s fun and connects you to people. We are all on it. It turns bad when it is used addictively and obsessively.

If you find yourself spending hours a day on social media – scrolling through the search page, getting lost in TikTok or worthless youtube videos this is a sign of trouble. Even more so, if you find yourself doing this to manage difficult emotions (anxiety, boredom, etc.) this is a sign of a problem. Work on it.

I encourage you to track the time spent, even for a week or two. Open up the settings on your phone and enable screen time tracking. Take note of how many hours a day or week you are spending staring at the screen. The first step to changing a problematic pattern is awareness.You need the facts. You can even disable apps now to kick you off after a certain amount of time per day. Determine what a healthy amount of phone time is per day and stick to it.

If you took even half of this time and directed it at learning a skill, spending time with friends, going to the gym, building a side project, or any other worthy endeavor. How much could you grow, learn, gain, become?

You might look back one day and wish you didn’t spend 1000 hours a year on Instagram. On the other hand, there is probably never a situation in which you will look back and wish you did.

Creating a healthy relationship with technology is a new skill and challenge for 20-somethings. Finding a balance in this part of life is vital to your success. As a last side note on technology, do not post anything online that you would be embarrassed to show a parent, explain to a child, or have an employer find.

7. Being smarter isn’t always better

Plain and simple, intelligence is not a causal factor in success.

For those with a naturally high IQ things tend to come easy and high IQers can grow accustomed to putting in minimal effort and succeeding at tasks. Over time, approaching work and challenges this way can create lasting bad habits that are later hard to change.

As your training and education move along, life begins to require more self-directed effort and motivation as a propellant. There isn’t the 13th grade to fall into. If these aspects of your personality don’t evolve with your IQ score, you can get really stuck. I have seen it several times firsthand in my private practice and it’s really pretty sad to watch.

I have also had front-row seats to several success stories. 

Those who excel tend to have two things: grit and social skill.

We are much more social and emotional than rational. This is a scientific fact and has major implications. Your first impression, eye contact, social awareness, and communication skills will give you far more of an advantage than fancy language or a high IQ. Even if you have an off-the-charts IQ, you won’t get to showcase your skills without the social/emotional prerequisites listed above.

Prospective employers and heads of departments take a chance on a feeling they have when they are with you, not on your brilliance.

Of course, you can always point to the one or two genius exceptions (and there are those) but we can’t all be the next Elon Musk. You are better off for accepting this premise.

8. Form a healthy relationship with your mind

Take a second and consider this truth: We are not the authors of our thoughts. We don’t actually get to control the next sentence of language that will percolate into our consciousness.

Trying to manufacture and augment positive thought is really just architecting a lifelong internal battle in your mind. The good thought team and the bad thought team, fight!

Trying to avoid negative thoughts often brings them more into awareness. For example, right now, whatever you do, DO NOT think of a purple elephant…point proven. Pushing away thoughts is, in fact, signing up to keep them around for longer.

The solution? Learn to strengthen the part of you that can observe thought rather than focus on fixing thinking itself. Our thoughts hardly tell the truth and they often don’t have our best interest in mind. Sidestep those mental battles. The thoughts can be there and so can your action towards what matters the most to you.

Take those ugly, recurring thoughts with you to that first interview or first date. They don’t actually have to go away to make moves.

Ironically, the more you approach your mind in this way, the quieter these thoughts become on their own.

When they win, they strengthen. When you befriend them, you win.

Theres too much to say here about how to work with emotions, but I would consider our feelings the more important sub-component of the “mind.” The quick and easy explanation about working with difficult emotions is to allow them and experience them fully. Trouble comes from resisting feeling or when the mind interferes with experiencing a feeling (e.g. replaying events, refusing to accept – “this shouldn’t be happening!”, imagining future catastrophe, etc.). The shelf life of an intense emotion is actually relatively brief if we can find a way to just open up to it and stay open. It will run through and you will be better on the other side. Therapy can help you learn to process difficult emotions and experiences effectively so you don’t get stuck.

9. Comparison is truly the thief of joy

There is a famous religious nursery rhyme that goes:

Careful little eyes what you see, Careful little ears what you hear, Careful little mind what you think

If we aren’t careful with our diet of media, we can find ourselves constantly exposed to pictures, images, and information that makes us feel dissatisfied with the lives we are living. If you are following people on social media that mobilize envy and create an ongoing ache of have-not-ness. If you can’t regulate it, it may be time for a break. It is ok to unfollow, mute, or even go on media vacations. Consider how these things are affecting your mindset right now.

The moral of the story is to avoid social comparison. It can take any joyful moment or season in your life and make it instantly unsatisfying. Comparison is craving, and when we live in a state of craving, we tend to suffer. Particularly, if you are in Newport Beach, you are no stranger to this. Keeping up with the Joneses is a heavy, toxic local cultural element. It exists everywhere but you get a double dose here.

We don’t know the lives under the Instagram posts or TikTok’s. We see what is presented. Every life has its trouble and challenges are we quickly adapt to our own circumstances. Whether your problem is that your yacht delivery is 10 months late or you are going to be late on your rent, it feels the same. Hedonic adaptation sucks but just know, whoever you envy, they also envy someone equally.

The solution is gratitude and continued focus on your own path.

If we could switch bodies with other people comparison would be a great tool, but we are stuck being us, forever and always.

In a healthy way, others can be a great inspiration. We can enjoy the success of those around us while striving to create a better life for ourselves. Inspiration says, “I love life as it is, and I can’t wait to see where I can take mine.” Instead of, “I have decided not to be happy until my life looks like so and so’s.”

There will always be someone you can find that is prettier, wealthier, and more “successful” than you. Come to terms with this while trying to continue to edge your life forward. They are not mutually exclusive.

You can be both grateful and goal-oriented at the same time. Learning to balance on this tightrope is a beautiful thing. As old Abe Lincoln once said, “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

10. Right now is the best time to fail

You have an insane amount of freedom, use it to take good risks. Time is on your side more than you can comprehend. Lives tend to get more complicated and responsible as they go on, not less, and this isn’t a bad thing either, but right now it leaves you with opportunities you can’t imagine.

Don’t let the fear of failure dictate what you try. That being said, a Ph.D. in Art History is much less likely to pay out in your future versus an MBA or a degree as a lawyer or physician. Gauge risk appropriately and jump in.

Try your hand at as much as you can and explore your potential. It is much harder to do this with two kids and a mortgage than renting a room with two of your buddies. You have the ability to gamble, and take full advantage.

11. Get into therapy. Growth is always personal

There is a high probability that your therapist was once a patient. Many of us have benefited so much from our own therapies that we felt like we had no other choice but pay it forward. At least, this is my case and the case for many therapists I know personally.

After doing this work for a while now I have come to realize that we are not as psychologically free as we like to think we are. We have defenses set up to protect us from knowing our deepest anxieties. I imagine if suddenly these fears became immediately conscious, we wouldn’t be able to function. A homeostatic repression is always at work. Defenses are the lies we tell ourselves in order to avoid the pain in our lives. Adaptations are the things we come up with in order to make the best of bad situations. Stressors are the obstacles we overcome in order to make ourselves stronger at the broken places.

Therapy helps you put these things in the light, in a digestible bit-by-bit way.

We are buffeted at every moment by our pasts, our emotional histories, and our stories. The things that affect us the most are likely in our blind spots. Knowing yourself opens up possibilities, ones you would never have access to without the work that therapy has to offer. Therapy can help you to know yourself on a level you can’t fathom. It can help you get in touch with yourself and heal the things that directly get in your way. Therapy helps people to become better in relationships, more authentic, manage emotions, and communicate. It can help you heal from the things that bear down on you. It can literally free you up to create a life of your own.

Therapy scrapes away the psychological gunk.

A wise man once said “you can only ever meet people on the level of which you have evolved to yourself.” Since we can’t fix many of the people and situations in our lives, changing your life always means changing you. If you can swallow this truth, the pill of ultimate personal responsibility, you can see the value of psychotherapy. The dividends this will pay personally and professionally cannot be overstated.

12. People naturally want to cheer for you

Like hearing the cries of a puppy, there is something about an eager 20-something on the job that just makes senior people want to jump in and help.

I am convinced there is biology in us that wants to raise our communal young well past the age of 18. Selfishly, we remember what it was like to be in their shoes, to head out into the great unknown, and construct a life for ourselves. We get to relive our own youth, passions, our “grom days” (the beginnings) and get fresh eyes on the work we have grown all too accustomed to. Learning, growing, and figuring it all out in your 20s is so different from trying to do the same thing in your 50s. You have a natural advantage.

Know that people want to train you, educate you, and grow you into the master you will eventually become. You are in the perfect place; you don’t need to know more than you do.

Get good at asking questions, be humble, and put in your all. Mentors are abundant at this age because of this rule. One of the best things any 20-something can do is find a mentor in their craft. I have honestly never met a single person who got to where they are without the help of a mentor.

13. The path is always better than the destination (the path is your life, anyways)

Think about your last vacation. Take a moment and picture the trip planning, packing, and preparation for the trip. The group texts and the fantasies you held about all that you would so and see. Try and remember the feelings you had building up to the moment your plane’s wheels left the ground.

A big part of what makes life worth living is the anticipation, the hopes, the dreams, and the thrill of an experience yet to come.

I think about the last big trip I went on, our honeymoon. I got sick from the flight over and had a wicked cold for the first few days, my luggage arrived the day after I did, and the hotel accidentally upgraded us to our surprise. We also made lifetime friends with a couple from Alabama who we later vacationed with again. None of which I had in my fantasy or anticipation. A mix of really crappy and really cool. What’s that saying? We make plans and god laughs. It always feels a bit like this. Learning to enjoy the journey is an essential ingredient in life satisfaction. 

A psychology secret – humans aren’t happy unless they are making progress.

All of our happiness is in getting better. It’s the same reason why it is easy to lose weight but its really hard to keep weight off. When the scale is going down you are motivated and happy. When you git your goal, the reward for hitting your goal is that you never get to eat what you like for the rest of your life, congrats! This is the nature of how we are wired. Progress is everything.

Find new challenges for yourself constantly. Play different games of challenge and development as much as you can, professionally, personally, in hobbies, etc. Don’t put your eggs all in one basket or source of identity and self esteem. Much of our lives are lived on the path, the arrival is far too fleeting and too quickly dissatisfying. We have an inborn ability to adapt to the best and the worst, psychologists call it “habituation.” Its why we can’t arrive and stay feeling arrived forever, we need more path. The peak can only last for so long, the new car feeling always wears off. Enjoy the road to where you are going, the vast majority of your life is spent here.

14. Uncertainty is possibility in disguise, embrace it

Life is uncertain. There’s no way of avoiding this fact so don’t try with things like worry, avoidance, or premature despair. Try to embrace uncertainty. Ironically, doing so will convert that misguided energy into the spirit of adventure.

Anxiety is truly just one hair away from excitement.

The latter will put the kind of fuel in your tank that you need right now. 20 somethings, you are all in it together, it will work out if you can keep out of your own way when it comes to looking out into the great unknown.

Think, if your story was already written somewhere, and the book was in your hands, would you really open it?

15. Learn to be a better friend, partner, and employee

The famous clinician Esther Perel boils down her clinical wisdom into one statement:

The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.

Build community and quality friendships. Join clubs, go to happy hours, engage in hobbies with others, and meet your neighbors. Put effort into developing quality relationships with people who are good for you, the opposite of the bar scene. Those relationships tend to be shallow, superficial, party friends, not the real ones who will show up for you when times get tough. Don’t get me wrong, go out and have a great time, just do it with the people you love and love you in return.

Learn to put your feelings into words, and find language that captures exactly what you feel or want to say. Don’t exaggerate, language are containers of experience, work on finding precise containers. Work on evolving your communication skills over time. This is something that you can easily get better at with effort. It deepens relationships and strengthens communication. 

Know too that the behaviors and patterns that aggravate you about others are often the very things you refuse to see in yourself. Psychologists call this “projections of your shadow self.” Owning and resolving these aspects of who you are helps you to connect better to others. When we have unresolved issues in the past we either experience others as the people in our lives who have hurt us or we unknowingly exert pressure on the people in our lives to behave in those similar ways. A previous post on relationships delves into this topic.

On Listening. Hearing someone is easy, listening to someone is much harder. In listening, you have to almost repeat to yourself what someone else is saying, digest it, and imagine being in their shoes before responding. Quality listening probably strengthens relationships more than any other single factor alone. It is a real art form to be a deep listener.

Focusing on what you want to say next is the single biggest inhibitor to quality listening. Listen to hear, not respond.

If you are hearing many of the same complaints about you from a few different people swallow your pride and look into what’s going on. Address the issue from the root up. Learn not to Irish goodbye, look people in the eyes, and work on speaking clearly. If you find yourself either too guarded or without healthy boundaries address that too. There is a sweet spot between complete vulnerability and having a huge guard up.

Don’t text if it’s a conversation needed to be had in person or on the phone. Learn to say no and deal with others’ disappointment head-on. They will love you even more in the long run for it.

Don’t ghost people, don’t leave texts hanging, and it’s okay to miss out on things sometimes. Making up excuses to always do the most fun thing at the last minute is immature, learn to honor your obligations and commitments. Learn your personal blind spots and rough edges. Make a daily commitment to work on these issues.

Issues come up in relationships. One of the best pieces of advice I received as a 20-something was:

Error on the side of accepting more responsibility for problems, rather than less.

Accepting more responsibility, rather than less leaves you in the most optimal place for growth and it makes people like you. Learning to find your contributions to a problem, however small, gives you items to address and work on. You live life less a vitctimYou are also less likely to find yourself in a similar situation in the future. Try and find even the smallest thing that could have been done differently: identify it, communicate this insight to the other person, and move forward with the intent to change.

16. Don’t focus on a romantic relationship as a bedrock for your future

All too many times I have seen young people make a romantic relationship the sole focus of their lives. They choose colleges based on a relationship, they choose jobs based on a relationship, and make entire life plans anchored around a single, romantic relationship at a very young age.

There is a time and place to make these choices and sacrifices but particularly in your early 20’s try to avoid this pitfall. It’s also rare that a long-distance relationships work out. Long distance is often frustrating and difficult for both parties and requires an immense amount of maturity and commitment to keep afloat. I am a firm believer that there is more than one soul mate out there for each of us. Get your own life in order before strapping yourself to a partner. Hanging onto someone like a life raft when you are both learning how to swim is a recipe for trouble. A big part of what makes life work is living is relationships, plural. One person can’t satisfy you the way a community can.

Take time to date. Your 20’s are for learning and growing. Don’t hunker down into something while you are rapidly changing and maturing. I’m not saying don’t get into a relationship, more so don’t hang on for dear life. Be fully in them but when the time comes to move on, listen.

Sometimes 20 somethings hang onto a romantic relationship because life feels uncertain and unstable and it’s easy to find comfort in the consistency of another person. Find a willingness to face the unknown alone, that spirit will leave you in the best place to meet the right person without the neediness that comes with insecurity. It also allows the opportunity to feel safe and takes refuge in your own self.

Get to know people. Put away your “must have” checklist. Enjoy the process of deepening a relationship with another person. Enjoy the process of mutual discovery.

Pursue someone like it’s forever, but it doesn’t need to be forever for it to matter and have meaning in your life. If you learn from your relationships you will grow to understand what kind of puzzle piece you are so that you can find the right fit with another. Picking someone to spend your life with is such a big decision. Maybe one of the biggest you will ever make. Take your time.

17. Take care of your credit score and learn the basics of saving and investing

Learn the basics of taking care of your financial health. Your big financial decisions down the line are going to depend upon the decisions you are making right now.

The ability to take out loans for your education, buy a car, rent an apartment, buy a home, or start a business will all depend upon it. The decisions you make about paying parking tickets or not, being on top of monthly bills or not, or taking out credit cards (just to name a few) impact future opportunities you will have. There are so many good, free resources online these days via youtube that can help you learn the basics of how a credit score works. Apps like Credit Karma take two seconds to download and can show you where you stand at any given time. It is easy to do damage and so hard to fix later on.

Most investing is a total scam or subject to good luck. The ads you get on your Instagram or Facebook are often these kinds of “opportunities.” Anyone advertising to you is looking out for themselves, not for you. On the other hand, things like a ROTH IRA or 401k with employer matching are great decisions. The earlier you understand these elements of financial health, the better off you will be in the long run. It’s never too early to learn.

Fun fact, because of the principle of compounding interest, Warren Buffett made 90 percent or more of his net worth after his 50th birthday. You can never go back in time and invest money at previous ages but you can learn and be ready for quality investing at a younger age that will pay dividends to your future self. Maybe you can’t contribute much with your current income, but you can start developing healthy habits with regard to money. Even if you open an account and put a dollar a month in, you are still developing skills, knowledge, and habits to do so later.

Learn to save, invest wisely, and take care of your future financial well-being. One of the best books you can read in your 20s on this subject matter is The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel.

18. Live a little

It isn’t always about the grind. If you are the kind of person who is so anxious about the future that you have become addicted to productivity you have a different lesson to learn.

Some high-achieving teens have had so much pressure on themselves for so long that they have forgotten how to have fun. Their little lives have been run like CEO’s for as long as they can remember. They have childhood of being carted from one tutor, to this practice, to this study session, to that music class, all to get home at 8pm and study for 3AP classes. It is often driven by parental anxiety and handed down to their kids in this way. Without some quality RnR this plan is sure to backfire and burn out. Without being aware, many 20-somethings have taken this way of doing things into their 20-something, adult lives.

Make time to enjoy life, isn’t that the real goal of success anyways? Why keep delaying happiness to some future date and set of conditions?

I promise you will never fully feel like you have arrived at that date and set of conditions. If you are the person who is doing this now, you will be the person doing that then.

Go to a music festival, travel abroad, surf, and explore your interests. It’s also a great idea to set aside time to do nothing, be bored, nap, and care for yourself. Learning how to work hard and play hard is critical. Don’t keep postponing living your life.

19. Learn to delay gratification

In 1972, a marshmallow was placed in front of 32 children, 16 boys, and 16 girls, around the age of five and six. The researcher placed the delicious, white, puffy marshmallow in front of the child and then let them know that they needed to leave the room for a moment and if they didn’t eat it they would be given another delicious, marshmallow. The kids wiggled in their seats, touched it and almost ate it, sat it back down, legs bouncing, itching to eat that marshmallow. Some couldn’t help themselves and went for it, others were able to show restraint, they knew a better reward was on its way if only they could endure the feelings.

Then, they followed these kids into adulthood. What they found was that the kids who were able to delay gratification became adults who had higher SAT scores, were significantly more competent, generally happier, had jobs and careers that paid more and were more satisfying.

Delaying gratification is one of the keys to having a satisfying, happier adult life.

Delaying gratification in your 20’s might look like working on a degree, prioritizing a job that requires time and training versus work that pays now. It might look like sticking to healthy routines, working out, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and burning the midnight oil on internships or first jobs that don’t immediately pay out. Strong character and a developed, healthy personality are literally built upon the ability to delay gratification.

20. Always be honest. First with yourself, then with others

Have you ever been caught in a lie? 

Lying is like putting on a blindfold and trying to navigate a maze. You willingly blur clarity both within yourself and between yourself and others. It is hard to make positive changes when you aren’t working with reality on reality’s terms.

A great thinker and famous author, Sam Harris says,

“Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from the relationship.”

He argues that there is never a time or place for a lie and you would be hard pressed to come up with an example after reading his book Lying, I strongly encourage it as 20 something read.

If you have trouble with the truth, ask yourself, why am I really lying? 

Is it to please people, manage self-esteem, look better than you are, avoid shame, hide an addiction? Look closely. When delivering honesty work to weave together compassionate and honest communication.

Dr. Mitch Keil
Dr. Mitch Keil

Dr. Mitch Keil is a licensed clinical psychologist in Newport Beach, CA. His specialities in treatment cover a wide range of difficulties including depression, anxiety, addiction, PTSD, and grief/loss for teens, young adults, and adults. As a part of his dedication to the field, Dr. Keil receives regular supervision, support, continuing education, and training for his private practice. He is a lifelong learner and practitioner who is passionate about mental health, philosophy, and psychology.

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin

Recent Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *