Your 20s Don’t Have To Be So Difficult, Here’s How To Make This Decade Run Smoothly


Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What advice do you wish you had been given in your twenties? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.

Set standards for yourself.

As a kid I would always tell my parents about what toys or games my friends had or how their parents handled certain behaviors. My mom would always respond with “Well you’re not [insert friend name here], are you?”, and that kind of ended the conversation. Now I realize how much power those words hold. It’s your job to define success, and what meaning your life has. Defining your life in accordance to others is a mistake and recipe for disaster.

Work hard, then work smart.

I usually see the phrase “work smart, not hard” being tossed around the interwebs and it wasn’t until recently that I realized that statement wasn’t the whole story – at least not for me. My first couple years in college I worked really hard, but it took a toll on my health. I didn’t sleep more than 4 hours on average, my diet was terrible etc. It was only after working so hard that I realized what it meant to work smart. Even now I think that I’m probably working too hard – but it’s a necessary thought process in order to learn how to work smart.

Form habits.

Motivation is fleeting. It does not last. You cannot expect motivation to get you through a long and difficult task, as it wears down everyday. Motivation needs renewal constantly in order to be effective in the long term. This is bad for things like relationships,school, projects or work. You may know what to do, and that you probably should do it but without motivation what’s to make you do it? Habit is the answer. Habit is the autopilot we all need when we don’t want to do the right thing, like go to the gym or read a book or program etc. When the passion and the motivation wear out habit is the only thing that will save you. Form habits now (good ones!) and reap the benefits later.

Be grateful.

We are all very lucky to be here. The odds are astronomical that you are alive. The chances of you dying grow higher everyday. Every opportunity is a blessing and every new day is bliss. There are so many things that can go wrong. Be grateful for your friends, your posessions, your job, your family or whatever you have in your life. I can tell you that being grateful will make you treat the important things in life like they should be treated – as a priority. Never forget how lucky you really are to be alive and in a place of prosperity.

Understand that the window is closing.

You are only young for so long. The window for doing crazy things is closing, and it is closing very fast. Live your life like you don’t know what will happen tomorrow. Live your life like everything you love will die or cease to exist tomorrow. Don’t waste your time now, it is precious, so precious and you can never get it back. Don’t let life be wasted on the youth.

Make bad choices.

Now take this one with a grain of salt. There are things you know you should do, and things you know you probably shouldn’t – like stay up all night, or do something illegal etc. I’m not advertising for poor life choices that will severely hurt your future options but sometimes it’s healthy to do the things you know you shouldn’t. It makes for good experiences, stories and relationship. Take a risk sometimes. It might not always be worth it, but when it is you’ll be glad.

That’s all I could think of, and I hope it was helpful!

Good luck!

This answer originally appeared at Quora: The best answer to any question. Ask a question, get a great answer. Learn from experts and get insider knowledge.