The Defining Decade: a MUST-read for Young Adults

Whether you are 18 years old or 26 years old, on your desired path to success or completely lost, everyone can use a little reminder about where we are in our lives and where we want to be. “The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter- and how to make the most of them now” by Meg Jay PhD is the ultimate guide to personal growth and success during the prime years of our lives. 

 

Author Meg Jay, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who works primarily with “twentysomethings,” guiding them through the struggles and confusion that they face throughout their young adult lives. Through her clients’ stories, Meg Jay breaks the book down into three sections and proceeds to explain the possible and very common psychological causes of personal struggles that come with career success, finding love and the brain and body of twentysomething individuals. In a nutshell, without giving much away, here’s the breakdown and some highlight points that are addressed: 

 

In terms of career, we as current college students or even post-grad individuals may be feeling a lack of motivation and/or confidence when it comes to successfully joining our career fields. We may feel stuck between underestimating our strengths and skills and taking that risk by applying for positions outside of our comfort zones. Meg Jay explains the excuses that we make for ourselves, our tendency to settle for underemployment and our poor collection of identity capital, (you’ll have to read the book to find out what those terms mean!) due to our fear of taking risks. 

 

When it comes to love, Meg Jay touches on twentysomethings’ eagerness or lack thereof of developing relationships, getting married, dating, cohabitating and even starting families. While there are benefits to being in committed relationships and casually dating throughout our twenties, Meg Jay stresses the importance of planning but also the dangers of overplanning. I know, it sounds crazy but you have to hear her out. Thanks to her background in psychology, she also explains the psychological aspects of attraction and (possible reasons) why we are compatible with some and not others. Lastly in this section, she discusses the importance of family support systems and our ability to pick our own families. 

 

As for the brain and body section of the book, Meg Jay explains the physical health and condition of our brains and bodies during this period of our lives. She explains how, although we are considered legal adults and should be mature enough to handle situations thrown at us as adults, there is a science behind the reasonings for why we handle the pressures and consequences of some things and not others: the maturity of our physical brain and its functions. She also touches on the importance of time management when it comes to starting families and the physical being of our bodies and reproductive systems. 

 

Despite its title, this book is a great read for men and women of all ages, career fields, and relationship statuses. While our twenties are commonly described as “the prime years” of our adult lives and the period of experimentation and “freedom,” some decisions that we choose to make or not make during our twenties could have a long term effect that we may not feel until our thirties and forties. Meg Jay stresses in this book that yes, our twenties are the prime years of our lives and that we can definitely embrace experimenting with career choices, love and dating, but that realistic planning is not always a bad thing. If we have long-term goals that we want to achieve, we should set a realistic timeline to follow in order to get those things done, weigh out our options and reassess our skills, knowledge, and value to whatever those goals are associated with. 

 

While this book offers a lot of insight to the psychological reasoning for why we make certain decisions, Meg Jay also talks about the importance of living life to our full potential and not forgetting our value and what we can offer to those in our careers and our personal lives. Meg Jay’s incorporation of her experiences with clients and their real situations puts her knowledge into a real-time perspective, in which readers can relate to and/or find some similarities to the position that they are in or have been in in the past. 

 

This book is an easy read that everyone can learn something from. Whether you feel like you can relate to just one section of the book or all three, it's always beneficial to get a different perspective and to remain open minded about all of the possibilities and opportunities that we could be taking advantage of if we only knew where to start or what to do if we get stuck. I’m very glad I read this book in my early twenties and will definitely be keeping some of her insight in the back of my mind at all times.