Living Intentionally in Your Defining Decade

Clinical psychologist Meg Jay says that those in our twenty-somethings are living in the “Defining decade.” Why? Because….

Meg Jay says that "30 is not the new 20" We need to live intentionally and stop wasting this as a throwaway decade, but rather a defining decade

Meg Jay says that “30 is not the new 20” We need to live intentionally and stop wasting this as a throwaway decade, but rather a defining decade

  • 80% of life’s most defining moments happen by age 35.
  • 70% of lifetime wage growth happens in the first 10 years of a career.
  • More than half of Americans are married or living with or dating their future partner by 30.
  • Our personalities changes more in our 20s than any other time.
  • Our fertility peaks.
  • Our brain makes the last growth spurt.

Meg Jay emphatically states in her latest TED talk that “30 is not the new 20.” Contrary to common belief, she exhorts to those in this defining decade not to squander this time as prolonged adolescence or throwaway years, but a time of being intentional with your life, setting a solid foundation for the rest of your life.

Cultivate Strong Foundations

To finish well means to start well. Twenties is a time where you either cultivate good soil or bad soil (footpath, rocky path, or thorny bush). We must start to live intentionally by creating a strong foundation that will guide us through our 70’s. Don’t be disappointed by the lack of immediate gratification. A seed takes time to bear fruit. (Matt 13:3-9)

As a twenty-something myself, I confess that this is easier said than done. Most of the 50 million twenty-somethings today are “living with a staggering, unprecedented amount of uncertainty.” No other generation has been faced with the sheer variety of choices and options one can make than today’s generation. Choices for college, choices for careers, choices for dating relationships, choices for lifestyle etc….the list goes on. 

Start with Why

The incessant chants from the world (i.e., society, media, and culture) shared with twenty-somethings don’t alleviate this uncertainty either. “Dream big!” “Follow your dreams!” “Reach for the stars!” “Life is limitless.” Surely, these aren’t necessarily incorrect statements. The intention behind such statements are benign, that we ought to live life to the fullest, but many of us have abused such statements, rendering them devoid of real meaning. 

Perhaps the most important question we forgot to ask is “Why?” instead of “How?” and “What?”

Why is it so important that I dream big and follow my dreams?” Why is life limitless? Why am I so eager to achieve success? Why am I doing this or that…? 

The truth is that many twenty-somethings haven’t put serious thought into these questions because it’s both uncomfortable and difficult. The “Why” questions speak to the core of who we are, revealing our worldview and philosophy in life.  It’s not easy to easily surface these thoughts and engage in a thoughtful internal discussion. 

Also, the busyness and hectic lifestyle this generation  lives today stifles an environment of asking such important, life-changing questions. Meg Jay says 20-somethings engage in “present bias,” leading us to think that if nothing happens in our twenties then everything is still possible in our thirties.” We should take heed to Soren Kierkegaard’s wisdom: “life must be lived forward, but understood backwards.”  

Intentional Living

As a follower of Jesus Christ, my number one goal in life is to glorify God or as C.S. Lewis said, “to make God smile.” To achieve this, I wholeheartedly believe that I must be intentional in how I live. I define intentional living as…

Living every moment with kingdom impact, stewarding our gifts, talents, resources, and opportunities to turn the world upside down. 

I believe there are four fundamental questions in life that one must answer with conviction in order to live with intentionality. 

  • Whose am I? This question deals with the primary authority and audience for your life. Your metaphysical worldview defines whether you are a product of time, product, and chance or you were created by a Creator who has breathed you His image in you. You are a living imprint of God who has fashioned you. If the latter is true you have established a place in life that gives meaning and relevance.
  • Who am I? This question deals with self-awareness. The Scripture says you are God’s workmanship created with God-given gifts, talents, and temperaments. Sadly, many grow up without knowing who they are. Our role is to discover, cultivate, and steward these resources and opportunities. At the end of our lives, God will measure what and how we have spent our lives. We will come either empty handed or multiplied resources. Learn more on how to be more self-aware here
  • Why am I here? This question revolves around your life’s purpose. Answering the previous questions help you discover your calling in life. The first call comes from the Creator who says “Follow Me”. This marks a new beginning. A life-changing inflection born where you are born again. You are no longer enslaved by your older self replete with sin and corruption, but now you have a new identity in Christ who offers you unending love, joy, peace, and grace. The next call is more specific – that is, to learn your vocation in life. Why did God make me in such a unique way? What did he call you to be? Frederick Buechner gives a helpful suggestion: “The place God calls you is where your deep gladness and world’s deep hunger meet.” 
  • Where am I going? Living intentionally is a lot like a GPS. Today marks your current location and you have a final destination you’re heading towards to. Living intentionally is about charting a course that will help you go from here to there. Answering the previous three questions will help you create an overarching vision and plan in life. The specific path is something you can’t orchestrate every time since we cannot predict the future. By relying on God with a sensitive Spirit, you do your best to live with wisdom and discernment.  

Question: If you are in your twenties, what are you doing to live intentionally? If you have graduated from your 20’s, what would you do differently if you had a chance to go back to this defining decade?