[Book Review] The Defining Decade Why Your Twenties Matter–And How to Make the Most of Them Now



Jun. 11 2013, Published 2:00 a.m. ET

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Meg Jay, PhD is a clinical psychologist who specialized in twentysomethings. That’s right. There’s a entire field dedicated to adult development and us. In The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter—and how to make the most of them, Dr. Jay evaluates the woes of #postgradlife (and post, post grad life in some cases) through the stories of her patients. She backs up her claims with psychological research.

Researchers at Boston University and University of Michigan have established that although life changing events happen all throughout life, the most consequential and influential of them that determine the rest of your lives occur during our twenties. It makes sense. Many of us are leaving our childhood homes, attending college, choosing jobs and seeking love partners.  We are working to become more independent and enter adulthood.

Not surprisingly, I found myself really feeling the same way as some her patients. If you don’t already have a job lined up, post-grad life can feel like you’re in the middle of an ocean; there are multiple directions you can choose to swim, but you’re not sure which part of the shore you’ll end up. And sometimes, deciding to swim is the hardest part. Even the thought of making that first move can be stressful and cause delay.

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This book helped to confirm some of my ideals about my twenties. It is not a time of complacency. If one wants to pursue a career, a love life, a new way of thinking about oneself, others and the world, don’t wait until your thirties. We are often told “Thirty is the new twenty,” but why does it have to be? Jay’s mission is to dispel this way of thinking in an effort to show why your twenties, and the decisions you make during them, have high potential to determine the rest of your life.

Jay reminds us that careers and lives don’t roll off assembly lines through the example of her patient, Ian. We have to work for them and it can takes time to have the “customized life we envision for ourselves.” The idea of focusing on one career path seemed boring. Ian was weary. However, it was holding him back from starting. Half the battle is taking the first step. It’s about starting, Jay reminds us. It is from that point, the work begins. Don’t let fear or uncertainty hold you back.

Jay explains her thesis while expelling some pretty common mindsets about and among twentysomethings, split into three sections: Work, Love and The Body and The Brain. This seems logical because it encompasses almost every aspect twentysomethings (and most people) care about right now.

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Dr. Jay spoke at TED2013 and summarized some of the points in Defining Decade. A TED staff member had this to say:

“I enjoyed your book! However, I felt the book was targeted to a very specific demographic — upper/middle class economic status, well-educated, looking for a heterosexual relationship. What are your thoughts on this?” – TED’s Customer Support Specialist Becky Chung

Dr. Jay did respond by saying people from all walks of life can benefits from career advice such as weak ties and the want for a marriage/family.

Defining Decade hits a chord because it’s straight forward. Along with her own experiences, Dr. Jay’s data and conclusions are based off of newly found and published research. Lucky for us, Dr. Jay offers solutions if one decides their current twenty-something, and even thirty-something life may need a few adjustments.

How are you taking advantage of your twenties today?

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