10 Disciplines I’d Recommend Everyone Start in Their 20s
As your seniors head off to college, give them these qualities to consider.
This is one of those posts I hope someone learns something from that can help them in life.OK, I hope that for all of my posts—otherwise, why am I writing? But I see this one as a life-giving post for those who will read it and take some of it to heart. Specifically, my target is those who are in their 20s, who are starting out in their adult life and career. As I’m writing, I’m thinking of my own two sons in that demographic, the young people who work on our team, and the hundreds of college students and young adults in our church. Those who come to mind are driving my desire to invest something in you who will read this.
I’m 51, which is certainly not old—although it may have seemed like it was when I was younger—but it is old enough to have learned a few things. Like things I wish I had done when I was younger. And some things I’m glad I did.
I have learned the only way to really sustain something in your life is through self-discipline. No one is going to force you to do some of the most important things you need to do.
If I were in my 20s again, there are some disciplines I would make sure I incorporated into my life. I would practice them enough that they would be natural for me today.
Here are 10 disciplines I would recommend everyone start in their 20s:Saving. It’s easier to start setting aside money before you start spending it. Setting a budget and living by it makes so much sense to me now. It didn’t in my 20s. I wanted all the disposable income I could make. But I didn’t spend it wisely and now I have to make up for lost time saving for my future.
Exercising. I exercise everyday. Now in my 50s I recognize more than ever my need for regular physical activity, but some mornings the body doesn’t want to get going. Without it being intrinsic to who I am, I’m not sure I would start now.
Journaling. I have journaled off and on throughout my life. It is so much fun to read my thoughts from 30 years ago and reflect on how much I’ve learned and things God has done in my life. Still, there are periods missing where for years I didn’t journal. Knowing the value in what I do have, I wish this had been a more defined discipline.
Friending. Those deep, lasting friendships often start early. And take work. At this stage in life, friendships have deeper meaning and importance to me. I need people who can speak into my life who know me well. I have those, but not necessarily among people I knew in my 20s—who have a long history with me. I look on Facebook at friends from high school and college and I wish I had worked harder to keep those friendship strong. I miss them. At the time I thought they would last forever. They didn’t. They are still “friends,” but not at the level they once were. I’d make sure I surrounded myself with the right friends—and those may or may not be the people from your 20s, but I’d build healthy, long-lasting friendships.
Identifying. Specifically here I’m referring to learning who you are—who God designed you to be—and then living out of that truth throughout your life. This is the discipline of faith. Figuring out what you believe about the eternal and why you believe it and then putting faith into practice is vitally important. It will be challenged so many times. The author of Ecclesiastes writes, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come.” Such wise advise. Knowing what you believe—nailing it down without reservation—will help you weather the storms of life that surely come to all of us. As a believer, knowing God’s approval of you will help you believe in yourself and your abilities and empower you to take the God-sized risks you may look back and regret if you don’t. This discipline also helps you develop the discipline of prayer—seeking wisdom from God. When you fully recognize the value of being “in the family of God,” you are more likely to cry out regularly to “Abba Father.”
Giving. Just as saving is an easier discipline if you begin early, so is giving. Whether it’s time or money, I now realize the value there is to me in helping others. I have practiced this one throughout my adult life, and it is one of the most rewarding parts of my life. I highly recommend starting this discipline early before the world and all its demands takes the ability from you.
Resting. Those in their 20s now seem better at this one than my generation was, but for those who need it—start resting now. Work hard. I think that’s a biblical command and a good virtue. But the older you get and the more responsibility that comes upon you, the harder it is to find the time to rest. It needs to be a discipline.
Life-planning. Creating a discipline of stopping periodically to ask yourself huge questions will keep you heading in a direction you eventually want to land. Questions such as—Am I accomplishing all I want to do? If not—why not? Where should I be investing my time? What do I need to stop doing—start doing—to get where I want to go? In what areas of my life do I need to improve? These can be life-altering questions. Ideally, we should ask them every year, but at least every few years this is a healthy discipline to build into your life—and the sooner the better.
Honoring. This discipline is honoring the past—learning from those who have gained wisdom through experience. When you’re young you can be guilty of thinking you know more than you really know. It’s not until you get to a certain age—certainly I’m there now—where you realize how much you don’t know. There is always something to be learned from another person’s experience you don’t have. This one seemed to come to me naturally, because I grew up most of my early life without a father in the home. I craved wisdom—especially from older men. But I cannot imagine where I would be in life had I not developed the life-long discipline of wisdom-seeking early in my life.
Coaching. Pouring into others is a great discipline—and should begin early in life. In my 20s I didn’t realize I had something to give others from what I had already learned. Imagine the impact of a 20-something person investing in a middle or high school student—maybe someone without both parents in the home. It wasn’t until I recruited one of my mentors in my mid-20s and he said, “I’ll invest in you if you invest in others,” that I began this discipline. I wish I had started even earlier.
It’s probably not too late for most who will read this to start most of these. Most of them, however, become more challenging the older you get.
Someone will wonder how I chose the order of these or if some are more important than others. There may even be push back because I started with one about money. I get that and it’s fair. Obviously, one on this list is MOST important. In my opinion, it would be “Identifying.” All else is an overflow of that one. But had I started with it, then the natural question is which one is number two, and number three, etc. Whichever one would have ended up number 10 could seem less important. I think all of them are important, so I didn’t prioritize them.
Any you would add to my list?