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How to be wise at 20? A discussion on the philosophy of growing up


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Separate the important from the unimportant

When something happens to us that catches us by surprise, the brain pays special attention to it, generating signals that stimulate memory. That is why events that aroused strong emotions in us so often remain in our memory.

There is even a special concept – “flashbacks”. This is the name for detailed memories that seem to freeze in time. For example, many Americans remember what they did on the morning of 9/11.

At the age of 20 to 30, a lot of new things happen, and life is filled with a lot of “flashbacks”.

The difficulty is that, compared to older people, young people remember more negative information. With age, the “positivity effect” comes: we prefer to avoid conflicts, we know what to ignore and what to neglect for the sake of our own peace of mind.

The sooner we develop the ability to remember only good things, the more pleasant “flashes” will remain in our memory.

Express gratitude

Research shows that feelings of gratitude improve mental and physical health, normalize sleep, and even increase productivity.

However, just experiencing this feeling is not enough. It is important to learn how to show gratitude to someone who has done something good for us. “Thank you” letters will help in this: the sooner you get into the habit of writing them, the more benefit it will bring.

You can simply write down gratitude in your personal diary, or you can send short messages by email at the end of the working day – for example, to someone who agreed to discuss a project or helped you with a work task.

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Be self-confident

Self-confidence is not innate but rather an acquired quality. It arises when we can rely on certain successes in assessing our abilities.

The conviction that we can cope with a task arises only as a result of its repeated successful implementation.

Simply put, we need to gain as much positive experience as possible about ourselves. Many people know the theory of psychologist Anders Erikson that in order to achieve outstanding results, it is necessary to devote 10,000 hours to the case.

Ten thousand hours is five years of focused work or ten years of less focused work. Such results simply cannot be achieved in 20 years. And working between the ages of twenty and thirty is usually a real challenge.

It is very important to record all your smallest successes and come back to them each time feeling anxious or incompetent.

Keep track of time

Before graduation, our lives are usually packed into semester-sized chunks, and goals are associated with overcoming each of these chunks. The age from 20 to 30 often turns into life without time. It seems that there are so many years ahead, in which something important must happen.

Scientists have discovered that it is difficult for our brains to keep a sense of time over long periods without clear boundaries.

Starting a family or getting promoted at work seems like a long way off. This feeling entails an abstraction from the future. We prefer not to think about anything and stay away from problems.

People over 30 know: they need to act now, there will be no other time. Writer John Irving said that he always starts writing novels with the last sentence. When we anticipate a happy ending to our own story, it becomes much easier to write it.

Don’t take on too much

In our youth, we are confident that there are hundreds of opportunities in front of us. However, there is a danger of falling into the “trap of the buffet”: if you put too much food on the plate, you will get indigestion.

Setting priorities is not an easy task. Often it only comes with age. But we must understand: if we do not do this, someone else will do it for us.

The US Marines have a “rule of three”: a squad leader commands three fire group leaders, a platoon leader commands three squad leaders, and each company has three platoons. This structure is based on research that shows that a person can only do three things well.

It is vital to learn to say “no” to even the most attractive opportunities if objectively we understand that there is no time and resources to go for them. Never take too much on yourself; otherwise, you will get frustrated or disappointed in those around you.

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