Top 3 Takeaways From “The Defining Decade”

Let me start off by saying that if you have never read or heard of The Defining Decade — RUN don’t walk to get a copy because it is the perfect read for CHAARG girls in college + post-grad navigating their twenties! Meg Jay, the author + psychologist, explains that 85% of life’s most defining moments happen by age 35 ++ our twenties especially are a time of pivotal change. 

Most people fall into one of two groups — they’re either overthinking a lot of choices [possibly even to the point of procrastination] because they know this time can define them or taking this time to try as many things as possible to fool around before real life hits them at 30.  No matter what group you’re in, The Defining Decade is full of relatable lessons + stories to help you make the most of these years.  Here are some of the takeaways that resonated with me the most <3

#1] “Identity capital is our collection of personal assets… the investments we make in ourselves, the things we do well enough, or long enough, that they become a part of who we are… identity capital is what we bring to the adult marketplace.”

As soon as I read about the idea of identity capital I was saying “Yes!!” in my head.  Especially for the perfectionists out there it can be easy to fixate on having a perfect resume + getting your life in order heading towards graduation but many of the most important parts of our lives are not awards or accolades but experiences. 

Meg talks about her time working for Outward Bound + leading wilderness trips for weeks at a time + how that turned into the main thing potential employers asked her about because the identity capital gained from that experience is what set her apart. In school, grades are important but they are not what define us.  In the workplace, job titles + accomplishments are great, but what really matters is not just what we’re doing but who we are. 

#2] “It’s the people we hardly know + not our closest friends, who will improve our lives most dramatically.”

The chapter on weak ties was fascinating + dives deep into how the most life defining connections + opportunities can come from people we barely know.  While our close friends + family absolutely contribute to our life in meaningful ways + improve our happiness, they are often very similar to us + from similar backgrounds.

“Weak ties feel too different or, in some cases, literally too far away to be close friends, but that’s the point.” A friend of a family member, an acquaintance, or even a professor can be the ones that, because their circle of connections is different than our own, can provide access to an opportunity or someone new.  Meg tells stories of clients who were able to get their dream job or make the change they want to because they left their comfort zone + reached out to people outside their circle. 

#3] “The only way to figure out what to do is to do something.”

Ever heard of choice paralysis? Sometimes leaving the structure of school, the only system we’ve known for most of our life can be scary! You may have an idea of what you want to do for a career or at least start out as but if you don’t there are SO many options that it can be overwhelming.  When you don’t know where to start or what to do it can seem logical to do nothing until you are inspired by something.  In reality, inspiration comes from action.

Doing something, even if it doesn’t end up being what you want, will at least help teach you what you do what + can open doors to other opportunities.  While there is an abundance of possibilities, there are some limitations.  Another quote I loved is that “The lottery question might get you thinking about what you would do if talent + money didn’t matter.  But they do. The questions twentysomethings need to ask themselves is what they would do with their lives if they didn’t win the lottery.” 

. . .

You’ve probably heard people talk about what they imagine life like at 30 + what they’ll have done by then but real talk — those things that we’re excited for don’t magically happen.  While we don’t need to stress + attempt to “perfect” our twenties, it can help to know that we have the power to make choices now that will set us up for success in the long run : ) Let us know if you decide to read The Defining Decade + what you think! 

Want more book recs? Check out the CHAARG Reading List + let us know your favs on Instagram with #CHAARGBookClub!

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