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The Defining Decade, Why Your Twenties Matter

I've never read a self-help book (I've never been into others telling me what to do) so I had low expectations of me getting 'into' this therapist-type novel. You can take a guess that I finished the read (hence this review) but wow—this was the sisterhood of the traveling novel.

My friend recommended the book and even lent it to me.

The following week, my co-worker brought it up and she JUST read the same book.

I lent it to my boyfriend and he found value in it (also not a self-help reader).

Now I'm passing the book on to my younger sister!

It was a real "don't judge a book by it's cover" because Meg Jay, PhD finds a way to make a book titled The Defining Decade: Why your twenties matter—and how to make the most of them less eye-roll worthy than you'd think. She shares real-life stories and anecdotes she pulls from her therapy sessions, encompassing the experiences and personalities of a variety of 20-somethings as they make their way in life.

"Any recent college grad mired in a quarter-life crisis or merely dazed by the freedom of post-collegiate existence should consider it required reading." —

Dr. Jay breaks down her book into three sections: work, love, and the brain and the body. Here's the skinny.


"You can't pull a great career out of your hat in your thirties. You've got to start in your twenties."

This is the theme of one example, where a client named Ian is struggling on where to begin in his career path. He described himself in the middle of the ocean, not knowing which way is land or what land each direction leads to.

As a recent college graduate I 100% know the feeling. You're young, capable and could do almost anything... so what to choose? Dr. Jay breaks down having the difficult conversations with yourself on what you could do, what you want to do, what's possible. At some point, you need to pick a direction and start swimming. Even if it's not the direction you'd like your career to go there is growth and value in the time spent on that path.

A close second in this category is the defining of types of capital; not just having a great internship or a high GPA, but the experiences and opportunities that set you apart, give you skill and understanding you might not learn in an office.


There are two strong points Dr. Jay brings to light that really catch my eye (actually, I'm one of those people now and I talked about these points with Haley the other day... sisterhood of the traveling novel continues).

The Cohabitation Effect:

"Couples who 'live together first' are actually less satisfied with their marriages and more likely to get divorced than couples who do not."

Dr. Jay makes it clear it does not mean you should not move-in with your SO before marriage. It does mean, it should be a conscious decision so you don't end-up feeling 'stuck' living with the non-marriage material partner (assuming marriage is the end goal).

This includes 'sliding, not deciding' where you move in together for convenience (rent is cheaper, no commuting between spaces etc.) as opposed to deciding you're ready for this next level of commitment. The 'lock-in' effect answers the question, "Okay, you live together, NBD why don't you just move out?" If only it was so simple. You might be on the same lease, buy furniture together, share pets, dedicated time and effort and ultimately developed a routine. It becomes a little too comfortable for a relationship with someone that may not have been end-goal.

The Big 5:

"The Big Five refers to five factors that describe how people interact with the world: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, Neuroticism. The Big Five is not about what you like—it is about who you are, it is about how you live."

As someone who is interested in personality tests, and loves to see where I land, I was ready to self-evaluate. If you allow yourself to be honest and reflect it can be eye-opening as to how you respond to the world, and how that will play out against your SO's personality.

Brain and Body:

Hello panic-attack central. I'm going to skirt around all the information surrounding fertility, skirt around self-calming stress to succeed, the idea that as we have children closer to 40, if they have children closer to 40 we will be 80 when our first grandchild is BORN *cue crisis.*

"Our personalities change more during the twenty-something years than at any time before or after."

Turns out this IS the time to reflect, read self-help books and take the time to instill positive habits to our daily lives. The friendships and romantic partnerships of your twenties help to shape your expectations, identity, ideas on love and needs for support; but the most important relationship you can focus on and build up, is the one you have with yourself. This is the great opportunity for change, so decide who you want to be and re-introduce yourself to the world.

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