The Defining Decade: Book to Navigate Your Twenties

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Defining Decade" by Meg Jay. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What is The Defining Decade book about? Why are your twenties your defining decade and what does that mean?

The Defining Decade book by Meg Jay is about how to make the most of your twenties. Jay discusses the important choices you make in your twenties in work, love, and friendship.

Read more about The Defining Decade book and what your twenties mean for you.

The Defining Decade Book: Why Your Twenties Are Important

Baby Boomers and the generations preceding them often started their adult lives around age 20, getting married, starting families, establishing careers, and building a home life. Today’s generations of young adults start their lives much later, believing that they don’t need to start making serious decisions until age thirty, and that their twenties are a time for unencumbered fun. 

However, the truth is that a good career and a good relationship don’t magically appear at age thirty. To ensure they will happen for you in your thirties and forties, when you finally feel ready for them, you need to prepare for them in your twenties. 

Meg Jay is a clinical psychologist who specializes in helping twenty-somethings figure out their lives. In The Defining Decade book, she offers insights to help you take control of your life and pave the way for future happiness in both work and love. Your decisions today can greatly affect your options tomorrow, and she encourages all twenty-somethings to take these years seriously—even while having fun. She walks the reader through how to find success in work and in love, and discusses why twenty-somethings are uniquely positioned to establish their adulthood because of both timing and biology. 

Finding Work

To end up in a career you’re happy with down the road, you need to make difficult choices now—and the sooner you start, the better. Without purposeful planning, it’s easy to live day-by-day and put off the difficult tasks of making meaningful career choices. The following guidelines explore ways you can begin to craft a fulfilling work life. This is one of the major topics in The Defining Decade book.

Finding Love

The Defining Decade book also covers finding love. We get much less information and training on how to find a long-term partner than we do on how to find a career. And yet, choosing a marriage partner arguably has a more lasting effect on your long-term happiness. Giving the topic serious thought now, in your twenties, will decrease the chances you’ll have to settle later. The following sections are some guidelines that can help you approach the subject mindfully.

Understanding Your Brain and Your Body

In your twenties, your brain and body are developing in remarkable ways specifically designed by evolution to prepare you for the rest of your adulthood. This process is unique to this period of your life, and it won’t continue as you age. 

Understanding the opportunities and limits of your brain and your body during this decade can help you better anticipate and plan for the future. Some of the steps involved in this process are detailed in The Defining Decade book.

The Defining Decade: Book to Navigate Your Twenties

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Meg Jay's "The Defining Decade" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full The Defining Decade summary:

  • Why the twenties are your most important decade
  • How you were fooled into thinking it was an extended period of youth and freedom
  • Why you should use this decade to find personal and professional success

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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