If you could go back in time to your 20s, what would you tell yourself? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.
Answer by Alyssa Satara, Masters of Law (LLM) Public International Law & Human Rights, City University London (2016):
1) What you like
Your 20s are the best time to experience and try new things. With these new experiences you are able to gain fresh perspectives and find out what you like.
This sounds simple, but when you multiply it across your life it becomes more complex (and crucial).
What kind of people do you like being around?
What attributes do you like in a partner?
What do you like about yourself?
What do you like spending money on (travel, shopping, eating out with friends, investments)?
How do you like to spend your time?
What do you like working on?
This is a huge reason why your 20s can, and should, be an extremely pivotal part of your life.
For most people, it the first time you get to be creative with yourself and shed layers of societal and conceptual beliefs that you have been taught growing up.
It's the first time you get to make decisions on your own.
From a young age, children are taught to do things, and how to do things. Your 20s are a great time to question those teachings, and to find out how you like doing things.
2) What you don't like
It's equally important to figure out what you don't like.
In your 20s most people's habits, lifestyles, and even allergies tend to change. It's an evolutionary part of your life, where you get to keep the lessons and laughs from the past but move forward with a newer version of yourself.
Your 20s really are about self discovery; this means learning to figure out what you don't like.
The kind of people you don't like being around.
The attributes you don't like in a partner.
Habits or tendencies you don't like about yourself.
Activities, and purchases you don't like spending your money on.
How you don't like spending your time.
The kind of work environments you don't like being a part of.
For a lot of people in their 20s, this also comes with learning to say "no" to the habits, situations, or groups of people you don't want to be a part of.
There is a lot of power in learning what you don't like.
Identifying what you don't like makes room for you to pursue and surround yourself with opportunities that you do like.
3) Work to play balance
For many, your 20s is the first time you are a full-time employee. It's the first time you have the freedom to work or play as hard as you want.
And eventually this leads to developing some sort of work to play balance in your life.
This is incredibly important because it indirectly affects your entire life's balance, and how you spend your time.
So if you tend to prioritize going out on weeknights, and going to work all week ... you probably neglect sleep.
Or if you prioritize sleep, work, and socializing equally ... you don't leave yourself a lot of time for "self" activities like yoga, or reading, or staying home and cooking.
If you don't have a balanced life--whatever that means to you--part of you, even if it's a subconscious part, will remain unfulfilled.
This is an extraordinary and beautiful lesson to learn in your 20s that can positively shape the rest of your life.
Your mental and physical health is important, and in your 20s you should learn to prioritize it.
This means asking yourself what you need to be balanced.
4) What you want to be when you grow up
Your 20s are a hilarious yet terrifying part of your life because you're at this stage where you are old enough to know better and young enough to not care.
On top of that, most people-- especially in recent generations--are still figuring what careers they want to embark on.
For most, this means floating and swaying in the waters of job applications and rejection. It means reflecting and productively figuring out what career will make you happiest. And it means trying things, hating them, and moving on to newer and better opportunities with a positive outlook.
Embarking on your career journey will teach you so much, and in your 20s you should try and learn what it is you want to do with your career. And more importantly, learn how to take steps towards those goals.
Your 20s are about making mistakes, but they are also about learning to navigate yourself and the world so you don't have to continue to make the same mistakes.
A huge part of your 20s is figuring out what you want to do and who you want to be.
The most important thing you can learn in your 20s is that life isn't about discovering yourself. It's about creating yourself.