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10 Disciplines I’d Recommend Everyone Start in Their Twenties

This is one of those posts I hope someone learns something, which can help them in life.

I hope that for all of my posts – otherwise why am I writing, but, I see this one as a life-giving post for those who will read it and take some of it to heart.

My specific target is those who are in their 20’s, who are starting out in their adult life and career. As I’m writing, I’m thinking of my own two sons in that demographic (although one of them is about to hit the 30 mark), the young people who have worked on our teams, and hundreds of college students and young adults in our churches. Those who come to mind are driving my desire to invest something in those who will read this.

I’m 54, which is certainly not old – although it may have seemed like it was when I was younger, but it is old enough to have learned a few things. Like things I wish I had done when I was younger. And, some things I’m glad I did.

I have learned the only way to really sustain something in your life is through self-discipline. No one is going to force you to do some of the most important things you need to do.

If I were in my 20’s again, there are some disciplines I would make sure I incorporated into my life. I would practice them enough that they would be natural for me today.

Here are 10 disciplines I would recommend everyone start in their 20’s:

Saving. It’s easier to start setting aside money before you start spending it. Setting a budget and living by it makes so much sense to me now. I didn’t in my twenties. I wanted all the disposable income I could make. But, I didn’t spend it wisely and now I have to make up for lost time saving for my future.

Exercising. I exercise everyday. Now in my 50’s I recognize more than ever my need for regular physical activity, but some days the body doesn’t want to do it. Without it being intrinsic to who I am I’m not sure I would start now. I wish I had developed a better habit of this in my twenties.

Journaling. I have journaled off and on throughout my life. It is so much fun to read my thoughts from 30 years ago and reflect on how much I’ve learned and things God has done in my life. Still, there are periods missing where for years I didn’t journal. Knowing the value of this now I wish this had been more disciplined then.

Friending. Those deep, lasting friendships often start early – and they take work. At this stage in life, friendships have deeper meaning and importance to me. I need people who can speak into my life who know me well. I have those, but not necessarily among people I knew in my 20’s — who have a long history with me. I look on Facebook at friends from high school and college and I wish I had worked harder to keep those friendship strong. I miss them. At the time, I thought they would last forever. They didn’t. They are still “friends”, but not at the level they once were. I’d make sure I surrounded myself with the right friends — and those may or may not be the people from your 20’s, but I’d build healthy, long-lasting friendships.

Identifying. Specifically here I’m referring to learning who you are – who God designed you to be – and then living out of that truth throughout your life. This is the discipline of faith. Figuring out what you believe about the eternal and why you believe it and then putting faith into practice is vitally important. It will be challenged so many times. The author of Ecclesiastes writes, “Remember your creator in the days of your youth before the days of trouble come.” Such wise advise. Knowing what you believe – nailing it down without reservation – will help you weather the storms of life which surely come to all of us. As a believer, knowing God’s approval of you will help you believe in yourself and your abilities and empower you to take the God-sized risks you may look back and regret if you don’t. This discipline also helps you develop the discipline of prayer so you can seek wisdom from God. When you fully recognize the value of being “in the family of God” you are more likely to cry out regularly to “Abba Father”.

Giving. Just as saving is an easier discipline if you begin early so is giving. Whether it’s time or money I now realize the value there is to me in helping others. I have practiced this one throughout my adult life and it is one of the most rewarding parts of my life. I highly recommend starting this discipline early before the world and all its demands takes the ability from you.

Resting. Those in their 20’s now seem better at this one than my generation was but for those who need it – start resting now. Work hard. It is a Biblical command and a good virtue. The older you get, and the more responsibility that comes upon you, the harder it is to find the time to rest. It needs to be a discipline.

Life-planning. Creating a discipline of stopping periodically to ask yourself huge questions will keep you heading in a direction you eventually want to land. Questions such as: Am I accomplishing all I want to do? If, not, why not? Where should I be investing my time? What do I need to stop doing or start doing to get where I want to go? In what areas of my life do I need to improve?

These can be life-altering questions. Ideally, we should ask them every year, but at least every few years this is a healthy discipline to build into your life – and the sooner the better.

Honoring. This discipline is honoring the past – learning from those who have gained wisdom through experience. When you’re young you can be guilty of thinking you know more than you really know. It’s not until you get to a certain age – I’m there now – where you realize how much you don’t know. There is always something to be learned from another person’s experience you don’t have. This one seemed to come to me naturally, because I grew up most of my early life without a father in the home. I craved wisdom, especially from older men. But, I cannot imagine where I would be in life had I not developed the life-long discipline of wisdom-seeking early in my life.

Coaching. Pouring into others is a great discipline and should begin early in life. In my 20’s I didn’t realize I had something to give others from what I had already learned. Imagine the impact of a 20-something person investing in a middle or high school student – maybe someone without both parents in the home. It wasn’t until I recruited one of my mentors in my mid-20’s and he said, “I’ll invest in you if you invest in others” that I began this discipline. I wish I had started even earlier.

It’s probably not too late for most who will read this to start most of these. Most of them, however, become more challenging the older you get.

Someone will wonder how I chose the order of these or if some are more important than others. There may even be push back because I started with one about money. I get that and it’s fair. Obviously, one on this list is MOST important. In my opinion, it would be “Identifying”. All else is an overflow of that one. But, had I started with it then the natural question is which one is number two, and number three, etc. Whichever one would have ended up number ten could seem less important. I think all of them are important, so I didn’t prioritize them.

Any you would add to my list?

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Ron Edmondson

Author Ron Edmondson

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  • Kevin Flora says:

    As an (almost) 32 year old… there are a couple things I would have done in my early 20s to set up my life a little bit better…

    1) Find a strong marriage – My wife and I have had to learn things the hard way, like most, but how much better would it have been if we found a couple that had a strong marriage that we could bounce things off of? Mentors aren’t just a good idea for business… they’re great for all kinds of scenarios.

    2) Do an overseas mission – I waited until my late 20s to go to Romania on a mission trip. At the time, I was married and it was so so difficult to leave my wife at home (she wasn’t able to go). Opening your eyes, mind, and heart up to other cultures if a game-changer. My perspective since that trip has been different. I value individuals at a higher level, I follow news from around the world, my heart aches for others more, and my prayers are much less self-centered. While you’re young, while you can fundraise money and people won’t judge you, and while you’re single (or newly married even – just make it happen)… do overseas missions. Experience new cultures. Enter adulthood with a broader perspective.