Meg Jay’s TED Talk, “30 is not the new 20,” sparked a large debate about how the 20-something decade has become socially regarded as a period of “extended adolescence.” It’s true that the timetable of adulthood has been pushed back—people are getting married, starting families, and building careers later. That doesn’t mean our twenties are a period in which to just kill time by trying relationships or careers that “don’t count.” Staying in a mediocre situation just because, “Why not? I’ve got time to figure it all out later,” doesn’t help us get clarity about who we are and what we really want in life. 30 is not the new 20.

30-isn't-the-new-20

When 20-somethings hear, “You have 10 extra years to start your life,” it’s natural for them to lose their sense of urgency and motivation. Jay believes that “as a culture we have trivialized what is actually the defining decade of adulthood.” Living with the belief that the 20-something years “don’t really count” can cause many of us to live a reactive life, instead of proactively creating a life with intention—a life we’re truly excited to be living.

As a life coach for 20-somethings, I work with so many women who feel like they’re living that kind of reactive life. Several of them are in careers or relationships that they know aren’t right for them. While they may not be feeling urgency, per se, to figure out what is right, they’re certainly experiencing a persistent feeling of anxiety or restlessness.

So what’s the solution? How can we claim our twenties? Jay recommends getting some “identity capital.”

Building identity capital means doing things that add value to your life and help you answer the questions we all face: “Who am I, and what do I want in life?” Jay recommends spending your twenties doing “something that’s an investment in who you might want to be next.” I’d say that’s the exact reason all my coaching clients come to me in the first place—to get clarity about who they want to be next and to start consciously taking steps in that direction. For one person that might mean working overseas for a year, while for another it may be starting their own business or becoming really intentional with their dating life.

None of this is to say you shouldn’t explore and try new opportunities in your twenties. In fact, I would absolutely encourage that, as long as you’re consciously choosing those opportunities, not simply reacting to them.

So who do you want to be next? And how can you start to get some identity capital to move in that direction?

Watch Office Hours with Christine Hassler, Life Coach and author of Twenty Something, Twenty Everything, for more tips for making the most of your twenties!