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The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter—And How to Make the Most of Them Now

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4.11  ·  Rating details ·  41,051 ratings  ·  3,723 reviews
Our "thirty-is-the-new-twenty" culture tells us that the twentysomething years don't matter. Some say they are an extended adolescence. Others call them an emerging adulthood. But thirty is not the new twenty. In this enlightening book, Dr. Meg Jay reveals how many twentysomethings have been caught in a swirl of hype and misinformation that has trivialized what are actuall ...more
Kindle Edition, 273 pages
Published April 17th 2012 by Twelve
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Popular Answered Questions
Genetai I know this question is old but I feel the answers might be a bit misleading for those that see it now.

I'd say you're better off not reading this at 3…more
I know this question is old but I feel the answers might be a bit misleading for those that see it now.

I'd say you're better off not reading this at 35. The tone isn't very positive for 30+. So especially when your goal is to read this to get back on track I'd advice looking for a different book that is not written as specially for your 20s as this book can be quite depressing, and in particular when you're older.

However, if you have your life together and would like insight into the 20s period in ones life, maybe for your (future) child, I do recommend you to pick it up.(less)
Kelsey An Upmarket Conversation
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Marriage is one of the most important decisions people make in their lives. Twentysomethings should be ch…more
An Upmarket Conversation
=====================
Marriage is one of the most important decisions people make in their lives. Twentysomethings should be choosy about the right things when they can still think clearly about claiming their lives (rather than scrambling when they reach their thirties and wedding invitations start pouring in).

Picking Your Family
==============
Your spouse's family will define the decades ahead. Choose wisely.

The Cohabitation Effect
==================
Couples who move in together before getting engaged have higher divorce rates. If you must move in together before getting engaged, one way to avoid lock-in* is by making sure that both parties have a clear understanding of each other's commitment level prior to moving in. Regularly check in with yourself and make sure you're not just staying because it's more convenient than leaving.

On Dating Down
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The stories you tell about yourself affect who you let yourself date. Hold yourself to a higher standard.

Being in Like
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Some research says that the more similar two people's personalities are, the more likely they are to be satisfied with their relationship.

*Lock-in is defined as "the decreased likelihood to search for other options, or change to another option, once an investment in something has been made."(less)

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Miranda
Apr 22, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I feel so conflicted about this book. I really, really wanted to like this a lot more than I actually did.
Like many others, I was impressed by her Op-Ed piece and pre-ordered the book, thinking that it would have more for me (I'm almost 29 and a *half*!), and that it would more objectively discuss social phenomena such as cohabitation and divorce.

On the one hand, Meg Jay has some pretty good career tips and makes some good points regarding time. While Dr. Jay only pays lip service to the reces
...more
Debby
Jun 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I don't think this book would've resonated with me in my early 20's as it does now in my late 20's. In my early 20's I was absolutely a go-getter - got a job immediately out of college, was in a relationship with a man I thought I was going to marry and I thought babies would come in due time. I had a 5-year plan and was on the fast track towards all of that by age 30. I would've scoffed at this book, saying why would I need this type of advice when I have everything going for me?

Along the way,
...more
Gwen
Apr 16, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gwen by: NYT article on cohabitation/marriage 4.15.2012
Shelves: well-being
Disclaimer: I am a single urban-dwelling female in my mid-twenties, and those attributes have definitely shaped my opinion of this book. And when I saw Kay Hymowitz's glowing recommendation on the back of the book jacket, I knew that I was in for a frustrating read.

The very day I read this book, The Billfold had a blog posting critiquing Jay's work, and between the review of Mike Dang (The Billfold) and Goodreads reviewer 'M' (below), I don't have much to add to their comments.

Dang's review, i
...more
o
Technically I think my review is "spoilery", so I'd advise not reading it if you want to read the book without influence from my opinion. I do not consider myself an authority in anything, and this review is simply my incoherent rants about things that made me upset, for my own reference. It's also pretty long.

Anyway.

This book made me really, really, really fucking angry.

Don't get me wrong, I understand what Dr. Jay's purpose for writing this was: trying to empower twentysomethings and help t
...more
Roy Lotz
Apr 04, 2021 rated it liked it
At twenty men think that life will be over at thirty. I, at the age of fifty-eight, can no longer take that view.
—Bertrand Russell

I must begin this review by noting that, a few days ago, I made the monumentous transition from 29 to 30. Indeed, I decided to read this book as a way of commemorating my official departure from the happy fields of youth, to the wasted prairies of adulthood. My twenties are at an end—dead, buried, gone!—and I can already feel my body start to shrivel. So I wanted to c
...more
Hannah
Jul 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Students entering/in college
Recommended to Hannah by: New York Times/News Articles
Shelves: favorites, psych-ish
I like the overall message of the book: Your life, even at your twenties, means something, so make the best of it. I fully believe that people, no matter what their age should not waste away their life by partying all the time and practicing bad habits. Goofing off every now and then is perfectly fine, but making a career out of it is pointless unless you get paid for it and you find it fulfilling. Therefore, this review may be a bit biased.

With the basic message out of the way, I do think the a
...more
Sarah
Jan 19, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Yuck, I will not be finishing this one. She comes across as very judgmental to both her clients and readers--I would hate to have her as my therapist! The biggest problem is she stacks everyone up against the same measures of success: a "good" job, finding a suitable spouse, and procreating. If you decide to have children in your thirties or even forties, you're apparently squandering your prime baby-making years in your twenties. She doesn't seem to factor in that maybe not everyone wants the t ...more
Lightreads
Nov 23, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Make your popcorn, kids, and gather round: I read a self-help book.

Sooo….never read one of these before, and I always assumed that the audience of self-help books was composed largely of people who don't actually have what I think of as "problems." And by that I mean self-help books are for people dealing with something that can be dealt with, as opposed to something that can't. The difference between 'I need to learn to be more assertive' and 'my retina tore in half and it's inoperable' (true s
...more
Scott Shepard
I found this book very helpful. I think anyone in their twenties who don't know what they should do with their life should read this book.

Dr. Jay does not say that young people in their twenties who don't have a steady job are doing it wrong, or that thinking about a career or love later in life is a bad thing. She merely states (accurately) that all our actions have consequences and if you want a career and children in your thirties that you should start thinking and planning those things in y
...more
Kristin
Oct 27, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Well, if you want to suffer from panic attacks and depression, then by all means, READ THIS BOOK! I liked the first couple chapters of this book that talked about the working world and how it's really important to network and not be a loser jumping from one lame-o job to the next. She had a good message stating that these are the years in which we need to begin creating a stable career identity in order to move forward and/or up in the future. GOOD STUFF. The rest of the book...NOT GOOD STUFF.

I
...more
Kimly Nguyen
Jun 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was as if I had my own personal psychotherapist in the comforts of my own room, spoon-feeding me the ugly truth and guiding me towards my desired pathway of success and happiness....minus the outrageous charges.

---
At the prime of my 20s, this book was just what I needed. As a 20 year old young lady who is in the midst of figuring out what the hell I should really do with my life, why my romantic relationships have been debilitating, and what kind of academic and career choices I should carry
...more
Rosie Nguyễn
Nov 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 20-sthg
Right book right time.

Got a lot of new ideas for my coming book when reading this.
Tim Harrison
Some interesting thoughts w/r/t relationships and shaping your personality as your frontal lobe finishes development, but fails to take into account the current employment atmosphere for the work section. It looks like much of her research and most of the examples given were prior to the recession, when it was possible for her to talk with her clients with such ease about "getting the apprenticeship in DC" or one of the other incredibly difficult suggestions she gives for avoiding "hiding" in un ...more
Elizabeth
May 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First off, I expected to hate The Defining Decade. Which does beg the question as to why I was reading it, but never mind that. I feared that the book would read like one giant "YOU'RE DOING IT WRONG" to me, a single, 28-year-old law clerk living at home while I continue the search for a more permanent position. I suspect Dr. Jay would tell me that I am doing a few things "wrong," at least in the sense of not furthering my goals, but I also learned I have probably done at least a few things righ ...more
Nick
I read this one at the behest of my parents mind you. My dad won it from a radio station under mysterious circumstances. HA! Its really short though so no biggie…

The book forwarded a surprisingly intelligent view given my low expectations. It constitutes a defense and justification for living a relatively focused, disciplined, and "conservative" life during your 20s rather than treating them like throw away years in which underemployment and meaningless relationships should be pursued. Instead,
...more
WhatIReallyRead
I loved this book! I think I highlighted more than a half of it :D

The Defining Decade definitely struck a chord with me - it touched upon many issues I'm facing or faced quite recently, so a lot of times I was emotional and couldn't read more than a couple chapters at a time.

It's written in an engaging way - showing struggles and dilemmas through people's stories.
The author also cites her sources, books and research, which is something I value and admire.

Most of all I loved that it didn't co
...more
Ava
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
As someone who has just entered their twenties, I found this book quite interesting to see the different struggles that (apparently most) people go through in their twenties. The author provides a lot of real life examples that she experienced through her patient's therapy sessions. I found that throughout the book, the big message was "your 20s are not extended adolescence.. get going." I think some may find themselves becoming stressed after reading this.. like it will make you feel as if you' ...more
Angélica ✸
4.5 stars

Exactly what I needed to read while I'm in my post-grad ~feelings~. Definitely recommend if you're feeling lost or uncertain about what you're doing with your 20s. Note that the author centers a "traditional/western" path of going into higher education, developing a career, having children, etc. There's still a lot of great general advice, it just has to be taken with a grain of salt. I listened to the audiobook but plan to soon pick up a physical copy to refer back to.
instagram#mo
...more
Soleil Shah
Sep 23, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Probably one of the worst books I’ve read in years - apparently if you feel anxiety from your job, it’s not because your boss is an asshole, but because your 20something year-old brain is wired for negativity.

But don’t worry, this will change by the time you hit 30 because your brain is plastic will magically change for the better. But somehow, your personality (which yes, comes from your brain) is fixed and unchanging from childhood, so maybe just ignore all of that!

Inconsistent, patronizing,
...more
Nicole
Storytime!

I’ve had a terrible track record with therapists. Having been to about six different ones, I’ve come to distrust them. The last one I had seemed to be working out. She gave me the kick in the pants I needed to get my life back on track back in 2010-2011. She helped me find the courage to move to London. When I returned from London, I kept seeing her so we could deal with the inevitable depression of being back home. During our sessions, I found her to be impatient with me at times, and
...more
shruti
Mar 19, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
one of the few self-help books i know i'll keep coming back to ...more
Arjun
Apr 18, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Meh. I enjoyed Meg Jay's original NYT op-ed on cohabitation and put this on my reading list, though putting it off to when I thought it would be more applicable and ended up coming away pretty disappointed,

This is a book in 3 parts – on work, love, and "the brain and the body". The career advice is mostly shallow and limited. While it's a good kick in the ass, it left a lot of the why unanswered. I think Cal Newport's So Good They Can't Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work
...more
Cristal
While this book definitely caters to a certain, privileged demographic (trustafarians or trust fund babies; college-educated twentysomethings who have the means to seek therapy about not having a decent job, relationship, etc.) I found it to be useful in that it inspired me to take myself seriously and think about the bigger life plan. For me, it was an immediate catalyst to get my apartment in order and check things off my to do list that have been sitting there for a long time. It made me real ...more
Marissa
Jan 05, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow.

I read this book from start to finish in literally a few hours, having been sucked into its timely lessons and enlightening ideas. Being a 22-year-old and recent college graduate starting my career, I could relate to Dr. Meg Jay's discussions about the mindset of a twentysomething. She uses logic, data, and experience to share the dangers that twentysomethings find themselves facing and that thinking the twenties are all about "finding ourselves" and putting off decisions and living it up ("
...more
Ahmed
May 07, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is a must read for everyone who is struggling to move on after school. Which is most of people, including me.

It's divided into a number of sections:
-Work
Dealing with issues regarding your work life. The moral here is that the twenties go by quickly. You shouldn't take work seriously only in your early thirties, cause the more you delay taking work seriously, the harder it becomes to have a successful or at least decent careers. Who wants to hire anyone who wasted their 20s? Commit to w
...more
Meghan
Aug 21, 2020 rated it did not like it
DNF - for a few key reasons.

1. I don’t believe we should put so much pressure on one decade of our life. Sure building a strong foundation in life is important, but focusing too much on your 20’s could cause you to feel stressed out most of the time because you’re not making this the best decade of your life. Also who knows what life will bring and what moments will be the most defining?

2. The author has a lot of valuable experience and testimonies; however, not everyone has the same privilege
...more
Sam
Oct 18, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was so bad, I made notes.
The writer's tone wavered so hard from trying to be 'your pal' to Hal9000- making it almost impossible to read ( this may be no shock as it is the author's profession to seem helpful but actually be distant).

I tried to read this with an open mind, in an attempt to try and capitalise on my relative youth before ageing and it being too fucking late. The stories included within are trite, unbearable- and , although I don't doubt her credibility as an academic ( as
...more
Eytan Deener-Agus
Apr 22, 2021 rated it did not like it
Ok, I’m ready for a review. To put it bluntly, I think this book encapsulates what it means to be so uncritical as to not only tolerate but actually serve white supremacy culture.

I tried reading for tidbits of nice ideas, some of which I found in the pages, but overwhelmingly I found this book to be more problematic than illuminating.

While purporting to be a universal guide for twentysomethings, the premises of each example are built on traditionally white, straight, cis, upperclass conception
...more
Naomi Pachniuk
Jun 03, 2021 rated it it was amazing
THANKS FOR THE (much needed) CRISIS
Kevin Bensema
May 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
The author makes some excellent points: what we do and with whom we date and interact in our twenties will define the remainder of our life. She lays out the typical 'lost and wandering' feeling of a person in his 20s through discussion of counseling sessions with past clients.

The main thrust is this: you undergo major changes for the last time in your twenties, and your work and family life are probably going to be defined by what you do and do not do. If you want your life to look like X, you
...more
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She is an clinical assistant professor at the University of Virginia and maintains a private practice in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Dr. Jay’s book, The Defining Decade, was a 2012 Slate.com Staff Pick and her 2013 TED talk “Why 30 Is Not the New 20″ has been viewed more than 2 million times. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Forbes, Psychology Today, and NPR
...more

Articles featuring this book

Lori Gottlieb is a bestselling writer, psychotherapist, and author of the weekly "Dear Therapist" advice column for The Atlantic. Her new...
79 likes · 7 comments
“Forget about having an identity crisis and get some identity capital. … Do something that adds value to who you are. Do something that's an investment in who you might want to be next.” 99 likes
“Twentysomethings who don't feel anxious and incompetent at work are usually overconfident or underemployed.” 49 likes
More quotes…