12 Most Important Choices in Your Life between 21 and 41

12 Most Important Choices in Your Life between 21 and 41

Life choices are always present. Whether we actively or passively make them, they happen. Sometimes, they happen to us. Other times, they happen for us. The best time is when we actively make them ourselves.

Our ramp-up years can be classified as being between 21 and 41. Many life decisions happen during this time, and it may be the first time that we are really on our own. We are out of college, and our life is unfolding in front of us.

During this time, we need to make many choices, and the following ones should be made actively and fully-engaged. Each of these has a big impact on the direction our life takes.

1. Your first job

Your first job begins to lay a foundation. It is the first lap around the track, so ensure you start in the right lane and with the right pace. With the current economic challenges, you may feel like there are no real choices, but there are. You just may need to be more creative in your life plan, listen to what your spirit is trying to tell you, and grab a hold of who you are and why you are perfect for the job you want.

Don’t settle. If you cannot find the right job right away, then find a volunteer position to enhance your skills. As said earlier, be creative.

Think about your career. Think about the jobs available. Choose a job that puts you on solid footing.

2. Your spouse / partner

Finding the right person to share your life with is essential. Select your spouse or partner carefully, but don’t keep them waiting forever. Find someone who shares similar principles yet has uniqueness to spice up your life and make it interesting. Find someone who shares a passion for the life ahead yet is willing to work with you along the way. Find someone you can talk with freely and completely while listening carefully and fully.

Choose someone who, when you can grab each other’s hand, you both walk forward with a smile on your faces, a twinkle in your eyes, and a passion in your hearts.

3. Your friends

Besides family, friends will have the most influence on you. Do your friends bring out the best in you? Do you bring out the best in them? Are they supportive or critical? Are they helpful or using? Choose your friends wisely where you both learn, grow, share, and make life better.

4. How much you save

When you are young, thinking about saving money may seem irrelevant. You have college bills to pay, fun to have. Take a small percentage and begin to save. You will be amazed at how it will accumulate and help you later in life.

Select a percentage and put it aside. It could be an amount equal to your organization’s 401(k) match.

5. How much you buy

Commercialism is ever present. Nice clothes, nice accessories, nice cars… and the list grows. Determine what you really need to look proper, snazzy, and appropriate. Determine the quality you may require. Determine where and how you can spend wisely.

6. Whether or not to attend graduate school

After college, you may wonder whether or not to attend graduate school. Think about what you want to accomplish in your life. Think about what you will gain from an added degree. Think about what you will learn and how it will help you grow. Think about the stage you are in your career and how it will help you get to the next phase or step. Ensure you are doing it (or not) for the right life reason, not just for another credential.

Understand your talents and direction and decide what education levels will help you get there.

7. When / if to change jobs

After some time, you may become restless and begin to think the grass is really greener on the other side. You begin to think about whether or not to change jobs and maybe organizations as well. Just as in your first job choice, understand what your talents are and whether or not you are, or can, use them fully where you are. Don’t jump just to jump. Understand what is missing in your career life, and then decide where and how it can be filled.

8. How to raise your kids

Almost more important as to whether or not to have a family is how to raise one. Both parents need to be consistent on what approach to take and principles to use. When a child senses inconsistency between two parents, leverage opens up to them, and parenting has just tripled in challenges. Determine your approach; maintain consistency.

9. Your life philosophy

Of the 12 Most, this may be the most critical. Decide what is important in your life. Based on this, decide what principles or philosophy will help you live it most honestly and meaningfully. Decide how to live your life based on your defined philosophy.

10. Your attitude

Your attitude is the outward expression of who you are. Select an attitude that best represents you. Select an attitude that will inspire others. Select an attitude that will offer the most to your team members and community. Decide on an attitude that will let your life shine out loud in a contagious and caring way.

11. How you handle life transitions

Inevitably, there will be life transitions. It may be friends who move away. It may be friends or family members who pass away. It may be layoffs or face-offs with people who are trying to sway you the wrong way. Determine how you will handle life’s transitions. Will you sacrifice your life philosophy? Will you uphold your life principles? Will you fade under the pressure? Will you rise above and over any hurdle thrown in your way?

12. Your level of involvement

There is a community around you. You can elect to ignore it or take it for granted. You can elect to engage your community and try to make it better. You can take the time to get to know your neighbors or pull into the garage and shut the door. You can volunteer in certain organizations to leave a mark or you can just mark it off as something unimportant. It is your choice.

There are many life-changing, life-enabling choices that are made within those 20 years. Ask questions of those who have been through these ramp-up years; learn from their mistakes and successes.

For those of us already on the other side of these 20 years, take time to share your experiences with the young adults around you as they enter this phase of their lives.

In all our life choices, we should aspire to make ones that lead us in inspired directions.

What essential life choices would you add that happen between 21 and 41?

Featured image courtesy of advicepig licensed via creative commons, some rights reserved.

Jon Mertz


I was raised on a family farm in South Dakota. Although I am far from being on a farm today, growing up on one provides a unique perspective. The prairies give you an expansive, grounded view while delivering an appreciation for the ability to see for miles, soak in the most colorful sunsets, and experience some of the hardest, most satisfying work possible. Outside of career and background is my family. Being married for nearly twenty years and currently raising two teens provides an endless list of joys, challenges, and memories centered in love and always trying to make the right choices. All of this has defined who I am in so many different ways. Springing from my experiences, thoughts, and inner spirit come my personal mission: "I want my life to matter… for my family, friends, and community. I want my life to stand for something meaningful that others can grab onto and pull forward. I want my life to encourage and challenge, advancing thoughts and ideas. I want my life to be spirit-filled and engaged fully."

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Insightful list. I was a correctional officer for 10yrs when I decided (after an injury) to go back to school. I graduated last year at 39. My wife and I are looking down the barrel of separation although we love each other deeply, and I'm just now getting some idea of what I want to do. I say all that to show that I do have some life experience, and to emphasis when I say that I FULLY agree with your list. I had an abussive childhood, spent my 20's angry about it, my 30's seeking some sort of guidance on how to fix it, and at 40 am just now discovering who I am..and wish to be. I accept that I won't have kids, but if ever there was a list that I'd give to a child to read, it would be this one.


I'll buy at least the first two items- first job and and spouse/partner as paramount concerns.  I'm 48 but I'm the opposite of your experience because I first got married after age 41.  I  didn't marry early because I wanted to have a stable job capable of supporting a family somewhat beyond mere survival level.  I failed to choose wisely in high school and college because I didn't really think about all the possible careers out there so I didn't have clear educational goals.  It still amazes me that anyone born after 1980 can be so rudderless in life when the Internet has nearly limitless info for any question.  The keys are you've got to ask questions and look for info in a timely fashion.  All things are possible via the Internet.  I chose my graduate degree with a computer, got my job with the Internet, lived overseas because of the Internet and found my wife over the Internet and my kids can thank a computer for their very existence.  I still wonder how much further I'd have been in life if I had Internet access prior to hitting 35.  I wouldn't say I wasted almost 20 years but I would have spent my time more wisely because time is a diminishing resource that you really don't appreciate until a lot of is gone.  You can't go back and change things but can still improve yourself.           


Wonderfully detailed post, Jon...and I do feel that I weighed each of those choices carefully. Now i have two daughters I cherish (18- and 16-yr old), a wife of 22 years I adore, and we've had the pleasure of living in TX, SC, WA and CO. We always lived frugally, but we've also been good at treating ourselves and vacationing so we also focused on "living for today while saving for tomorrow".


I will admit... I had a holy crap moment when I realized I fell into the latter years of your time span. Then, I wasn't sure I wanted to read the list in fear that I haven't accomplished ANY of the mentioned life choices. Although, I finished the article with a sigh of relief. :) Wonderful job...and welcome! I look forward to reading more of your posts.

Dhara Mistry
Dhara Mistry moderator

These are spot on! Couldn't agree more with 2, 4 and 8. It is extremely crucial to save money. You never know when an untimely issues like health problems might surface! Great post Jon. Thanks much for sharing!


Jon- first of all welcome to 12 Most! we love having great thinkers join the party.

In terms of your 12 - great for thought. I did really well on some of them and not so well on others. good news is there is still time yet!!!

Hope to have you here more often.


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Man, no wonder people are so tired all of the time! When you list all of these decisions in a row like that, it really does look overwhelming. The important things to remember are: 1. you don't have to make all of these decisions in one fell swoop (thank the powers that be for that one) 2. you may not have to make any of these decisions at any particular point. Of course, other ones could always creep in there, too :)

Great stuff, Jon. Thanks for writing such a great post!


I think you may have nailed them all! I will forward these to my teenager @tucker_z just so he knows that I'm not the only one who thinks these life choices are significant. I can already hear it now, "Mooooommmmmmm" (said with rolled eyes)


@thindifference Jon, first welcome to 12Most! Great community filled with people who care about people. Natural fit for you to share your message here. In these tumultuous, dynamic times, #11 is so vital. It's a life lesson that if taken in and allowed to soften our hearts, we will better relate to ourselves and to others. BTW...love your personal mission.



Thanks, Brian. It is always great to see where life choices lead to good things, not only in the future, but all the way through. Excellent example. Jon



Thank you for your comment, and I am glad you had a sigh of relief! Appreciate your feedback!


@Dhara Mistry

Appreciate your comment, Dhara! Planning ahead helps get through some of the "potholes" in life. Thanks again!



Daniel, Glad to be joining this wondeful group! Appreciate it. I have not made all of these life choices well and, (un)fortunately, I am now past this range. Yet, I learned a lot and now am trying to me the next 20 even better! Thanks! Jon



Thanks, Margie! Yes, it can be overwhelming, but it is over 20 years. These choices have a way of "sneaking" up on you, so just need to spend some think time to glue it all together. Appreciate the wonderful community here and your efforts in it!



Glad that I am not the only one that gets the roll of the eyes! Always good to plant the seeds though... may take 20 years for it to take hold! Thanks for your comment... appreciate it!


Thanks, Shawn! Appreciate your insights... I believe there should be more of a focus on life philosophy, makes life more meaningful all the way through.


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