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The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter, by Meg Jay, PhD - Book Review

Updated on February 19, 2014

This is not quite what I would call a self-help book, but I can't really think of a better category to place it in. It is based on anecdotes of twenty-somethings from from Meg Jay's time as a psychologist, though obviously with changed names, about the troubles people have finding their way through their twenties.

The book is broken into three section: Work, Love, and The Brain and The Body. The first two are pretty self-explanatory and the third is kind of a combination of the first two with a bit more about biological clocks.

Overall I found the book really interesting and helpful, but I also have some criticisms, the validity of which I will let you be the judge of.

What I liked about The Defining Decade was that it confirmed that some of the things I have experienced in my twenties aren't experiences which are limited specifically to me. Things like feeling anxious and incompetent at work, or not being able to choose a direction because it seems like there are unlimited options. The Way Meg Jay explains these things gave me fresh insights to issues which I though where simply problems I had, when in truth they are pretty common. I also liked the things I hadn't really thought about yet, mostly marriage, and how it shouldn't really be an after thought, and about the cohabitation effect, how couples that live together before getting engaged are more likely to get divorced. Her main point about marriage is that if say you want to get married when you're thirty, or thirty-two or whatever, that you need to think about it before you reach that age, that it isn't just something you can do when you decide you are ready, but you have to prepare to be ready, by looking for the right sort of relationship. That said, I'm not sure how exactly I'm meant to apply that advice to my life right now.

My major criticism of this book is that it seems to promote a very set homogenous life structure. Of course, this isn't at odds with the rest of society by any means, but the way it is presented feels like she's saying if you aren't ticking all these particular boxes at the right times, then you are wasting your life. Whilst I see where she is coming from, and think that what she says does have value, I think it is important to keep your mind open to different lifestyles and directions. Not everyone's fulfillment has to come from employment, nor is this necessarily where everyone will get all their valuable life experience and skills.

Overall I enjoyed the book and found it very interesting, though at the same time I was rather depressed to find I wasn't ticking all the boxes she says I should be, until I realized this book presents just one perspective.

4 stars for The Defining Decade, by Meg Jay, PhD
Table of Contents
Identity Capital
Weak Ties
The Unthought Known
My Life Should Look Better on Facebook
The Customized Life
An Upmarket Conversation
Picking Your Family
The Cohabitation Effect
On Dating Down
Being in Like
Forward Thinking
Calm Yourself
Outside In
Getting Alone and Getting Ahead
Every Body
Do the Math


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    • jeffthomson profile imageAUTHOR

      Jeff Thomson 

      5 years ago from Sydney, Australia

      You're probably right, thanks for your thoughts.

    • CyberShelley profile image

      Shelley Watson 

      5 years ago

      Glad you said this book presents just one perspective. In life one rarely gets the time nor inclination to tick all the boxes. However, I have heard that living together before getting married is not conducive to a happy marriage.

      I believe that the right person comes along when you least expect it, and conscious searching for this person just muddies the water. Voted up, interesting and useful.


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