Welcome to the rest of your life. What they don't tell you about being in your 20s is that this is the time to fully build who you are so you can live the rest of your life with solid values, discipline, and a sense of direction as to where you'd like to end up. It's not like your whole life will be over if you don't work hard now, you'll just end up like so many other people who followed the herd and fell into some vague mist of existence with everyone else. You'll become forgettable. Don't be that person.
This time is yours now. You're probably out of school, living away from your parents, in a new job or looking for one, or maybe you're creating your own job by way of your own business or creative pursuit. You've got all this freedom, and no idea how to use it. The thing you don't hear, though, is that nobody really knows what they're doing. Everyone is making it up as they go, and underneath what you see is a person with varying degrees of fear and confidence. But they all started out in your shoes.
Your teenage years gave you the tools to build your future. You got a basic education, maybe a post-secondary education. You learned the basics of making friends in a similar-circumstance sort of way (most of your friends were probably made in school/college, your first part-time job(s), or your extra-curricular activities). You sort of understand the value of hard work and effort. But now what? How do you become that successful version of yourself you see in your head?
You just go for it.
Make decisions based on what you think you might want, but allow for change and spontaneity. You're still young by most people's standards. You're not expected to write the next NYT Bestseller, or star in the next big blockbuster. You're not really expected to do anything. I mean, sure, society "tells" you you've got to buy this new thing to be happy, but come on, is that all that life is? Society "tells" you you've got to get a good job and good pay to support your spouse and your 2.1 kids and live in the suburbs with all the other people just like you and commute an average of 30-45 minutes to your job where you're likely in a cubicle in some business-casual dress blah blah blah. That's not the way to go.
I'll say it again. Your 20s are your formative years. These are the years where you make some important decisions about the rest of your life. They don't have to be concrete like "I want to be an astronaut by age 30". I mean, sure, that's something you can do, but that's not what I mean. What I mean by "important decisions" is that you make decisions on what you value as personal qualities, and lifestyle qualities.
You decide upon what you value. You decide upon, and build, the habits you'd like to maintain. You get involved with your passions in your free time, and you make the effort to expand your horizons. You don't put everything in stone, because you allow for your life's direction to change.
What do you value in life? What do you value in yourself? Is it your work ethic? Is it your love of learning? What interests do you have that you want to pursue? Writing, music, art, sports, cooking, or something else? Do you want to stay in the city you're in now for more than ten years (if not, might not be wise to buy a house)? Do you know what career you want to end up in? Do you know what core elements you want in a career?
As an example, I love dealing with people. Specifically in a leadership role. I've had experience in the past leading a group of people through a project and I love it. I love finding people's strengths and where they can improve and maximizing the efficiency of the group to achieve whatever goal we're trying to achieve. I like being able to help people when they need it, or to offer advice or even let people figure out their own problems on their own by guiding their train of thought. I know I want to end up in some leadership role, but I don't know what position that is. It's either some sort of executive management or project management role, or something completely different like a therapist (something I've considered going back to school for). I have a general idea of where I want to go, but all I'm doing right now is arming myself with the right tools to get whatever it is that I eventually do want.
Another example, I know I have a good work ethic. I can routinely set aside chunks of time to work hard on something as much as I may or may not want to. That's one of my values. I love learning. That's another. Those two things are really useful for my creative hobbies of writing and making music. What about you? What are your values?
An area where I fall short is setting aside time to just let things happen. I'm not a control freak, I'm more of a control enthusiast. I like plans to an extent. Where I need to develop is allowing for more spontaneity in my life so I can be open to more things changing and going along with them as they do. If I've got a free night, I'm more likely to pick something and stick with it than text friends and see what's going on that night. If I get a message to go out, but I've already planned to work on writing or something, I'm less likely to go out because I've already made the choice to work. It's something I'd like to work on.
Those are just examples for myself. But what about you? What do you value? What could you improve in yourself? You've got all this time and freedom now. Don't let it go to waste. You have this incredible opportunity to build an amazing person and an amazing life. It would be such a shame to look back to your youth with a fistful of regrets because you could have done some small things differently in your 20s. Making mistakes is encouraged. It's how you learn about yourself and who you want to become. There is nothing wrong with the choices you make now, because there's still lots of time to change your mind.