The #1 Life Mistake That 20 Somethings Repeatedly Make

by Alexander Heyne · 22 comments


You’re probably making the most common life mistake that 20 somethings make… without even realizing it. And it’s probably making you miserable.

John, a reader that recently emailed me, told me that his life was pretty good in New York. He had a decent job, cool friends, a happy life, but he just felt like he needed to expand his bubble. He felt like he was withering away, and even though he was in New York city, he felt like he was going to die in the city he was born in – unless he did something.

He wasn’t dating anyone (although he wanted to be), and his friends were kinda complacent – not very ambitious, not very driven to improve themselves, and just existing for the sake of existing.

He wanted an adventure and some serious memories, so he decided to move to San Francisco and start over.

He figured it’d be easy just to push the reset button, get away from all his “stuff” here, and try out his dating life, work life, and personal life all over again. It was time for a change.

He saw himself moving to San Francisco, getting an awesome new job, living in a baller apartment, surrounded by friends that “got him” and a pretty little girlfriend that would be an awesome companion.

… Except when John emailed me, he had already been in San Francisco for a year – and he found himself miserable as hell. Not only did he find himself making the exact same kind of friends he was trying to get away from, his dating life hadn’t changed at all. Big city. Lots of pretty girls. Not one with him. What was up?

The way he described it was that he literally pushed the reset button on the scenery… but all his problems were still there, his old habits, and even his old mindsets – making similar friends that were uninspiring.

By the time John had emailed me he had reached the “what the fuck” point.

“I thought I could start over and be happy.”

As it turns out, it’s not that easy – and sometimes it’s a huge mistake.

The Biggest Mistake…

We (20 somethings) are experts at avoiding hardship and our problems.

For years I fell prey to this sneaky bastard of a mindset: “If shit isn’t working here, I can just move and start over.”

For example, I moved back home after living in China and the first thought in my mind was “Wow, all my new friends suck and are cubicle slaves. Time to move.”

I was literally prepared to move across the world… because my current friends weren’t cutting it. I didn’t even try to meet new people. I didn’t get new hobbies, go out more often, or otherwise do ANYTHING to try and find my tribe. I just wanted to push the reset button.

Just like John, I figured I could just move and all my problems would be fixed – friends, dating, living situation, job.

In reality, it’s not so pretty.

Since then, I’ve received dozens of emails from other people that have moved across the world trying to get away from stuff… only to find themselves more miserable and more isolated than before.

My point here isn’t to say “DON’T DO THIS.”

I regularly recommend people to go take “fuck it” trips to reset life.

I encourage people to go travel for 6 months or a year straight, despite the fact that I bash quitting your job to travel.

I’m totally down for moving across the world, even if there’s nothing there for you.

I encourage all these things under one condition.

The 30 Second Psychological Trick to Fix it

Here’s the million dollar question that you need to ask yourself:

Am I moving away from something… or am I moving towards something?”

In other words, is your move/fuck it trip/long-term travel getting you closer to the life you want, the goals you have, the stuff you find fulfilling, or are you just running away?

There’s a huge difference, and a huge shift in how it’ll make you feel.

If you’re running away, you’re just going to say “whew” for a while – and then “now, what?” You’re going to have the nagging fear following you everywhere that you’re still wasting time. You’re going to know you’re pissing time away.

But if you’re running towards something, every day on the path is one step closer towards what you want. There’s this sort of contentment about life because you’re working on something worthwhile.

Like I said recently, time is not important in the pursuit of “your dream” – whatever that may be. What’s important is that you understand the urgency of not wasting time.

My fear is that if you end up moving away from something – you’re just going to be wasting your time somewhere else, and you’re going to have to start over again.

Are you considering pushing the “reset” button on your life and moving? Before you do…

Filling your life with adventure doesn’t make it worthwhile.

Filling your life with what you want is what makes it worthwhile.

If your life has gone to shit and you’re strongly considering moving far away and starting over – here’s my honest advice for not messing up your life.

Ask yourself if you’re moving towards something important to you , or if you’re just moving away from something.

Chances are, you’ll intuitively know which path to take from there.

Thoughts on this?

— Alex


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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

James August 20, 2013 at 10:27 am

Great article!

It really puts it into perspective that we have to evaluate our lives and make sure that no matter where we are or what we are doing, we create our own happiness. I have found myself tempted to just pick-up and move overseas for an adventure, but really what I need to do is expand what I do in my free time and make sure it’s filled with the things I love! We are the creators of our own happiness and have the power to go out and try new things and make new friends if we are not happy.



Alexander Heyne August 20, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Hey James,

There’s nothing wrong with the overseas adventure thing – And I’ve done it more than a few times – but it can become a mistake if years pass and you find yourself wondering “what next?” just like when you were at home.

If it falls into your picture of a “meaningful life” then by all means do it. If you’re intuitively attracted to it – do it. Just don’t fall into it because you think it’s something you should do.


Victor August 20, 2013 at 10:28 am

I haven’t thought about this before, thanks for the insight! Can you help clarify the distinction more? I feel like running towards something good and running away from something bad are the same thing, because good and bad are relative terms.

Keep up the awesome posts!


Alexander Heyne August 20, 2013 at 12:40 pm

Hey Victor,

What I mean was running towards something meaningful and important to you.

E.g. “I hate my life here, I want to move away from it,” VERSUS “I hate my life here, I want to move away from it, but I’ve always wanted to take a painting class in Paris.. so this might be the right time.”

You’re still moving away from something, but also towards something that enriches your life and adds meaning – while getting you closer to your goals.

Does that make any sense?

– Alex


N Smith August 20, 2013 at 10:49 am

Well, here’s a 40-something person who has long contemplated the “just leave it all behind without so much as a backward glance” path but has never been able to do it, for the exact reasons you give here. Even though at times I desperately wanted a different life, I suspected that no amount of changing the scenery would help because, after all, “wherever you go, there you are.” Taking my problems with me to a new place without even working on them here first wouldn’t do much to wipe the slate clean for a better life. And yet the allure of a do-over is hard to deny…


Alexander Heyne August 20, 2013 at 12:35 pm

Hi N,

No doubt the allure of a do-over is huge. It’s very seductive. And like I said, there’s nothing wrong with it – as long as it’s bringing you closer to something meaningful, OR if you intuitively have a feeling you should go. Always follow those gut feelings.

If you intuitively know you need to go – even though you don’t know where the path will lead – I think you know that you need to make the move.

It could be that you intuitively know you need change, but intellectually you’re trying to justify reasons not to go.


N Smith August 20, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Wow – I think that’s just the comment I needed to hear! Reframes things a a bit for me. Thank you for your insight. Milk the Pigeon always gives me something to think about. Appreciate it! :)

Jon Morris August 20, 2013 at 3:48 pm

The point is also made in song:


Ragnar August 22, 2013 at 6:57 pm

I took a bachelor in Japanese and exchanged to Japan just to get as far away from my previous life and self as I could. I stayed for a little over a year. And I think the biggest lesson was that the problem was not with my geographical location, but with me, and the social circles I chose to, consciously or not, associate myself with. Definitely agree with your main point… excitement is nothing but a distraction in the long run.

Also good point about moving to something not from it. I definitely want to be able to visualize a future before I make a drastic move!


Alexander Heyne August 22, 2013 at 9:11 pm


I made the same mistake. So you’re definitely not alone. I’ve always struggled with really finding my “tribe” of people that gets me.

Excitement can be a distraction, if you’re only chasing excitement. But if it’s excitement, and something meaningful, it can become worthwhile !


Ragnar August 23, 2013 at 4:15 pm

Yep, that’s exactly what I was trying to say, so definitely agree! ^^ Did you ever find the right tribe by the way?

Kat August 23, 2013 at 2:07 am

Changing scenery won’t do shit.. however I think it is possible to work on yourself in a new location to become a better person. You can get new hobbies, go out more often and meet new people in a different city. As long as you promise to commit to breaking old habits during your move I think it can be successful. Sometimes people need a new environment to be inspired.


Alexander Heyne August 23, 2013 at 8:05 pm


Yeah absolutely, I mean we all need to address whatever is the underlying problem making us unhappy. I think sometimes people do need that new environment though. Sometimes the psychological thought of starting over gives you enough motivation and energy to actually make it happen.


Maria August 23, 2013 at 9:24 am

True. I realised it while watching «Breakfast at Tiffany’s»: no matter where you run you just end up running into yourself.


Chris August 26, 2013 at 6:44 am

Whilst the whole running away from your life thing may seem reckless and short-sighted, I believe that it is what most people need. On one hand you’ll inevitably still be the same person with the same issues when you arrive in your new environment, but a change of scenery will always provoke some kind of self-development, whether it is life-changing or not.

For me and a lot of other people, the process of finding out what you want in this whole fuckery called life is largely abated by the dreaded comfort bubble. So saying fuckit and hitting the reset button is not necessarily going to suddenly give life meaning, but often it stops the rot enough to facilitate change.

I think the key thing with the reset button is that you have to be ready to embrace experimentation (a big MTP ethos, I know) wherever you go. The initial change (quitting your job, moving abroad etc.) is often so overwhelming, that it’s easy to think “I’ve done my part, now for life to reward me.” As i’ve found out many times, you have to continually be proactive in searching for what it is that you need/want.


Alexander Heyne August 26, 2013 at 10:35 am

Hey Chris,

I agree that making a huge change like that will promote more self development. I think the problem is that it can become a personality trait to simply “pick up and go” when things aren’t working out.

“So saying fuckit and hitting the reset button is not necessarily going to suddenly give life meaning, but often it stops the rot enough to facilitate change.” 100% agree. Sometimes that’s what it takes to find motivation and the fire again.


B.M. May 15, 2014 at 12:46 pm


Thank you for this article. I stumbled upon it looking for some direction about what to do after destroying my life. I was in a relationship that crossed some boundaries too soon. My job had become overwhelming and my thoughts were and kinda still are to run away. See I am right at that point where I already quit my job, got rid of may apartment and broke off my relationship. I have three weeks till I move across the country to live with a previously intolerant and emotionally abusive sick father. Mainly because the family I have here wont let me stay on their couches and I am about to loose all of my friends on account of a relationship that crossed some boundaries. I feel like there will be nothing here for me if I stay but nothing if I leave….I just appreciate the article, puts some things in perspective and at the very least I know what to expect.

Thank you!!


Alexander Heyne May 15, 2014 at 7:33 pm

You’re welcome BM!


Christopher December 28, 2016 at 2:55 am

Not sure where to start my family and I are estranged at best and civil at other times.
19 years ago I walked out and never looked back, and felt nothing towards my family, who I thought were smothering and overly preachy about their beliefs.
I’m 35 come back from the military and spending time traveling and abroad and lived a decent life, I contacted my parents who we all agreed that we should patch our relationship up to be a family.
Except we’ve hit the snag and I’m ready to leave , do I tough it out for family sake or bounce because I don’t believe I need this in my life ?


Alexander Heyne August 23, 2013 at 8:09 pm

Hey Ragnar,

I have a (digital) mastermind group every week for my business, and have slowly been hanging out with more entrepreneurs in person. I spend a lot of time in NYC so it’s easy to find like-minded people there.


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