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38 life lessons for your 30s and beyond

In your 30s, it’s important to step back and get a little perspective through some good old-fashioned reflection.

Sometimes it’s easy to think it’s all doom and gloom as the years tick over and the fine lines and white hairs start setting in; however, getting older needn’t be something to cringe at.

Instead, it should be something to celebrate – no matter the age!

Each year around my birthday, I write a post acknowledging my new age, what I am grateful for (I’m now 45), and the life lessons I’ve learned.

I’ve found this a great way to put things into perspective and to look at life with kindness rather than criticism.

Because sharing is caring, here are 38 life lessons to learn in your 30s and beyond. Insights I’ve collected from a life that’s been jam-packed full of laughs, love and learnings.

Life lessons to learn in your 30's and beyond

1. Make self-care your #1 priority

After all, mental health begins with ME. And by self-care, I’m not talking about scented candles and pamper sessions (even though I love a scented candle). Nope, I’m talking about getting back to basics, from stocking up the fridge and eating nourishing food to getting the right amount of sleep.

I’ve experienced burnout a few times, and because of this, I’ve learned that SELF-CARE should be my number one priority … and that it should have been all along.

To inspire you on your self-care journey, here are 64 ideas.

2. Walk your path

Live your dream, chase your passions and walk to the beat of your drum. It’s scary, and it can be hard work, but it’s all worth it in the long run due to the sense of fulfilment you will experience.

3. Multitasking is overrated

Focusing on one thing at a time is much more productive than multitasking, which comes from the reformed Queen of Multitasking. 

These days I prefer to be more mindful and to focus on one thing at a time. Yes, I’m slower, but I also think things through more, being able to focus, and the quality of what I do is so much better.

4. Learn to say no

I wish I had learned to say no earlier in life, but sometimes some insist on learning things the hard way (that’s me!)!

Learning to say no is one of the best things you can ever do. Once you get past the fear of saying ‘no’, it becomes empowering. People will understand; if they don’t, they aren’t worthy of your time.

Want some tips on learning to say no? Read this.

5. Make time for fun

As you grow older, you need to MAKE TIME for fun. Sometimes you even have to schedule it.

“You have to schedule the balance.” “If we let life go, the first thing that fills it up is work. The job takes over.

Michelle Obama

Make time to let your hair down and have some fun. 

Why not hit the road for a good old road trip with your playlist and fave snacks? Or see a movie, indulging in popcorn, coke and ice cream. And how about a date night with your beloved (including an overnight stay at a hotel or B&B)? You could even paint the town red with your girlfriends or husband on a night out dancing!

6. Tell people you love them often

Tell the people you care about that you love them often. You can do this by sending a text, a message, an email, or doing something old school like mailing them a card or letter. Why not even make a phone call. 

I learnt it the hard way after my husband nearly died from a bad fall at home. It was so scary and a huge wake-up call that reminded us to appreciate life and each other each and every moment.

7. Be vulnerable, authentic and courageous

Don’t pretend to be someone you’re not; be your beautiful, vulnerable, authentic self. It takes a lot of strength and courage, and you will sometimes feel incredibly uncomfortable. However, it will be worth it.

Living authentically, knowing your values, and learning to say no and follow your heart will support you to be much happier and less stressed.

8. It’s okay to ask for help

Sometimes you need help, and sometimes you need to ask for it, no matter how stubborn and independent you are.

I’m stubborn and independent, but these days when I need help, I mostly ask for it [Okay… it’s still a bit challenging, BUT I am making progress!].

9. Open yourself up to opportunities

Be it in work, life or relationships, open yourself up to the opportunities around you – even those you can’t see.

I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere in life if I hadn’t started opening myself up to people about where I was in life, what I wanted to do, what I was interested in or looking for new opportunities.

10. Never stop learning

The lesson’s just keep coming as you grow older, even when you wish they wouldn’t; however, the secret is never to stop learning as that’s where the personal growth happens – even from the shitty stuff. Yes, there’s something to be said for hindsight!

If you are making the same mistakes repeatedly, it’s time to sit up and take notes. What can you learn from these experiences? And what changes can you make to break the cycle?

11. Get active your way

Find something you’re interested in rather than pushing yourself to do something that’s a chore.

I used to be a gym junky. These days I prefer a yoga workout at home and taking my dog for a walk – it’s great for her and me.

12. Never deny your struggles

Never deny your struggles, as they are an important part of your story.

I could easily hate on my depression and anxiety, and although I’ve had some pretty shitty times, I own it. I don’t regret or wish I hadn’t had it because it has made me who I am today and enabled me to give back to others.

13. Love what you do, do what you love

In a nutshell, you need to LOVE what you do and do what you LOVE, especially if you are running your own business!

If you don’t, it’s time to sit up and assess WHY.

  • Why has the love gone wandering?
  • Is it you, what you are doing, your clients?
  • Think about why you started your biz initially. Are you still living up to your purpose, your vision?
  • Or maybe you’re compromising yourself somehow?

The good news is it isn’t the end of the world! It’s never too late to make a change, tweak things, sack a bad client, or shut up shop. After all, your health and happiness are worth so much more!

14. Creativity is good for the soul

Allow yourself to explore. To try new things. It doesn’t matter if you suck at it. The point is you tried. And if you are telling yourself ‘you are too old’, give yourself a right slapping as you are never too old!

My latest love is adult colouring books. Call them what you will, but I love them!

And note, creativity IS contagious.

Hold an afternoon craft party with your girlfriends, and hit the beach with some pencils or paints with your family. Create a group Pinterest board to brainstorm ideas and inspire each other.

Best of all, play, create and have fun!

15. Just because something is good for someone else doesn’t mean it will be good for you

Take detox programs as an example. Millions of people have experienced success from detox programs, but I learnt the hard way that they make me sick.

Running, cross-fit, hot yoga, meditation, protein shakes, vitamin supplements, low-carb, paleo, vegan, working from home, working in an office, working outdoors. They’re all good for someone. They just might not be the right fit for you. And that’s cool.

16. Learn to love the little things

Life is about the little things. A warm hug, cuddling a baby, a hot chocolate with marshmallows, sunshine and a summer’s breeze.

An exercise I like to do now and then is to list 99 things I love – it’s all about finding joy in the small things. 

Here’s how to do it and why it’s so good!

17. Practice gratitude daily

There is something wonderful about a daily gratitude practice: practice being grateful for one thing every day and build up to expressing your gratitude – verbally or physically (an all-encompassing hug!). 

Once gratitude becomes a habit, it changes how you live your life and impacts those around you.

18. Get married when and how you want to

Wedding planning is nowhere near as scary as I thought it would be, and being engaged is quite nice 🙂 Romantic even. My advice to anyone planning a wedding is to enjoy the process. To focus on the experience and not get sweat the small things. Remember to savour each other and have FUN!

Make your wedding about the both of you, not about others. Do what YOU want and keep that in the forefront of your mind. And don’t fret over what others want as people will get quite demanding even if they are only trying to help.

19. Use your nice things

I remember being given a few things I’d gifted to my Nan after she died that had never been used. She had either been saving them for a special occasion or thought they were too good to use. I think about that every time I look at those items for fear I might ruin them if I use them. And so, I use them.

Burn your scented candles, wear your good dress, use your expensive perfume, dig out the fancy crockery and cutlery, and wear your expensive jewellery.

20. The meaning of ‘for better or for worse’

Over the last few years of depression, anxiety, life-threatening accidents, retrenchment, unemployment, financial stress, death and family issues, I think I’ve discovered the meaning behind ‘for better or for worse’.

When you can still tolerate each other, and your love grows through all that, this has been my biggest learning and the most pleasant surprise. It also finally made me unlock the key to my heart…something I had kept locked and guarded for a very long time. Some things are worth getting all vulnerable for, and love is one of them.

21. You need much less than you think

You will feel much lighter if you clear the clutter and embrace a minimalist approach to living. You’ll also be surprised how much you can live without. I know I am, and to be honest, I also feel a lot happier!

22. Go easy on yourself

By reaching your 30s, you realise it’s time to STOP comparing yourself to others.

Your 30s are when you learn to be comfortable with who you are and what you do. If you haven’t by now, you should also learn to go easy on yourself and show yourself some compassion. After all, you are doing the best you can at any given moment, and that is okay 🙂

23. Learn to manage your stress

Investigate stress management techniques that work for you.

Ditch what doesn’t work and harness what works for you so that it becomes ingrained in your everyday life and you can easily call on it in times of intense stress.

24. Find Your Tribe

Be it on or offline, find those people who are into the same things you are, support you, and accept you for who you are. They will become your biggest cheer squad and be there for you in times of need (and vice versa). 

25. Switch off

I love social media; however, I recognise how detrimental it can be to your health and well-being. I challenge you to check in on your social media habits and to make an honest assessment.

Over the last few years, I’ve deleted Facebook, Messenger, Twitter and email from my phone and turned off all notifications. I’ve even set myself a daily curfew. 

26. Don’t let life turn you bitter

I was once ‘advised’ by a former boss that we all grow old and bitter and was taken aback by it.

We all have a choice. We can let life drag us down, give in and grow bitter, or choose the alternate path – one where we grow content and happier.

I know what I choose.

27. Don’t get hung up over your dress size

We all know that the size and fit of our clothes depend on the brand, store, cut, fabric and maker, so why do we still beat ourselves over the size and tightness of our clothes?

Do yourself a favour – STOP LETTING IT MESS WITH YOUR HEAD! You are beautiful just as you are.

Oh, and throw out your scales; you don’t need them.

28. Don’t expect everyone to understand or support you

When those you love don’t understand what you are doing or why it can hurt and make you question yourself.

I learned this the hard way after co-authoring a book a few years ago. In achieving a life-long dream, I thought I would get a lot of support, but I received the opposite from those closest to me. It was a rude shock and an eye-opener, causing me to question what I was doing and why.

It takes determination and spirit to stay true to yourself and to continue on your chosen path. In the end, those you love may just come around.

On the other hand, they may not. It happens. Don’t get bogged down in it, as it will destroy you. Do your best to move past it as quickly as possible, and take comfort in the thought that others who went before you also met the same thing.

You aren’t alone in this, either.

29. Allow yourself downtime

There’s nothing selfish about having regular downtime. Me-time is one of the most important things you can do.

By setting aside time for yourself, you give yourself permission to rest, recharge, and do something nice that serves you.

So take your breaks, go to bed early, enjoy a nap, and go on a holiday. 

The world can wait.

30. Put yourself first

It’s true what they say – you can only love someone else when you love yourself.

You can only help others after you have helped yourself – so learn to put yourself first.

Be the best person you can be. Through self-love, self-care, and doing what you love, you will be in a perfect position to love and help others.

31. Life’s too short to stress over a messy house

There are many more important things to spend your time and energy on than stressing over a clean house.

Sure, I’d love a spotless house with painted walls and doors, but good health and happiness come first in our house.

In my opinion, most housework can wait unless you’re in the mood and enjoy it.

32. Develop a routine

When I was younger, I prided myself on living by the seat of my pants and being the queen of multitasking. However, I’ve now realised that focussing on one thing at a time and developing a good routine is key to living well.

From meal prep and planning my outfits for the week to daily to-do lists and omni-tasking, it’s made the WORLD of a difference!

33. Being an introvert ‘ain’t easy

It took me a long time to accept that being an introvert was okay.

Reading Quiet by Susan Cain helped to solidify self-acceptance and a new way of living. 

I still struggle with my introverted self more than I like to admit, BUT I make it my mission to look after myself more these days, especially scheduling regular me-time to recharge the batteries, which often run dry.

If you are an introvert, do yourself a favour and check out Quiet Revolution.

34. Stop stressing over perfection

Nothing and no one is perfect. Got it!

35. You are courageous

Life.

It takes a lot of courage.

Courage to push through the hard times, the failures and the hiccups.

Courage to succeed and not to run in the other direction.

And courage to change or to stay as we are when others want us to change. 

We all have it, sometimes we just need a reminder to look within.

36. Travel your heart out

There are so many beautiful people in the world. So many traditions and cultures to discover. So many conversations to be had. 

I’ve met many lovely people who have opened their homes, hearts and families to me, and some who even saved me.

My heart will forever be grateful to these people.

37. Random acts of kindness

Random acts of kindness are the best type of kindness. Be it a smile at a stranger, a helping hand, a donation, a kind word, or something else, it is a beautiful thing to experience and give.

When was the last time you gave a bit of unexpected kindness?

38. Seize the day

If you haven’t before, in your 30s, make it your mission to live every day as if it’s your last.

Go through each day more mindfully and learn to treasure each and every moment.

If you take one thing away from this post, it is that this is one of the most important lessons to learn in life.

For some added inspiration, read these:

37 Reasons Why I’m Celebrating Turning 37

Why Turning 30 Rocks

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About Author

Changed careers in my 30's. Became a freelancer writer & marketer. I'm a proud redhead, fangirl, wife & step mum. And I'm a lover of all things books, movies, podcasts, dogs & naps.

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