Wisdom//

13 Things to Master Before Turning 30

For starters, you should get good at saying no.

martin-dm/Getty Images
martin-dm/Getty Images

While no one is arguing that you need to have your whole life figured out by the time you’re 30, you might have certain goals you feel you should accomplish, and experiences you’d like to have by then.

Believe it or not, the oldest millennials are now approaching 40, but many millennials don’t consider themselves to be adults until they’re at least 30 years old, and others don’t believe they’re fully mature until they hit 40, according to research by CBS TV ratings exec David Poltrack and Nielsen Catalina Solutions, as reported by The Wrap. “Adult” was defined as “someone who has moved out of their parents’ home, has a job, and pays their own bills.”

We asked members of the Thrive Global community — of all ages — which life skills they believed were crucial to master before 30, and what types of experiences are most important to have under your belt by then. Which of these ideas resonates with you?

Making key decisions

“The key here is not to have a list of things to accomplish before a certain age. If you say, ‘I would like to be mature enough to make life-affecting decisions after I finish college and land a job,’ you might develop some critical skills. Timing is essential in life: The key is to be ready when opportunities present themselves, regardless of your age.”

—Christian J. Farber,  writer and marketer, New Jersey

Moving away from home

“A life experience you should have by the time you turn 30 is not only moving out of your parents’ home, but moving to another state or country! Get rid of that safety net and handle everything on your own — from laundry, to paying bills, and figuring out transportation. Nothing will shock you more than a new environment.”

—Sergio Ventura, Manager, Georgia, VT (Originally from Brooklyn, NY)

Understanding what you want in a romantic partner

“I think it’s really important to spend your 20s figuring out what you want in a partner. We spend a lot of time focusing on our career goals and personal goals, but not everyone spends as much time really figuring out who is right for them as a partner, should they want that. What kind of person will really make me happy long term? Who would I really like to be with through the ups and downs, children, and hardship? What kind of person will I respect and vice versa? There are so many questions people don’t think about or ask until it’s too late, and then they unwittingly make bad choices. It’s hard to see age relatively unless you are looking back at it. People think that they need to have everything figured out by age 30, but this is the time when so much is just beginning. You’ll do many things with your career and work on self-growth. I truly believe that if we focused on this part of our lives as much as our careers early on, it could make a big difference down the line.”

—Jessica Joelle Alexander, journalist and author, Rome, Italy

Living with gratitude

“I just wrote a letter to my sister for her 30th birthday. This is part of what I wrote: ‘Some lessons in life you learn once, and others you learn every day. By 30, you should have a deeper connection with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of happiness. I’ve learned this a thousand times, and I’ll learn it a thousand times more. The best days are the ones where you take a few minutes to pause and think about all the things you’re thankful for. Focus on the good. Never stop reliving fun memories and funny stories. Even in the worst possible situations, there are always things to be thankful for.”

—Rosie Yakob, entrepreneur and public speaker, nomadic since 2013

Failing

“Prior to age 30, I was all about having it all together. I was successful at everything, I made sure of it. My ego accepted no less. But in my 40s, I learned how to fail, and started to live. Failure is a learning opportunity. Some choose to learn, but others choose to avoid the lessons and play it safe. But as I grew older and wiser, playing it safe was no longer satisfying. My soul was screaming for more. It asked, then demanded that I set aside the fear of failure and jump into the unknown, try new things, and become who I was created to be. Learn to fail young, because that’s how you learn to fly.”

—Melissa Kalt, M.D., executive coach, Milwaukee, WI

Being honest with yourself and others

“The most important thing to master by age 30 is the ability to be honest. Be honest with yourself: what do you want to accomplish? Is this relationship healthy for you? What do you need to work on? The sooner you accomplish this, the more you will prioritize yourself and establish healthy habits. Being able to tell others how you feel will also enable you to set boundaries with yourself and others. Don’t forget that being honest means you’re being brave.”

—Elizabeth Tsachres, health educator, San Carlos, CA

Going with the flow

“It’s funny to think about my 20-year-old self as I approach age 30 this year. I could’ve never imagined I’d be this happy with my life a decade later. It goes to show that what you think you want — whether at age 15 or 50 — isn’t necessarily what will make you the happiest. If I didn’t follow my intuition and go with the flow of life (instead of ‘grinding’ at a job or swiping right until I found ‘the one’), I would’ve never spent the past four years traveling the world full-time, and working as a travel write. I never thought that either of those were realistic dreams.”

—Danielle E. Owen, travel writer, intentionally homeless

Taking control of your finances

“By the time you’re 30, you should have mastered your ‘money skills’ by having a budget, and getting in the habit of saving. The days of spending frivolously should be long gone — you should be smarter, wiser, and more financially sound. As an adult, you should know what you can and can’t afford, and invest in your retirement.

—Angel Radcliffe, financial educator and business strategist, Dallas, TX

Getting good at “strategic quitting”

“I think one life skill people need to master before turning 30 is learning how to say no. I want to look back on the past decade of my life and deliberately choose the experiences and situations I’d want to bring into my thirties. Think of it as the KonMari method, but instead of discarding things, you let go of habits, mindsets, people, and even goals that seem to bring you more pain than joy. If it’s no longer fulfilling, not aligned with your passions, and not who you are anymore, it’s not failing — it’s “strategic quitting.”

—Bianca Magbujos, writer, Brooklyn, NY

Loving yourself

“A crucial skill to embody by age 30 and beyond is self-love. It encompasses self-worth, self-respect, self-compassion, self-care, and more. You have to learn how to give yourself everything you need and not rely on anyone else to do it for you.”

—Heather Reinhardt, self-love aficionado, Los Angeles, CA

Having hard conversations

“Developing the courage to have hard conversations — and the ability to do that from a grounded place of compassion and connection — are key relationship skills that every adult needs. Most of us don’t grow up flexing those emotional muscles that allow us to hold onto ourselves while truly hearing another person, but it’s essential in every aspect of life: marriage, work, friendships, parenting… you name it. Healthy, connected and nourishing relationships flow from a core of compassionate curiosity and the ability to gracefully make space for difference. Learning how to be whole in relationships — and to make room for growth in ourselves and those we love — are key to happiness and lasting love.”

—Rachel Zamore, couples therapist and relationship consultant, Brattleboro, VT

Forgiveness

“It’s been years since I turned 30. But I remember asking what I needed to know to crush my 30s like it was yesterday. For me, there was only one answer — forgiveness. Before this time, I struggled with it. I thought that if I forgave, it meant that I accepted what another person had done. But that’s not true. Forgiveness is about the emotional release of resentment towards a person, regardless of whether they deserve forgiveness or not. It’s not about forgetting, but rather, getting rid of the pain. This also includes myself — learning to let go of these emotions has truly been the greatest gift.”

—Heidi Allen, founder, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Setting boundaries in both work and life

“As I reflect on the life skills that have made me an empowered adult, gaining the courage and knowledge to know when and how to say ‘no’ in both my career and personal life have been game-changers. As a young adult, I found myself saying ‘yes’ to just about every fun experience with friends and various career opportunities. It was exhausting. Over time, it left me feeling bitter, unappreciated and overworked. I had to learn to set boundaries and gain balance in terms of what was important to me, what my limits and expectations were, and how I wanted to spend my time.”

—Karla Kueber, health and wellness blogger, Chicago, IL

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