For me, my 30s was a decade of learning more than anything else. There was a lot of good, but also some painful lessons that I sure as hell won’t forget.
I lost my paternal grandmother when I was 30 and my maternal grandmother when I was 39. My estranged father died unexpectedly and very tragically in 2018. I got married at age 32. I went on my first trip overseas trip to Southeast Asia by myself at age 35. It was one of the best things I ever did. I quit a job I hated and was slowly killing me after 12 years at age 37. These are some of the big events of my 30’s.
Of those lessons, the following is my top 30 Life Lessons I Learned The Hard Way in my thirties.
1. Take One Action Every Day.
The most successful people show up every day regardless if they feel like it or not. It doesn’t have to be a huge thing every day, just something that will bring you one step closer to your goals and dreams. It could be a phone call, sending an email, a quick 10-minute workout.
These are things that are so easy to do, but they’re easy not to do as well. They’re a show of good faith to the Universe that you’re committed to taking action and building momentum. When you make the decision to make your one action a day non-negotiable over time these small things compound.
You won’t see results right away, but 3, 6 or 9 months down the road you’ll be shocked at how far you’ve come.
2. Be deliberate.
If you have a purpose and a plan, you’ll attract opportunity. If you drift through life, you’ll just get the leftovers from the people who are living deliberately.
To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you that you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive. – Robert Louis Stevenson
3. Challenge what you think you know.
Question everything, including your own values and beliefs. Listen to opposing viewpoints with an open, non-judging attitude. Confirmation bias is real (when you seek and interpret evidence to confirm what you already believe to be true) and if you always look to those you agree with you’ll always live in a bubble and never grow personally.
4. Be kind.
Be kind wherever you go – online and in person. About a year ago I made the mistake of reading the comments on a Facebook post on a hotly debated topic.
I read 3 comments and literally felt sick to my stomach at how disgustingly mean people were being. You’re never going to change hearts and minds by leaving a scathing comment on social media. It’s not going to happen. So why waste your time and lower your vibe by partaking in even a second of it.
When you see these toxic threads, ask yourself why you feel drawn to it and feel compelled to comment. Is it going to improve your life by reading and commenting? Is it going to collectively improve things for the world? The answer will always be no if you’re honest with yourself. So skip it and find something that will enhance your life or the lives of others. I believe we can reduce toxicity online and real-life one person at a time by simply choosing not to participate in it.
For some humor on how asinine it truly is online, check out this video by JP Sear. I laugh every time.
5. Pause When You Need To, But Not For Long.
If you need to pause, go ahead and do it. But never for more than two days…two days can easily turn into 3, 5, or 7 days of not doing your thing. And then you’re out of practice. Don’t stop. Perseverance and consistency matter.
I used to have an all or nothing attitude about changing behavior, especially with weight loss and getting in shape. I’d say to myself, “Well, I didn’t eat what I was supposed to today so I might as well just give up. I’ll never meet my goals.”
This is so stupid.
So what if you mess up or even consciously choose to go off your plan for a short period of time. This has nothing to do with your long-term success as long as you don’t quit your goal. Just start fresh the next day. You don’t have to be perfect, just keep going.
6. Do What You Hate and Do It First.
As stated by Marisa Peer, world-renowned hypnotherapist. According to Marisa, successful people do what they don’t want to do (in order to get to where they want to go) right away.
Don’t put it off until later in the day.
Whether it’s bookkeeping, making an unpleasant phone call, having a difficult conversation, exercising or even just a chore you don’t like, do it first. This sets your day up for success and puts you on the path to accomplishing even more.
Putting the thing you hate off has the opposite effect on your day because you’re wasting time dreading what you could already have done. You can’t wait for motivation to show up; it’s not going to happen.
Motivation comes when you just get started. Even if you tell yourself you only have to exercise for 5 minutes. Once you get started oftentimes motivation will set in and you’ll feel like working out a lot longer.
7. It’s Not Selfish to Put Yourself First.
When you take care of yourself, you’ll show up better in all areas of your life. Whether it’s taking time alone, exercising, meditating, praying, buying yourself something, etc. If it energizes you and brings you joy, know you’re worth it and it’s okay.
8. Stop Being Shocked When the World Isn’t Fair.
That’s like being a deer and expecting a wolf not to eat you because you didn’t eat him first. Life isn’t fair at times so don’t be surprised when things don’t go your way. Bad things really do happen to good people at times. Learn from crappy circumstances, use them as practice for responding, rather than reacting to upsetting things. Find the value in the pain and become stronger.
9. Don’t Hold Grudges.
Don’t be a doormat either, but ask yourself if the grudge is really worth it. Do you even remember why you’re angry with the person? In the grand scheme of things, does it really matter? And even if you don’t want to forgive someone directly, at least do it on your own. Holding onto resentment is negative energy you don’t need and it does hold you back from manifesting true freedom and happiness.
10. Limit the Hell Out of Your Contact with Toxic People.
We all know at least a few toxic people. They’re always negative, love to complain, are mean, ungrateful, love to gossip, rude and don’t give a rip about anyone but themselves most of the time. These people could be friends, but they’re often family members too.
Limit your contact with them or if you’re able, cut them loose altogether. Yes, it’s hard and sad, but life is too short to have added stress and drama you wouldn’t have if this person wasn’t in your life. Refer to #9 and truly wish them well, but cut. them. loose.
11. Life is really short.
I went to bed 19 and woke up 40. Life goes by so damn fast. Stop putting off today what you think you’ll just do another day. If it matters, do it now. Those “somedays” quickly turn into missed opportunities.
12. Just because you don’t understand it, doesn’t mean it’s wrong.
And just because you disagree with someone doesn’t mean they’re offensive, racist, bigoted, xenophobic or misogynistic or any of those other overused buzzwords. Don’t be so quick to label people.
It’s not your job or place to shame people online or try to change them. It’s okay to disagree and it’s okay if others disagree with you. It’s not a big deal unless you make it one. It’s not horrible or offensive unless you tell yourself it is. Being outraged all the time is NOT going to help your overall happiness and fulfillment in life.
13. Do your own research.
Don’t look at the same resource for your information, look at all angles, even viewpoints you don’t believe in for a full understanding of what’s truly going on.
14. Being Busy Doesn’t Mean You’re Productive.
It’s interesting to me how so many people seem to wear being busy as a badge of honor. Being busy doesn’t mean much, doing the right tasks that move you toward your goals is so much more important. If you focus on being productive rather than busy, you can get a whole lot done and still enjoy downtime.
15. Stop Saying You Don’t Have Time.
Is saying you don’t have time really true? If you don’t have time, it’s obviously not a priority so stop lying to yourself and everyone else and just call it like it is.
16. Choose to be a victor, not a victim.
There’s no badge of honor in victimhood. None.
There’s nothing good about it. Everyone has had varying degrees of bad things happen. Everyone. That’s life.
Like most people, bad things have happened to me. This doesn’t make me special, it makes me a human with some life under her belt. I think you’ll be hard pressed to find someone who’s never been mistreated, wronged or hurt by someone else at some point or another.
It’s safe to say I’ve had more experience with victimization than most. After working directly with crime victims for over 12 years, I feel fairly qualified to speak on the matter.
In that time, I had thousands of conversations with victims. I say “victim” because that’s the legal term used in the criminal justice system and that’s what I had to call people. I seriously hate the word though. I prefer “survivor” or even “victor” (cheesy, but better than the victim).
When you refer to yourself or someone else as a victim you’re giving up your/their power and giving it all to the perpetrator.
For example, I saw first hand in my job how absolutely gratifying that was for many perpetrators to see in court. Why the hell would anyone want to give them that? Hold your head high. Rise above what happened. Don’t let the bad things define you. Learn from them. Heal. Gain strength from them. But move on and don’t dwell. This isn’t mean, it’s tough love.
This is a topic I’ll be writing more on in the future.
17. Goals Are Nice, But They’re Not Everything.
Read Atomic Habits by James Clear. It will change the way you feel about goals and habits completely. Your daily systems you have in place are what matter most. Lots of people have goals, but that doesn’t mean they amount to anything. It’s when you create effective systems and live by them that your goals happen by default.
18. The Stories You Tell Yourself Will Make You Or Break You.
You have the power to improve your life or make things much worse depending on your stories. If you think to yourself how annoying or frustrating someone is, you’ll look for more annoying or frustrating events to confirm your story is right. (confirmation bias: see #3)
This causes more bad feelings and greater irritation. What if you told yourself that you’re bigger than minor annoyances and this person has been through something to cause them to act the way they do.
Rather than looking for confirmation of being right about how much the person annoys you, challenge yourself to be kind and empathetic. Open communication and talk with them to gain a better understanding and tell them how you feel in a tactful way. I’m not saying this is easy. It’s sure as hell is not, but it will bring you more peace and decrease frustration and animosity in your life.
19. There’s value in the struggle.
If you cut the chrysalis of a caterpillar it will die. The struggle it takes to get out of the cocoon is needed for it to survive on the outside.
There are times in life struggle is exactly what we need. Without it we miss valuable opportunities to learn and grow. The obstacles we face in life make us stronger.
20. Listen more, talk less.
If you want to improve your relationships and social interactions greatly, practice active listening. Really listen when someone’s talking to you.
Don’t be tempted to tune them out if you don’t agree or if you’re excited to get in your next sentence, which is something lots of people do.
This is only half listening.
Listen fully and wait your turn to speak. Active listening gets easier with being more self-aware during conversations and with practice. People will remember how attentive you are and how that made them feel. Plus, you’ll have a much better understanding of the people in your life.
21. Stop judging everyone and everything, including yourself.
I’ve found I’m a whole lot happier when I approach the world as an observer than a judge — when it comes to myself, other people, shitty situations, etc. Some things just are…not good or bad, they just are.
22. Live in the “Right Now.”
It’s so common for people to put off happiness until after (fill-in-the-blank) happens. Don’t put off happiness anymore. My gosh, I wasted so many years doing this. You can find happiness in everyday life if you’re open to it. Plus, when you’re happy in the now, your manifestations will likely happen sooner.
As Andy Dooley says, “Feelings first. Manifestation second.”
23. Don’t spend beyond your means.
I’ve found few things more draining (and embarrassing) than having debt. It’s a black cloud always following you and depleting your energy and peace. Don’t let short term satisfaction steal your long-term peace. It’s not worth it. Save your money and build up an emergency fund (enough to cover at least 6 months). If you want something, save for it, you’ll appreciate it more and enjoy not having the debt hanging over you.
24. Be aware of the sunk cost fallacy.
Sunk cost is an economic term that basically means your decisions are being manipulated by your prior investment of time, money or energy, etc.
Here’s a personal example: I decided to join a program in 2016 promising to show me how to build an e-commerce business. Months passed and ungodly amounts of time and energy were spent, not to mention all the money for the program and the cost of Facebook ads, etc. Deep down I knew this plan was a total flop, but I couldn’t abandon the project because I already invested so much. I let another month pass and finally gave up and that was long overdue.
Be aware of this. It even applies to relationships, too.
Don’t be fast to quit just because things are hard, but don’t be afraid to ditch something that isn’t working and deep down you know will never work. Again, like many of these lessons, learn from it, cut your losses and be done.
25. Speak your truth, BUT keep in mind that your truth might not be the truth.
I hear so many people saying “my truth” and I think I’ve even used that term myself. Be careful with it though. Individual perception should always be considered but the truth and your truth don’t always intersect. Refer back to #3 to for confirmation bias and why it’s dangerous.
26. People will always talk no matter how much you hate it and try to stop it.
Just remember you’re taking some pressure off the person they were talking about before you. And take comfort in that someone else will soon be in the spotlight to relieve you of being the center of gossip. I’ve always found the quote to be a good reminder when I come across gossiping or feel tempted to do it myself. Instead, change the subject or walk away. It’s low vibe and bad karma.
Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.
– Eleanor Roosevelt
27. Stop worrying.
Really. Give it up. Most of what you’re worried about almost never happens and if it does it’s rarely as bad as you imagined. There’s zero value in agonizing and making yourself sick over what other people are doing or situations outside of your control. Focus on what you can control and how you respond to the rest.
28. Saying someone is ugly or talking bad about them makes you even uglier.
It says way more about you than it does them. It’s that simple.
29. No matter how shitty the situation seems, it will pass and life will go on.
30. The Best is Yet to Come…