Today I’m celebrating my 30th birthday! It feels like such a monumental arrival. Though once I hit 28 was when I had my '30' moment. So now I've had 2 years to mentally and emotionally prepare for this milestone.
I'm reflecting back to gather the bits of experience I want to carry with me in my life satchel. Most of them, I’ve gathered through my 20s through experiences in life, relationship and entrepreneurship — but we’ll say it’s cumulative learning since 1986. :) May this help a teen or 20-something get ‘ahead of the curve’ and live enriched.
The 25 things I’ve learned on my way to 30
1. It’s super normal to enter your twenties and feel “pushed” out of the nest with nowhere to go … and no direction of how to do it.
I used to think this was unique to me. But over the years and through my interviews with other 20-somethings, I’ve learned that it’s a ridiculously common feeling. In fact Dr. Cloud & Dr. Townsend even add it as a life stage in their psychology book (“Boundaries”). I’ve learned now that it’s because we lack the structure and achievement cycles that our youth provided (go to high school, get a degree, go to college, get a diploma, get a job… wait, now what?).
Take away: Accept the deep waters of adulthood. In fact, spend time in your twenties to build the structures you need to be successful through the next decades of personal freedom: career goals, support systems, an exercise routine, hobby interests. It does take time, but if you’re know it's up to you to build something from nothing, you won’t feel so lost while you do it.
2. You need cheerleaders.
Cheerleaders in life give you hope when you’re down. They speak love and truth, and remind you of your potential. You can’t get too far in this world without having a crowd to cheer you on while you journey through life.
Most of us have had them our whole youth: teachers, mentors, parents, school friends. When we get older we forget their importance and either drop them, distance ourselves from them, or don’t nurture the relationship. Yikes.
Take away: Name 1-5 people in your world who would gladly enjoy being your cheerleader. Give them a call.
3. No matter how extroverted you think you are, brilliant ideas are actually crafted in personal alone time.
Sure research and interviewing has to be done out in the world, but processing, organizing and formulating original ideas happens in quietness of the mind. If you haven't made time for your mind to contemplate and dream you may not realize how brilliant you really are *wink. Giving your mind and heart time, locational space, and curiosity, brings out wonders.
Take away: Even though your social side needs people, make quiet time every day for your brain. (Preferably with a piece of paper to write down your ideas!)
4. No matter how brilliant you think you are, other people’s ideas can blow yours out of the water. That’s actually a good thing.
Once I recognized #3, I started to realize that I might actually have good ideas. Pretty soon I tended to get rigid on things that I knew would work. A Marketing Director I worked with through business was a “collaborative thinker” and it frustrated me — every great idea got changed when we went into a group meeting. It took years … literally years … but as I released my unhealthy grasp on my own "brilliant ideas", I began to see that others' perspectives help best ideas float to the top.
Take away: It is really healthy to allow other people into your idea creation (even if you're introverted). And listening to their perspective is even better, even if their opinions hurt.
5. Get good at as many things when you’re young. They are the building blocks of your joy later in life.
As I got older and went “why am I not having fun anymore?”, I began to look back to my youth. What did I do for fun? Music? Competition? Team sports?
To be honest, starting a new hobby later in life is like pedaling a bike up a mountain — it’s fun and challenging for the first 30 seconds, then it’s overwhelming. For some reason when you’re young, learning something new is like riding a bike up a neighborhood hill with four friends and a theme song. It’s fun, no risks, and you have the support to make it happen. So please - start young and explore the world!
Take away: Take your hobbies seriously when you’re young. Explore them til you find something(s) that are truly fun for you and develop them.
6. Accept the idiosyncrasies of your hair (cowlicks, your weird part, or awkward natural color) and come to grips with the styles that you just can’t pull off.
After a certain age, I realized it’s just not worth going back to hairstyles that don’t work for me - even though the Kardashians and Meg Ryan can totally pull them off (ya 90s!). The other thing is that I had to be honest with how much work I was willing put into my hair every day. Note to self -- if you look amazing when you come from the salon and look like a homeless person the next day, you got the wrong haircut.
Take away: Seek out a favorite hairstylist and let them speak honestly. Extra bonus: stop trying to look like a celebrity who looks nothing like you. Sadness.
7. I've learned my physical health is the bedrock of my personal happiness.
This is a hard one to even say, because I think we like to over-hype our mental and spiritual practices to say they are primary. But I can’t tell you how much I’ve sacrificed in life because I didn’t make my health a priority. When I look back in my twenties I realize I lost money, relationships, life goals, etc, because I wasn't willing to put the time into finding out what was wrong.
Poor health affects your personality, your ability to perform at work, your internal motivation. I didn’t realize that feeling 25% yucky could do such damage until I finally made the decision to stop everything and pay the price. The biggest win for me was a blood test that told me I had celiacs.
Now when I feel 10% out of whack, I’m willing to put in the time and money for preventative care (tests, chiropractor, physical therapy, you name it), because I know the price for “later” is exponentially not worth it.
Take away: Go to the doctor annually, ask a million questions, and actively seek out answers for your health. Don’t skip this appointment - even if you don’t have health insurance -- it will be under $100. Do this with all your different health practitioners — dentist, eyes, etc.
8. There are actually unspoken secrets to finding ‘the one’ ...
I can’t go into it here and probably there is more to it, but you can read what mine are in my blog post here.
Take away: If you ask around enough - or read enough - you can find secrets to anything.
9. Mental wholeness is both a cause and an effect of overall wellbeing.
Think of it like a thermometer (you can change it) and a barometer (it tells you where your life is at). Your mental instability could be an effect. I found I'll be a crazy pants from things that don't seem to relate: food, caffeine/sugar, weather, sickness, hormones, etc. It could also be an effect of people pressure, like work or relationship instability. When you feel unrest, you can explore all of these to identify the core to get you back into alignment.
But mental instability can actually be the cause of personal struggles in your life, like poor relationship choices or job flippancy. And it can be the cause for physical issues like gaining weight or poor digestive health.
Take away: Mental health should NOT be ignored. Use how you're feeling as a compass for unresolved issues physically, mentally and environmentally to get the peace you need.
10. Self acceptance and forgiveness drives many of the decisions you are (or are not) making.
You know when you do things that even annoy yourself and you're like, why am I doing that?! I've found the reason for some of my greatest moments in life and my biggest personal annoyances come back to self acceptance.
Am I seeking affirmation from others? Am I trying to make up for past failures that I haven’t forgiven myself for? Am I hiding my love for others, because I am not loving myself? I've finally realized that when I forgive myself, I’m willing to forgive others. When I love and accept myself, I can act boldly.
Take away: What habit is most annoying you? What personal quality are you most proud of? Reflect: do they relate back to self acceptance?
11. Faith can only be measured when things don’t look good.
This is a hard pill to swallow. I always thought faith was me sitting on a mountain top looking toward my next mountain top experience. I thought having faith was about envisioning, planning and preparing.
In truth, I’ve learned the measure of my faith is in the valley, where all I see is swamp, dark, and trees. The mountain ahead looks more like a vertical wall, unclimbable, and unattainable. How I feel in this place (hopeless?) is a more accurate measure of my ‘faith’ muscle.
Take away: Realizing this can help the "valley" experience. It's okay that it's hard - you're just strengthening your muscles.
12. In social settings, most of the signs to stay quiet are actually the cues to speak up.
Ever been in a room where it seems like everyone’s talking over your head and you don’t know what’s going on? Or where everyone in the room is talking about something that you think is a horrible, horrible idea - and they’re all agreeing to it?
The natural tendency is to just be quiet - don't look stupid.Ya - that’s actually when you should speak up.
I’ve been in enough board rooms with suits twice my age, and it’s in these critical moments that my obvious questions or observations bring unrealized clarity. Even though it seems as if I am ‘outing’ my ignorance, it’s actually a respected mark of boldness and authenticity.
Take away: Be the first to say, "I don't understand." Then don't feel bad and respectfully ask enough questions until you do. The others in the room will thank you, you natural leader you.
13. Pay attention to the whispers of others.
When someone mentions their feelings or concerns, paying attention the first time is a good idea. I've learned, especially with quiet natured people, it probably took them a lot of courage to say even the few words they said.
I've also learned to not own it. One time my family member was sharing her heart and told me “I feel like I have no best friend.” I immediately felt like she was blaming me for not being her best friend. Immediately I fought the urge to get offended. In turn I said, "I hate that feeling," and validated her with encouragement. Totally different result.
Take away: When we interpret others’ statements through our own insecurities we do people a disservice — and our words become based out of fear, not love.
14. Different doesn’t mean less than.
I’ve grown in awe of the wonder of what some may call ‘destiny’ — when someone makes a drastic life choice that over time turns out to be what brings good to the world. I’ve grown leery of trying to make judgement calls on people’s decisions. Just because your life doesn’t resemble mine, doesn’t mean it’s inferior. When I feel like people are making odd choices (destructive is a different thing...), I've chosen to exchange it for excitement: “How will this turn out?”
Take away: Pay attention to how you perceive others' different life choices. Is it with judgement or wonder?
15. It is possible to live in constant rhythm of inspiration. (Wha?!)
I think the biggest reason we think of inspiration as a luxury is because the vast majority of the world does not operate from it. If everyone around you was living with wonder and curiosity, open to learning the secrets of the universe, the secrets God is constantly sharing with us, we would feel left out. However most people "figure it out" when they're 17 and get busy doing the thing for the rest of their life.
The way I’ve developed inspiration and wonder into more of a norm is through prayer, inspiring music, keeping notes of ideas, and surrounding myself with people who live life in wonder.
Take away: Don't accept a dry life. Yours can be full of color, new learnings and life.
16. Family are your forever friends.
Although in the late teens/early twenties it's common to spread the wings and discover the way the rest of the world operates … somewhere in the end of my twenties I realized that family is worth keeping. They get you. They have the clues as to why you are the way you are.
And to be honest for the rest of your life you can’t escape them, unless you intentionally reject them. And doing that, in a sense, is like rejecting you.
Take away: I found that digging deeper into my family (cousins, siblings, parents, etc), has helped me to foster a kind of unconditional love that will be there for me through my entire life.
17. Female power looks different than man power.
If a woman is truly a “feminist”, she can embrace her way of thinking, her hormonal make-up and as the eastern world says, her feminine energy. And she can accept man’s as well.
I’ve been in enough boardrooms as the only female to realize that they need me and my problem-solving approach as much as I need theirs.
Take away: When you understand both complementary parts, you can enjoy and leverage each strength.
18. Our judgment of others’ flaws is actually a judgment of what we dislike in ourselves.
This little diddy changed my whole view on others. You know how certain people drive you up a wall? What if the thing that drives you crazy is the same thing that drives you crazy about yourself?
Take away: Try taking every frustrated concern you have of another as an opportunity to reflect on your own issues, you’ll gain so much from life.
19. Food matters. Because food is fuel.
Through my travels to Europe, I learned that American culture has never really paid attention to food. French culture focuses on taste, community building, nutritional value and developing a healthy palette in childhood. Once back in the states, I began experimenting and reveling in food -- trying non-inflammatory foods, eliminating sweeteners, animal products, and using whole foods.
Over time as I tried different things I found out what caused physical reactions, mental fog or clarity, emotional stability, feelings of contentment or paranoia. Who knew food can do that to you?
Take away: It’s worth it to get to know your food so you can fuel yourself for a lifetime.
20. Self control is more than the ability to say "no" to temptation. It is also the ability to say "yes" to our own will, needs, and preferences.
One of the biggest learnings from this past year has been that, while we have been made in the image of the Divine, we ourselves are not our own creator nor are we controlled by a master puppeteer. Instead, we have been given talent, gifting, environments, even a personal willpower to make decisions.
We have the option to allow a holy nature to flow through us or to stop it, to draw close to our calling or to stand at a distance. The power of this is vast — we get to choose our likes and dislikes and our paths.
Take away: Personal freedom means an even greater need to harness self control to make the decisions we believe are right.
21. My skin is just as important as my other organs.
If you had a liver disfunction, how quickly would you go see your doctor? Or, spots all over your eyes? But for some reason it’s like, how long do you have to live with acne before you go, "this is a problem." And actually by pursuing help for skin rashes and reactions, you can learn if you have allergic reactions, hormonal imbalances or hygienic shifts. The longer you allow your skin to blemish, you keep that same skin for 100 years. Don’t let your teens and twenties get this journey off on the wrong foot ;)
Take away: I’ve heard that your skin is the manifestation of the health in your body. What?! That means, pay attention to it and do something about it.
22. When people run away from friendship, relationship, and connection — it’s because they feel they need to find their own voice, path, direction.
Think of it this way, when you feel secure in yourself, overflowing with love to give — you could befriend a stranger or a bully and still be confident in yourself. But when you’re searching for meaning, purpose and clarity, your closest friend can be a nuisance to your own personal clarity.
Take this into consideration when you feel rejected, put off, or even abandoned by others you love. Maybe it was something you did (and need to apologize for), but in the end it is their expression of the work they're doing internally.
Take away: Our outward lack of love is simply a reflection of the inward pain we feel toward ourselves. Try to be compassionate when people are distant and give them space but love through the process.
23. We cannot understand ourselves by ourselves. Self discovery comes through partnership or community.
I love this idea that humans are mirrors to each other. It's obvious through this analogy: When I say, “I love Vermont because it’s so eclectic," and someone says “yuck, no way." I immediately either feel stronger about it or I agree with them. But their response makes me more aware of the feelings I have inside. Their reaction helps me to learn something about myself. That’s why asking a server for their opinion helps us - even when 50% of the time we choose the opposite.
Take away: Don't be afraid of others and their opinions. They help you know yours.
24. Life is not about stuff.
It's also not about success, what other's think, or what you achieve. It's not about results - even though it always seems like it is. Instead, life is about the "how." How we treat others, how we handle intense situations, how we carry out life's dull moments. If we can master the how, we will begin to master the what. Too often in my youth, I tried to "get there" as fast as I could. Problem was, when I arrived I wasn't happy and hurt others/myself along the way. I've begun to admire those who seek mastery in their process rather than mastery in their results. One precedes the other. :)
Take away: Don't try to make results happen. Pay attention to how you're doing life (working with integrity, loving the people who are around you, living with peace in your mind). You'll build a life of happiness that then manifests in the "results" you were once looking for.
25. Right now is the youngest you will ever be. And the wisest you have ever been. Own it.
That means even though you think you’re fat, you probably are the most fit, flexible, active that you will be. See yourself as that! It also means you’ve learned all that you need to start that adventure. Of course maybe not enough to finish it ... but that will come.
Take away: Take courage in the wisdom and experiences you have already gained. And enjoy the energy, adventure, and excitement of your youth right now.
What did you think?
Share with me your favorites!!! Or your biggest 'aha' throughout your life journey. Can't wait to hear :)