5 things I’ve discovered in my 30s
This year I will hit the milestone that is 40 and it feels right to reflect on my 30s and some of what I’ve learned in the last decade.
I approached 30 with fear and apprehension. I didn’t want to be 30, it felt far too grown up and like I was leaving my youth behind. That said, I entered my 30s married, buying my first house and starting a new job so I suppose in many ways I felt settled and stable.
I’m now approaching 40 full of excitement, more confident than I’ve felt for a long time and in a place where I’m embracing my imperfections and continually learning.
In my 30s I experienced divorce. I lived on my own for the first time in my life. I achieved a post graduate qualification. I secured my first directorship. I have found a loving and supportive relationship. I founded my own business. I was harassed online. I had a breast cancer scare. I caught CoVid. And in between all these things I’ve had plenty more ups and downs.
So as we move into spring, a time for new beginnings, and I hurtle towards the big 4–0, here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
Collaboration is key
I am an extrovert, I find energy and inspiration being with others. And since founding Cat’s Pajamas I’ve been lucky enough to collaborate with some amazing people.
Collaboration brings a diversity of thinking, new ideas and a fresh perspective. By working with others who share your values and your passions you can achieve great things. You can push yourself outside of your comfort zone in the safety of a supportive collaboration where your common purpose and values drive you forward.
Set boundaries and prioritise yourself
I am a people pleaser, I don’t like conflict and I say yes a lot, even if I know it is going to put pressure on me to be able to deliver. Over the last few years I have learned that setting boundaries and prioritising your own workload and wellbeing is a good thing.
Setting realistic expectations with others and being confident in negotiating resources and deadlines is far more healthy and supportive, not only for you but for your teams and those you are working with. It is just not sustainable to keep taking on more, something always has to give and I would much rather deliver high quality outcomes than burn out trying to deliver far too much.
The same applies in my free time. I have realised that is is ok to say no if you are just not feeling like socialising. Time is finite. It’s no lie when people tell you in your 20s that time goes by faster the older you get. I want to spend my time doing the things that are important to me, and sometimes that means I need to do absolutely nothing!
Let go of toxic relationships
But hold close those that bring you joy and happiness. Again, back to my people pleasing behaviours and my desire to minimise conflict, I realise that I have expended a lot of physical and emotional energy maintaining relationships that hold very little positivity for me.
This might be professional relationships, friendships and even partners. It has only been with age and experience that I have been able to work out coping mechanisms to deal with those energy drains professionally, and gain the confidence to let go of friendships that no longer feel comfortable.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy. However, once you have taken steps to let go and move on, you start to feel freer. You can direct your energies towards the relationships that bring you joy.
It’s ok to be ambitious
For me ambition has often been associated with competition, with a very alpha approach and often negative behaviours. In my 30s I have realised that it is ok to be ambitious, to set goals you want to achieve and focus on progress. And the best way to do this is with integrity.
You don’t have to trample on others along the way. You don’t have to be embarrassed to have dreams. You can be confident without being cocky. You can work towards your own goals while supporting others to do the same. Your ambition and success doesn’t ever have to come at the cost of anyone else’s.
It’s also ok not to have everything planned out
Having said that about ambition and achieving your goals, it is ok not to have everything planned out. Be open to new opportunities. Spend time reflecting on what is important to you — it may change over time — and then readjust accordingly.
Embrace spontaneity, life is short. Any regrets I reflect on, both professionally and personally, are related to the actions I didn’t take, or the words I didn’t say. I can’t recall ever regretting being spontaneous.
Sometimes the things you haven’t planned for are the things that bring unexpected opportunities and are the most rewarding.
I am looking forward to moving into my 40s, not really knowing what’s to come but with the confidence to do the things that make me happy with the people that bring me joy!