Man. When I was in my twenties, I thought I knew everything. I was so smart. I could do everything better, faster, smoother that everyone else. I had goals and ambitions and I wanted results right away. I didn’t want to wait for anything. I thought I had to be perfect and I put a lot of pressure on myself to excel at everything.
Then my thirties came along and I experienced more life — more struggles, more successes, more challenges, more joy, more awkward and uncomfortable moments, and more thrilling adventures, more failures, and more love.
I also learned.
I’m the first person to admit that I have made a lot of mistakes over the years and I have learned a lot dealing with all sorts of uncomfortable situations in my business life and my personal life.
Now that I’m on the backside of my thirties (Yikes!), I thought I’d share just a few of the lessons I have been fortunate enough to learn so far.
Eight Lessons Learned In My Thirties That Have Improved My Life
1. You can’t control everything, but you can control your thoughts.
When I was in my twenties, I tried to control everything in my life, to have it be just perfect. It was exhausting. Over time I learned that I can’t control anything but my own actions and my own reactions.
I can’t control what other people think, assume, do, or say, but I can control how I react and how their choices affect me and my life.
- I can choose to accept it for what it is, let it go, and move on.
- When bad things happen, I can choose to get mad and angry, to let negative feelings suck up all of my energy, and to let it ruin my day.
- I can choose to fight and argue or ignore it.
- When situations don’t go according to plan or how I wanted them to go, I can choose to roll with it or get upset and let it ruin my experience.
My emotions and my feelings, are my choices. No one else can make me feel something or make me react in a certain way. How I deal with things, how I react, and how I let it play out in my life are solely the result of my experiences, my internal stuff, and my choices.
You can choose how you experience life.
2. You don’t have to join every argument you’re invited to.
There was a time when I would argue about everything I didn’t agree with, when I would respond to every not-so-nice email, snide remark, disagreement, or text message. Whether it was a client, a friend, a family member, or a stranger on social media, I felt the need to argue my side of things in an attempt to convince the other person/people that I was right or in the right.
But over the years, I’ve learned that most of the time, arguing is futile and no matter what you say, you’re never going to convince the other person that you’re right. Instead, the argument is just going to make things worse.
While there will be certain situations where you must respond (like client communication), and it’s best to do so with grace, often simply deleting the email or text, hiding the social media post or unfollowing someone, or taking time to consider all sides of a situation is the best course of action.
Being invited to an argument doesn’t mean you have to join it.
3. Embrace imperfection, accept what is, and let everything else go.
In my twenties, I would have never admitted that I made a mistake, messed up, or made a bad decision. Boy how times have changed! As I have gotten older, experienced, more, life, and done my best at navigating the bumpy road of parenting, I’ve learned that no one really cares if I mess up.
I’m going to make bad decisions, I’m going to made mistakes, I’m going to try new things and fail. Why? Because no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes.
There is no guidebook on how to perfectly live life, navigate relationships, create a business, or be a parent, because there is no one way or perfect way to do anything. We all simply do our best each and every day, course correct when we need to, and keep moving forward.
The key is admitting your mistakes and mess-ups, embracing them for what they are, letting them go, and forgiving yourself — and doing the same for others. Plus, it helps if you can look back on them and laugh later.
How you handle mistakes and failures, and how you move forward matters much more than the actual mistake or failure.
4. Comparison is simply distraction.
In the early years on my career, I was constantly comparing myself to others — to what they had achieved, to what they were doing, creating, launching, to where they were going, and how they were living. I subscribed to tons of email newsletters to watch what others were doing and did the same via social media.
My business grew, but it grew slowly.
When I realized how much my comparing myself to others was actually distracting me from moving forward, I stopped right away. I unsubscribed from pretty much all email newsletters, closed social media curing the workday, and pulled back from networking groups. I instead turned my focus inward, putting all of my energy into my own goals, my own business, my own life, and my own to-do list, and something amazing happened. I began creating momentum. Suddenly things started happening faster, new opportunities started appearing, and my business growth accelerated.
What you focus on grows, so focus on yourself and your goals and eliminate the comparison distraction.
5. Choose experiences over things.
When Brian and I first got married we bought a house and new cars, then a bigger house, and we began to accumulate stuff. That’s what you do right?! Holidays were about presents, extra cash was spent on toys and things we didn’t really need.
But a few months after Christmas, when those new toys weren’t being played with and the kids didn’t even remember who gave them what, my mother-in-law made a suggestions: What if we stopped buying things and started having experiences?
At about the same time, we were planning an exit strategy for Brian to leave the fire department, and seriously evaluating our budget, so it was an easy suggestion to say yes to, and we stopped buying things just to buy them. We stopped buying things for presents. Instead we focused on creating experiences and on doing things together and making memories — so much better! And to be honest, we didn’t miss the things. We didn’t miss the stuff at all.
Create long-lasting memories with your fields and family by doing fun things together instead of focusing on buying and giving things.
6. Be conscious of projecting your stuff on others.
We all have stuff — internal beliefs, assumptions, and thoughts — that shape how we see the world. That stuff is based on our past, our experiences, and our feelings. It affects how we react to all sorts of situations and it triggers our insecurities, fears, doubts, challenges, and traumas.
It took me a long time to figure this out. All throughout my twenties, I unknowingly projected my stuff on others and on situations I was dealing with. I’d read more into things than there was, making up some deeper meaning. I’d make assumptions on why certain things were said or actions were taken — assumptions based on my stuff, not on reality. I’d believe the worst or jump to conclusions. I’d stew and blow things out of proportion. It didn’t make life very enjoyable.
I admit that it’s only been within the last few years that I’ve been able to recognize my triggers, acknowledge my stuff bubbling to the surface, and notice the seeds of projection. And it’s been harder to train myself to then take a step back and see the difference between reality and my projection, and own it. This is something I think I’ll be working on forever…
When a situation triggers the bubbling up of insecurities, fears, doubts, challenges, and traumas, take step back and try to separate your projection from reality.
7. Give yourself and others grace and understanding.
Everyone is dealing with some sort of struggle you don’t know about. Instead of criticizing and judging what you see on the surface, try giving them grace and understanding.
When Brian and I were dealing with his gallbladder cancer, we told no one but our immediately family and a few close friends. No one else knew — not our friends, not our clients, not our social networks, no one. Our struggle and personal journey affected everything and we put all of our business growth plans and marketing on hold for two years, just doing the client work that came our way.
During that time, people who didn’t know what we were dealing with made some harsh judgements and said some awful things. Business contacts assumed that our business was failing, that we were unsuccessful, and were talking about us behind our backs.
It made me realize how easy it is to judge others and criticize their actions, even without having any true facts. I saw first hand how hurtful it can be when people jump to conclusions and never bother to speak to the person they are judging, and I vowed to move forward in life with more grace and understanding. I’m not always great at it, but I try.
Life is full of more peace, happiness, and love when you can give yourself and others grace and understanding.
8. What works for you may not work for me.
When I first started my business, I downloaded every ebook, how to, step-by-step guide there was from every person claiming to have found success or cracked some code. I bought into the idea that if it worked for them it would also work for me.
But there is one big problem with that belief: I am not them and they are not me. Even if I did everything exactly the same as they did, I may not enjoy the same result because we’re not the same people. I had to do what worked for me. It didn’t mean their process wasn’t good. It didn’t mean they were right. It just meant while it was one solution, it wasn’t the best solution for me.
Life works the same way. There is no one way or right way to do anything. There is only the way that works best for you.
- Brian and I travel without our kids regularly for work and for fun, yet my sister never goes anywhere without her kids.
- One of my good friends can’t believe that all four of us don’t sit down together for a family dinner every day, because of how important that ritual is for her family.
- We’re not saving for college at all and instead focusing on saving for retirement, while other friends of mine began saving for college the day her kids were born.
In every scenario, neither of us is wrong or doing it more right or better than the other — there is no such thing. We’re just doing things differently. We’re doing what works best for us, what we want to do, and what makes us the happiest. The key is to allow yourself and others to do things differently and make different choices, without judgement, criticism, or comparison.
No two people are the same, so no two lives will ever be the same. Do what is best for you, allow others to do what is best for them, and remove any judgement.
More Lessons To Learn
I’ve still got a few years left in my thirties, and I’m sure if they are anything like the last few years, I’ll continue to grow and evolve and a person, as a business owner, as a mother, as a wife, and as a friend. That also means, I’m sure I’ll make more mistakes and learn new lessons.
I just hope that by learning from the eight lessons I shared with you today, that the bumps along the way are a little smoother, the turns a little softer, and the lessons a little easier.
What About You?
As you have gotten older and experienced more life, what are some of the lessons you have learned that have improved your life?
I’d love to hear from you!