So. I woke up one day, and I was 30. Yep, that’s how it happened.
Here I was, 30, depressed, isolated, unemployed, fresh out of a 5-year relationship, and heartbroken. I was underweight, had a plethora of health issues (some worst than others), and was confused about where I was headed.
The worst part was that feeling that everything I had done up to that point had been for nothing. Despite my shiny diplomas and fancy scholarships, my “accomplishments” felt thin and didn’t seem to carry much weight in job interviews.
I wasn’t sure it was possible to turn my life around in my 30’s and I don’t think I even considered it at first. I think deep down I thought it was too late, that any change in direction would take years if not decades of effort before seeing any kind of result. And even that wasn’t guaranteed.
I also didn’t think I was capable of changing. After all, I had been like this for 30 years.
Well, fast-forward 2 years later, and turns out you can fix your life in your 30’s (and probably at any age), and it doesn’t take decades to do it. It takes time, yes but mostly it takes dedication and skills (skills you can acquire, btw). If you decide that you want to start over and turn your life around, and you make it your sole focus and priority, then you will probably get there. It’s not enough to wish for your life to be different like I’d done my entire life. You must take the actions that will help you turn your wish into results.
You fix your life when you face your problems… and solve them
The very first thing I had to do to turn my life around was to stop escaping my problems.
It’s crazy how much time, energy, and resources we put into escaping. If you spend a large chunk of your “free” time (i.e., when you are not at work) “in your head”, smoking, drinking, partying, Netflixing, or endlessly scrolling through your social media, you are probably doing it to avoid facing life. Your life. Your issues. You know, all those things, big and small, that are eating at you, day and night, and that are making you miserable?
Related post: Get rid of depression now by solving your problems.
You are miserable because you are not dealing with your problems and so, you cannot move on. All this takes up the precious energy and mental space you need to turn your life around.
Want to fix your life in your 30’s? Face your shit so you can move on.
Eliminate your worst habits
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten” (Unattributed)
The reason you are where you are is because of your habits. Your habits in terms of behavior and thought patterns determine the outcome you get in life.
If you are committed to turning your life around and start over, you will inevitably have to confront your habits.
The 3 major bad habits that were ruining my life are addiction (to substance, to other people’s approval, to my romantic relationships), and my complete inability to be consistent (except, of course, when it came to my bad habits).
But here’s the thing, you don’t have to change everything about yourself. In fact, you only need to change one thing: that single one habit that you have at the moment that is hurting you the most.
I tried changing everything else about myself except that one habit I didn’t want to let go of. Well, my efforts went nowhere. But the moment I changed that one bad habit that was hurting me the most, everything else started falling into place.
Be real: identify that one habit that hurts you the most, and get to work changing it.
Create better habits
Although a great first step, simply eliminating bad habits is not enough to turn your life around.
After pulling out the weeds, you need to start planting the seeds of what you want to see in your new life.
You must replace the bad habits with better ones or your mind will inevitably pick up another (bad) habit. The human mind doesn’t seem to like empty spaces.
The best new habits I’ve picked up during the process of turning my life around are working out daily, learning proper self-care, and giving/sharing more (I talk about this later on that post).
Just because you are 30, does not mean you’ve figured out what’s best for you. To be honest, the older I get, the more it seems like most people have no clue how to maintain proper mental and physical hygiene.
It’s never too late to start improving, but it’s important to start.
Understand how the mind works, and yours in particular
I’m convinced that the reason I was finally able to turn my life over in my 30’s after failing for most of my life, was that I finally learned to understand and accept how my mind works.
I’m convinced that we are capable of doing incredible things once we understand ourselves and learn to work with and around our strengths and weaknesses.
So, instead of thinking in terms of: “Ugh, I’ll never be able to do that”, instead think in terms of: “well, how can I do X, Y or Z when I know I get super lazy after 2 PM?”.
Do you know your weaknesses? Like really, do you know them? Ok, so now, accept them, and learn how to work with them.
Figure out what you want
Yeah, this is hard because, well, you probably have no fucking clue what you want! That’s why you’re here in the first place.
The good news is, you can figure it out with the right questions, the right action, a little bit of time, and a little bit of effort.
To quote Tony Robbins:
“Focus is controlled by questions. Lousy questions create lousy answers. Ask a better question and you will get a better answer”.
If you keep telling yourself “I-don’t-know-what-to-do-with-my-life-I’m-so-lost”, you will most likely remain a person who doesn’t know what they want to do with their life and who is lost… unless luck strikes.
But different, better questions (and actions) can help you figure out what you want to do with your life.
Questions such as:
- What am I good at or enjoy doing?
- What does the world need?
- Who can I serve today?
- Can I learn this?
The following books have helped me navigate this process of figuring out what I wanted to do with my life (although you certainly don’t have to agree with everything these authors talk about):
I also took a few weeks (almost two months) to do the exercises mentioned in those books, continuously reflect on the topic, journal about it, create a vision board, experiment with new activities, learn, read, etc.
Do something just for the fun of it without expecting any “return on your investment”
For the first time in a very, very long time, I tried doing things just for the sake of doing them, without expecting an “ROI”.
I started learning about dog training, and I don’t even own a dog. I taught myself German even though I live more than 3 000 miles away from Germany and don’t know a single German person. Who cares? I thought about doing it, so I did.
Those things I knew absolutely nothing about just a few months ago, suddenly opened up a whole new universe to me, aroused my curiosity, and even increased my self-confidence. And of course, I understand German now. How crazy is that?
What can you do besides your work? Do you have any other useful or creative skills? Can you cook, draw, paint, grow food, work with wood or metal, design a website? No? Want to learn?
It does not take forever to learn new skills. It only takes a few weeks of sustained and consistent attention.
Improve your interpersonal skills
You want to isolate yourself? It’s fine with me. But are you happy? If you are, then, by all means, keep doing what you do.
But if you are not happy and you are desperate to turn your life around, then perhaps it’s time you learned how to interact better with others? And yes, it’s a skill. And yes, you can learn it.
Even during a global pandemic, you can still read books, find audio courses, watch YouTube videos, sign up for Audible or Skillshare (it’s GREAT!), etc.
Start by trying to improve on the interpersonal skills you think you’re lacking and would like to improve: learn how to communicate your ideas, how to speak in public, talk to strangers, practice staying calm in stressful situations, learn how to set boundaries, how to say no, how to say yes, etc.
Spend time outside and move your body every chance you get
Happiness is movement. Everything that is alive on this planet, moves, and so should you.
Yep, I had to learn how to make friends in my 30’s.
I had to be honest with myself, accept the fact that I was lonely, wanted more meaningful relationships, and wanted more fun in my life. And I got to work on that.
Related post: How do you build more meaningful relationships?
I don’t know why we think that grown-ups shouldn’t have to make new friends or feel embarrassed about it. We all need friends and I’m pretty sure this is something we will still have to face well into our 70’s, 80’s or 90’s.
But keep in mind that creating more meaningful relationships also means getting read of the mediocre ones that are holding you down. It’s like the weeds and seed I was mentioning earlier.
Related post: Should I remove that person from my life?
Start investing in yourself
If you want to turn your life around in your 30’s, then it’s definitely time you started investing in yourself.
I had to learn to stop mindlessly spending money on random stuff (i.e., expenses) and start putting money on things that would benefit my goals of improving myself (i.e., investments).
I set up 4 savings account related to my 4 new top priorities: Health, Education, Charity & Fun, and Personal project (business-type projects), even though I didn’t know yet what I would do with that money.
Now, at least 30% of all income is automatically split into 4, and allocated to those accounts (although the proportions have varied over time).
Be willing to make a complete career shift
If you keep worrying or telling yourself that it’s too late to start over and change your life, you will not be willing to make the changes necessary for it to happen successfully.
You have to be willing to accept change and make room for it, or you’ll be eventually forced to do it by a crisis, which is not fun.
I’m currently in the middle of what I think will be a complete career shift. A year ago, I didn’t necessarily realize that this was where I was headed. But all the steps listed above gradually led me to discover new things about myself, and eventually, make new choices.
After a few months of learning new skills, improving myself, and learning to trust my instincts and my heart, I’m now considering new opportunities I couldn’t even imagine a year ago.
I can’t really comment on this yet as it is still very new. But for the time being and despite the challenges, I’m undoubtedly happy with that decision.
Give more. A lot more.
This is powerful stuff. If you don’t know how to change your life, start focusing a little more on others, and look for ways to be helpful and of service to others.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you should give people money, although it can help. I actually think being generous in this day and age has more to do with finding ways to be more generous with our time.
Try it. Make it a priority and allocate time and money to giving more. It will do good to others, but it will also help you figure out what you want to do with your time, and bring you some sense of purpose.
Related post: How do you become better at giving gifts?
Because the bottom line is, whether you’re in your 20’s, 30’s or 60’s, when you wonder how you can start over or change your life… basically what you’re asking is, how can you put your time to better use.
It all comes down to your time, what you do with it so that you, and those around you, can be happier.
I don’t know if I managed to “turn my life around”, per se, at 30, and I don’t know how long all of this will last. What I do know is that 2 years into it, I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been.
It’s not too late to change your life in your 30’s, even if you are starting from scratch. You just need to focus, be consistent, and take the first steps.