Many branches of psychology study the life stages of human development. Not the social "norms" and mostly impractical milestones that society places upon us, but the natural progression everyone kind of moves through in his own time. Of course there is no set age for anyone to do really one thing or the other, but the majority of people will trickle into these different stages within the same age range. Developmental Psychologist and Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson introduced his Theory of Personality which roughly defined these stages of life. Many after him have further explored this concept and helped to refine some of the ideas. Experts may vary on small things like what to call the stages, and the exact age at which they happen, but the themes are pretty much common across the board. Chapter 3, I will call "Getting My Life".
In the months leading up to my 30th birthday and since, I have been gathering ideas for what this chapter would look like for me. Based on my college background, independent studies, and advice from friends, family, and peers, I have been able to outline some of the things I would like to accomplish in this chapter. So, how do I plan to "Get My Life"? Read on to find out what I consider to be 5 things that every 30 year old should start doing right now!
1. Create a Savings Plan.
This one may or may not be the most important, but for a lot of us it may be the most difficult. A lot of us did nothing but blow money and live check to check in our twenties. I mean, it is the first time when you kind of have your own income and the freedom to choose how to allocate it. Truth is, most of us were doing so with an immature and almost rebellious agenda. A lot of us were never really taught how to save money. I mean, some of you unicorns out there were responsible enough to at least start a rainy day fund, but for the rest of us, partying and spending frivolously was the name of the game. Don't even get me started on student loans for your so-called higher education. Consequently, for me at least, there was a lot of damage done to my credit and financial standing as well. Come up with a savings plan! There are a lot of ways to save money, but pick something practical for you. Get a savings account, look into a 401k or IRA, hell, even invest in gold if you want! Here are a few ideas to get started:
- The good ole' 10% rule - Save 10% of your earnings. You choose the frequency-- weekly, biweekly, monthly, but the idea is to get paid, take 10% off the top, and IMMEDIATELY place it in savings before you can touch it.
- The $100 plan - After taking care of your expenses, take out $100 for your incidentals for the week (i.e. lunch). At the end of the week, put whatever is left in savings.
- The Guilty Pleasure - go through your financial statement, and find one guilty pleasure that you can do without, or just some area that is depleting your funds that you can alleviate. Instead of wasting money, every time you think to buy that pair of shoes, that bottle of liquor, them cupcakes or donuts (mmm,..donutsss), that Coke (a-cola?), put the money you would spend into your savings. What about that subscription you have that you never use? Find the hole, plug it up, and put the excess away.
Stop living beyond your means, people! Get your financial affairs in order for retirement and beyond..
2. Take Care of Yourself--Body, Soul and Mind.
This is the age where it is absolutely MANDATORY to live a healthy life. You will never be able to go back to your teens and twenties, and this may be the healthiest you are for the rest of your life. One day, you will look up and say, "Oh, to be 30 again." With that in mind, do a quick evaluation of your general health. Are you satisfied? If not, fix it! Begin to exercise regularly as your metabolism slows and it becomes more difficult to maintain muscle mass. Start to be mindful of everything you put into your body, as unhealthy eating and product use is one of the top causes of most terminal illness. Find stress coping and relaxation techniques. Meditate regularly. This is not about weight, or body mass index, but your well-being as a whole. You don't just become unhealthy overnight, it takes years and years of practice and building up of unfavorable patterns. All those hamburgers will build up. Drinking excessively will take it's toll. Lack of rest will tear you down. Don't forget to exercise that brain of yours as well. Do a daily Sudoku or crossword puzzle. Read more books. Take preventative measures before it becomes too late.
3. Be True to Yourself.
Cut the fat and dead weight from your life. Eliminate those things that no longer serve you. This includes friendships, intimate relationships, career choices, bad habits, habits that you thought were good habits... Establish personal boundaries and stay true to them. So much of our lives are spent in less than favorable situations for fear of hurting someone's feelings, damaging our image or reputation, for "the sake of the children", etc. Life is too short to waste on meaningless or toxic relationships and customs. Be authentic at all times, and try to be as honest as you can (realizing that sometimes a lie might be the best choice). I read a meme on Instagram that said "Sorry I'm late, I just didn't want to come". This illustrates my point perfectly. You have the right to be as transparent as needed in order to maintain your sanity. Otherwise, you will run yourself raggedy trying to keep others happy, meanwhile ignoring yourself. Not only is it stressful and depressing, but it also builds resentment. On the same token, mean what you say, and say what you mean. Don't beat around the bush, don't insinuate, just release and let others receive it however they will. We all have the right to experience our lives in the way that best suits us.
4 Come up with a 5-year Plan.
Now, I am never the one to try and make you believe that you are clairvoyant, and that you can see into the future even 5 days, let alone 5 years. However, you must set good, realistic goals for yourself and pursue them without fail. Sometimes goals change. This can happen for many different reasons, and that is okay. But, you must have a clear direction in which you are going. You must prioritize your life. You must establish and maintain focus. Some goal setting tips for drafting your personal development plan follow:
- Choose a few categories of areas in which you would like to improve. (i.e. health, family, or career goals)
- Come up with very specific and tangible (measurable) goals within each of these categories. (i.e. lose 15 pounds, restore my credit, see my parents more)
- Identify the most important items and rank them by priority. You can even label or asterisk the ones that hold the most weight.
- Make a separate list for each of the ranked items. Figure out what the steps are to reach the goal and list them, no matter how obvious or common sense it may seem.
- Set time frames for each of your goals. Which ones are immediate within the next 6 months to a year? Which ones are more far out around year 4 or 5?
- Now go for it!
*Remember that it is imperative to WRITE THIS STUFF DOWN!
5. Find Yourself.
Last, but most certainly not least, find something that you are passionate about, and do it! This is the decade where you are finally independent from parents, but you have the maturity to do something meaningful with it. You must find your purpose in life. Many of us are lost with no real sense of identity. The former part of our lives were marked by family and friends and traditions, but what now that the excitement has worn off, and you have real responsibilities? Who are you now? By now, many of the choices you made in your youth, you would stray far away from. Friends have grown apart or started their own journeys. The distance between familial ties has lengthened as you strike out on your own. Have you figured "it" out yet? Well, guess what...Nobody has. In fact, all adults are really just winging it. Usually following the path that others before them have blazed. Some of us have gotten so caught up and distracted by life that we have neglected all things of intrinsic value. The beauty of life is that you can do it however you want. There is no instruction manual. So what is it that gets you going?
Some motivational words I can give anyone who is approaching 30 or even is well on their way through this chapter, is to evolve continually. Continue to educate yourself. Study something independently that has nothing to do with work. Remember that you have all the power within you. It's up to you to live your life, make it the best you can.