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Are you still in the process of Finding Your Life Purpose?

Once, my brother was 18, he waltzed into the living room and proudly announced to my mother and me that one day he was going to be a senator.

My mom probably gave him the “That’s nice, dear,” treatment while I’m sure I was distracted by a bowl of Cheerios or something.

Mark Manson posted this September 28, 2014

7 Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose

But for 15 years, this purpose informed all of my brother’s life decisions: what he studied in school, where he chose to live, who he connected with and even what he did with many of his vacations and weekends.

After almost half a lifetime of work,, he’s the chairman of a major political party in his city and the youngest judge in the state. In the next few years, he hopes to run for office for the first time.

Don’t get me wrong. My brother is a freak. This basically never happens.

Most of us have no clue what we want to do with our lives.

Even after we finish school. Even after we get a job. Even after we’re making money.

Between ages 18 and 25, I changed career aspirations more often than I changed my underwear. And even after I had a business, it wasn’t until I was 28 that I clearly defined what I wanted for my life.

Chances are you’re more like me and have no clue what you want to do. It’s a struggle almost every adult goes through.

“What do I want to do with my life?” “What am I passionate about?” “What do I not suck at?” I often receive emails from people in their 40s and 50s who still have no clue what they want to do with themselves.

Part of the problem is the concept of “life purpose” itself. The idea that we were each born for some higher purpose and it’s now our cosmic mission to find it.

This is the same kind of shitty logic used to justify things like spirit crystals or that your lucky number is 34 (but only on Tuesdays or during full moons).

Here’s the truth.

We exist on this earth for some undetermined period of time. During that time we do things. Some of these things are important. Some of them are unimportant. And those important things give our lives meaning and happiness. The unimportant ones basically just kill time (And basically define us and our daily automatic behaviors)

So when people say, “What should I do with my life?” or “What is my life purpose?” what they’re actually asking is: “What can I do with my time that is important?” (What kind of Time is considered quality time?)

This is an infinitely better question to ask. It’s far more manageable and it doesn’t have all of the ridiculous baggage that the “life purpose” question does.

There’s no reason for you to be contemplating the cosmic significance of your life while sitting on your couch all day eating Doritos. Rather, you should be getting off your ass and discovering what feels important to you.

One of the most common email questions I get is people asking me what they should do with their lives, what their “life purpose” is. This is an impossible question for me to answer. After all, for all I know, this person is really into knitting sweaters for kittens or filming gay bondage porn in their basement. I have no clue. Who am I to say what’s right or what’s important to them?

But after some research, I have put together a series of questions to help you figure out for yourself what is important to you and what can add more meaning to your life.

These questions are by no means exhaustive or definitive. In fact, they’re a little bit ridiculous. But I made them that way because discovering purpose in our lives should be something that’s fun and interesting, not a chore.

1. WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE FLAVOR OF SHIT SANDWICH AND DOES IT COME WITH AN OLIVE?

Ah, 27e7 yes. The all-important question. What flavor of shit sandwich would you like to eat? Because here’s the sticky little truth about life that they don’t tell you at high school pep rallies:

Everything sucks, some of the time. (Or many thing things sucks, most of the time?)

That probably sounds incredibly pessimistic of me. And you may be thinking, “Hey Mr. Manson, turn that frown upside down.” But I actually think this is a liberating idea.

Everything involves sacrifice. Everything includes some sort of cost. Nothing is pleasurable or uplifting all of the time. So the question becomes: what struggle or sacrifice are you willing to tolerate?

Ultimately, what determines our ability to stick with something we care about is our ability to handle the rough patches and ride out the inevitable rotten days.

If you want to be a brilliant tech entrepreneur, but you can’t handle failure, then you’re not going to make it far.

If you want to be a professional artist, but you aren’t willing to see your work rejected hundreds, if not thousands of times, then you’re done before you start.

If you want to be a hotshot court lawyer, but can’t stand the 80-hour workweeks, then I’ve got bad news for you.

turd-sandwichWhat unpleasant experiences are you able to handle?

Are you able to stay up all night coding? Are you able to put off starting a family for 10 years? Are you able to have people laugh you off the stage over and over again until you get it right?

What shit sandwich do you want to eat? Because we all get served one eventually.

Might as well pick one with an olive.

2. WHAT IS TRUE ABOUT YOU TODAY THAT WOULD MAKE YOUR 8-YEAR-OLD SELF CRY?

When I was a child, I used to write stories. I used to sit in my room for hours by myself, writing away, about aliens, about superheroes, about great warriors, about my friends and family.

Not because I wanted anyone to read it. Not because I wanted to impress my parents or teachers. But for the sheer joy of it.

And then, for some reason, I stopped. And I don’t remember why.

We all have a tendency to lose touch with what we loved as a child. Something about the social pressures of adolescence and professional pressures of young adulthood squeezes the passion out of us.

We’re taught that the only reason to do something is if we’re somehow rewarded for it. (Especially in childhood)

It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s that I rediscovered how much I loved writing. And it wasn’t until I started my business that I remembered how much I enjoyed building websites — something I did in my early teens, just for fun.

The funny thing though, is that if my 8-year-old self had asked my 20-year-old self, “Why don’t you write anymore?” and I replied, “Because I’m not good at it,” or “Because nobody would read what I write,” or “Because you can’t make money doing that,” not only would I have been completely wrong, but that 8-year-old boy version of myself would have probably started crying.

3. WHAT MAKES YOU FORGET TO EAT AND POOP?

We’ve all had that experience where we get so wrapped up in something that minutes turn into hours and hours turn into “Holy crap, I forgot to have dinner.”

Supposedly, in his prime, Isaac Newton’s mother had to regularly come in and remind him to eat because he would go entire days so absorbed in his work that he would forget. (I used to read for hours after school when I was 13 to 15.  I never remember feeling hungry or the need to go to the WC)

I used to be like that with video games. This probably wasn’t a good thing. In fact, for many years it was kind of a problem. I would sit and play video games instead of doing more important things like studying for an exam, or showering regularly, or speaking to other humans face-to-face.

It wasn’t until I gave up the games that I realized my passion wasn’t for the games themselves (although I do love them). My passion is for improvement, being good at something and then trying to get better. The games themselves — the graphics, the stories — they were cool, but I can easily live without them. It’s the competition — with others, but especially with myself — that I thrive on.

And when I applied that obsessiveness for improvement and self-competition to an internet business and to my writing, well, things took off in a big way.

Maybe for you, it’s something else. Maybe it’s organizing things efficiently, or getting lost in a fantasy world, or teaching somebody something, or solving technical problems.

Whatever it is, don’t just look at the activities that keep you up all night, but look at the cognitive principles behind those activities that enthrall you. Because they can easily be applied elsewhere.

4. HOW CAN YOU BETTER EMBARRASS YOURSELF?

Before you are able to be good at something and do something important, you must first suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing. That’s pretty obvious.

And in order to suck at something and have no clue what you’re doing, you must embarrass yourself in some shape or form, often repeatedly. And most people try to avoid embarrassing themselves, namely because it sucks. (In my case talking publicly)

Ergo, due to the transitive property of awesomeness, if you avoid anything that could potentially embarrass you, then you will never end up doing something that feels important.

Yes, it seems that once again, it all comes back to vulnerability.

Right now, there’s something you want to do, something you think about doing, something you fantasize about doing, yet you don’t do it. You have your reasons, no doubt. And you repeat these reasons to yourself ad infinitum.

But what are those reasons? Because I can tell you right now that if those reasons are based on what others would think, then you’re screwing yourself over big time.

If your reasons are something like, “I can’t start a business because spending time with my kids is more important to me,” or “Playing Starcraft all day would probably interfere with my music, and music is more important to me,” then OK. Sounds good.

But if your reasons are, “My parents would hate it,” or “My friends would make fun of me,” or “If I failed, I’d look like an idiot,” then chances are, you’re actually avoiding something you truly care about because caring about that thing is what scares the shit out of you, not what mom thinks or what Timmy next door says. (Too proud of your inferiority complex to stick it out?)

Living a life avoiding embarrassment is akin to living a life with your head in the sand.
Living a life avoiding embarrassment is akin to living a life with your head in the sand.

Great things are, by their very nature, unique and unconventional. Therefore, to achieve them, we must go against the herd mentality. And to do that is scary.

Embrace embarrassment. Feeling foolish is part of the path to achieving something important, something meaningful. The more a major life decision scares you, chances are the more you need to be doing it.

5. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SAVE THE WORLD?

In case you haven’t seen the news lately, the world has a few problems:  “everything is fucked and we’re all going to die.”

I’ve harped on this before, and the research also bears it out, but to live a happy and healthy life, we must hold on to values that are greater than our own pleasure or satisfaction.1

Pick a problem and start saving the world. There are plenty to choose from. Our screwed up education systems, economic development, domestic violence, mental health care, governmental corruption.

Hell, I just saw an article this morning on sex trafficking in the US and it got me all riled up and wishing I could do something. It also ruined my breakfast.

Find a problem you care about and start solving it. Obviously, you’re not going to fix the world’s problems by yourself. But you can contribute and make a difference.

And that feeling of making a difference is ultimately what’s most important for your own happiness and fulfillment.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Gee Mark, I read all of this horrible stuff and I get all pissed off too, but that doesn’t translate to action, much less a new career path.”

Glad you asked…

6. GUN TO YOUR HEAD, IF YOU HAD TO LEAVE THE HOUSE ALL DAY, EVERY DAY, WHERE WOULD YOU GO AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

For many of us, the enemy is just old-fashioned complacency. We get into our routines. We distract ourselves. The couch is comfortable. The Doritos are cheesy. And nothing new happens.

This is a problem.

What most people don’t understand is that passion is the result of action, not the cause of it.2, 3

(Especially acting on one your doubts, prove it, demonstrate it and disseminate your findings)

Discovering what you’re passionate about in life and what matters to you is a full-contact sport, a trial-and-error process. None of us know exactly how we feel about an activity until we 1579 actually do the activity.

So ask yourself, if someone put a gun to your head and forced you to leave your house every day for everything except for sleep, how would you choose to occupy yourself?

And no, you can’t just go sit in a coffee shop and browse Facebook. You probably already do that. Let’s pretend there are no useless websites, no video games, no TV. You have to be outside of the house all day every day until it’s time to go to bed — where would you go and what would you do?

Sign up for a dance class? Join a book club? Go get another degree? Invent a new form of irrigation system that can save the thousands of children’s lives in rural Africa? Learn to hang glide?

What would you do with all of that time?

If it strikes your fancy, write down a few answers and then, you know, go out and actually do them. Bonus points if it involves embarrassing yourself.

7. IF YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO DIE ONE YEAR FROM TODAY, WHAT WOULD YOU DO AND HOW WOULD YOU WANT TO BE REMEMBERED?

Most of us don’t like thinking about death. It freaks us out.

Thinking about our own death surprisingly has a lot of practical advantages. One of those advantages is that it forces us to zero in on what’s actually important in our lives and what’s just frivolous and distracting.

When I was in college, I used to walk around and ask people, “If you had a year to live, what would you do?”

As you can imagine, I was a huge hit at parties. A lot of people gave vague and boring answers. A few drinks were nearly spit on me. But it did cause people to really think about their lives in a different way and re-evaluate what their priorities were.

This man's headstone will read: "Here lies Greg. He watched every episode of '24'... twice."
This man’s headstone will read: “Here lies Greg. He watched every episode of ’24’… twice.”

(One of nieces graduated in fashion design over 6 months ago and is spending her time watching all kinds of episodes, way till early morning and then sleeping her mornings. And getting upset that she has to tend to her own eating: Her mother has the job to prepare a tray for her. She thinks that because she was first in all art classes that the phone will ultimately ring)

What is your legacy going to be?

What are the stories people are going to tell when you’re gone? What is your obituary going to say? Is there anything to say at all? If not, what would you like it to say? How can you start working towards that today? (People care less of dead people, they didn’t care when you were alive, unless you could provide a job or a loan)

And again, if you fantasize about your obituary saying a bunch of badass shit that impresses a bunch of random other people, then again, you’re failing here. (I just posted the obituary of my dad who passed away on Dec. 24, 2014. I called it the tribute speech that the priest should have read)

When people feel like they have no sense of direction, no purpose in their life, it’s because they don’t know what’s important to them, they don’t know what their values are.

And when you don’t know what your values are, then you’re essentially taking on other people’s values and living other people’s priorities instead of your own. This is a one-way ticket to unhealthy relationships and eventual misery.

Discovering one’s “purpose” in life essentially boils down to finding those one or two things that are bigger than yourself, and bigger than those around you.

And to find them you must get off your couch and act, and take the time to think beyond yourself, to think greater than yourself, and paradoxically, to imagine a world without yourself.

(At least write down and post your day dreaming projects, if you had the stamina to activate the initial phases, such as disseminating your idea and detailed plans)

Footnotes

  1. Sagiv, L., & Schwartz, S. H. (2000). Value priorities and subjective well-being: direct relations and congruity effects. European Journal of Social Psychology, 30(2), 177–198.
  2. Wrzesniewski, A., McCauley, C., Rozin, P., & Schwartz, B. (1997). Jobs, careers, and callings: People’s relations to their work. Journal of Research in Personality, 31(1), 21–33.
  3. Newport, C. (2012). So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love. Business Plus.

How can you Excel In Yyur 30s?

I’m awestruck with people remembering their teen years.

Up to the age of 19, my youth was a Blank page.

This post recalls the pitfalls in your 20’s.

A couple weeks ago I turned 30. Leading up to my birthday, I wrote a post on what I learned in my 20s.

But I did something else.

I sent an email out to my subscribers (subscribe here) and asked readers age 37 and older what advice they would give their 30-year-old selves.

The idea was that I would crowd-source the life experience from my older readership and create another article based on their collective wisdom.

The result was spectacular. I received more than 600 responses, many of which were over a page long. It took me three days to read through them all, and I was floored by the quality of insight people sent.

So first of all, a hearty thank-you to all who contributed and helped create this article.

As I went through the emails, what surprised me most was just how consistent some of the advice was. The same  5  to 6 pieces of advice came up over and over again in different forms across hundreds of emails.

It seems there really are a few core pieces of advice that are particularly relevant to this decade of your life.

Below are 10 of the most common themes appearing throughout all of the 600 emails. The majority of the article is comprised of dozens of quotes taken from readers. Some are left anonymous. Others have their age listed.

1. Start Saving For Retirement Now, Not Later

“I spent my 20s recklessly, but your 30s should be when you make a big financial push. Retirement planning is not something to put off. Understanding boring things like insurance, 401ks & mortgages is important since it’s all on your shoulders now. Educate yourself.” (Kash, 41)

The most common piece of advice — so common that almost every single email said at least something about it — was to start getting your financial house in order and to start saving for retirement … today.

There were a few categories this advice fell into:

  • Make it your top priority to pay down all of your debt as soon as possible.
  • Keep an emergency fund — there were tons of horror stories about people getting financially ruined by health issues, lawsuits, divorces, bad business deals, etc.
  • Stash away a portion of every paycheck, preferably into a 401k, an IRA, or, at the least, a savings account.
  • Don’t spend frivolously. Don’t buy a home unless you can afford to get a good mortgage with good rates.
  • Don’t invest in anything you don’t understand. Don’t trust stockbrokers.

One reader said, “If you are in debt more than 10% of your gross annual salary this is a huge red flag. Quit spending, pay off your debt, and start saving.”

Another wrote, “I would have saved more money in an emergency fund because unexpected expenses really killed my budget. I would have been more diligent about a retirement fund, because now mine looks pretty small.”

And  readers who were just completely screwed by their inability to save in their 30s. One reader named Jodi wishes she had started saving 10% of every paycheck when she was 30. Her career took a turn for the worst and now she’s stuck at 57, still living paycheck to paycheck.

Another woman, 62, didn’t save because her husband out-earned her. They later got divorced and she ran into health problems, draining all of the money she’d received in the divorce settlement. She, too, now lives paycheck to paycheck, slowly waiting for the day Social Security kicks in.

Another man related a story of having to be supported by his son because he didn’t save and unexpectedly lost his job in the 2008 crash.

The point was clear: Save early and save as much as possible.

One woman emailed me saying that she had worked low-wage jobs with two kids in her 30s and still managed to sock away some money in a retirement fund each year. Because she started early and invested wisely, she is now in her 50s and financially stable for the first time in her life. Her point: It’s always possible. You just have to do it.

2. Start Taking Care Of Your Health Now, Not Later

Your mind’s acceptance of age is 10 to 15 years behind your body’s aging. Your health will go faster than you think but it will be very hard to notice, not the least because you don’t want it to happen.” (Tom, 55)

We all know to take care of our health. We all know to eat better and sleep better and exercise more and blah, blah, blah. But just as with the retirement savings, the response from the older readers was loud and unanimous: Get healthy and stay healthy now.

So many people said it that I’m not even going to bother quoting anybody else.

Their points were pretty much all the same: The way you treat your body has a cumulative effect. It’s not that your body suddenly breaks down one year — It’s been breaking down all along without your noticing. This is the decade to slow down that breakage.

And this wasn’t just your typical motherly advice to eat your veggies. These were emails from cancer survivors, heart-attack survivors, stroke survivors, people with diabetes and blood-pressure problems, joint issues and chronic pain.

They all said the same thing: “If I could go back, I would start eating better and exercising and I would not stop. I made excuses then. But I had no idea.”

3. Don’t Spend Time With People Who Don’t Treat You Well

“Learn how to say no to people, activities, and obligations that don’t bring value to your life.” (Hayley, 37)

After calls to take care of your health and your finances, the most common piece of advice from people looking back at their 30-year-old selves was an interesting one: They would go back and enforce stronger boundaries in their lives and dedicate their time to better people. “Setting healthy boundaries is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself or another person.” (Kristen, 43)

What does that mean specifically?

“Don’t tolerate people who don’t treat you well. Period. Don’t tolerate them for financial reasons. Don’t tolerate them for emotional reasons. Don’t tolerate them for the children’s sake or for convenience’ sake.” (Jane, 52)

“Don’t settle for mediocre friends, jobs, love, relationships and life.” (Sean, 43)

“Stay away from miserable people … they will consume you, drain you.” (Gabriella, 43)

“Surround yourself and only date people who make you a better version of yourself, who bring out your best parts, love and accept you.” (Xochie)

People typically struggle with boundaries because they find it difficult to hurt someone else’s feelings, or they get caught up in the desire to change the other person or make them treat them the way they want to be treated. This never works.

And in fact, it often makes it worse.

As one reader wisely said, “Selfishness and self-interest are two different things. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.”

When we’re in our 20s, the world is so open to opportunity and we’re so short on experience that we cling to the people we meet, even if they’ve done nothing to earn our clingage.

But by our 30s we’ve learned that good relationships are hard to come by, that there’s no shortage of people to meet and friends to be made, and that there’s no reason to waste our time with people who don’t help us on our life’s path.

4. Be Good To The People You Care About

Show up with and for your friends. You matter, and your presence matters.” (Jessica, 40)

Conversely, while enforcing stricter boundaries on who we let into our lives, many readers advised to make the time for those friends and family we do decide to keep close.

“I think sometimes I may have taken some relationships for granted, and when that person is gone, they’re gone. Unfortunately, the older you get, well, things start to happen, and it will affect those closest to you.” (Ed, 45)

“Appreciate those close to you. You can get money back and jobs back, but you can never get time back.” (Anne, 41)

“Tragedy happens in everyone’s life, everyone’s circle of family and friends. Be the person that others can count on when it does. I think that between 30 and 40 is the decade when a lot of shit finally starts to happen that you might have thought never would happen to you or those you love.”

“Parents die, spouses die, babies are stillborn, friends get divorced, spouses cheat … the list goes on and on. Helping someone through these times by simply being there, listening and not judging, is an honor and will deepen your relationships in ways you probably can’t yet imagine.” (Rebecca, 40)

5. You Can’t Have Everything. Focus On Doing A Few Things Really Well

Everything in life is a trade-off. You give up one thing to get another and you can’t have it all. Accept that.” (Eldri, 60)

In our 20s we have a lot of dreams. We believe that we have all of the time in the world. I myself remember having illusions that my website would be my first career of many.

Little did I know that it took the better part of a decade to even get competent at this. And now that I’m competent and have a major advantage and love what I do, why would I ever trade that in for another career?

“In a word: focus. You can simply get more done in life if you focus on one thing and do it really well. Focus more.” (Ericson, 49)

Another reader: “I would tell myself to focus on one or two goals/aspirations/dreams and really work towards them. Don’t get distracted.” And another: “You have to accept that you cannot do everything. It takes a lot of sacrifice to achieve anything special in life.”

A few readers noted that most people arbitrarily choose their careers in their late teens or early 20s, and as with many of our choices at those ages, they are often wrong choices. It takes years to figure out what we’re good at and what we enjoy doing. But it’s better to focus on our primary strengths and maximize them over the course of lifetime than to half-ass something else.

“I’d tell my 30-year-old self to set aside what other people think and identify my natural strengths and what I’m passionate about, and then build a life around those.” (Sara, 58)

For some people, this will mean taking big risks, even in their 30s and beyond. It may mean ditching a career they spent a decade building and giving up money they worked hard for and became accustomed to. Which brings us to …

yoga health fitness

Mario Tama/Getty Images. Start taking care of your health earlier than you think is necessary.

6. Don’t Be Afraid Of Taking Risks. You Can Still Change

“While by age 30 most feel they should have their career dialed in, it is never too late to reset. The individuals that I have seen with the biggest regrets during this decade are those that stay in something that they know is not right. It is such an easy decade to have the days turn to weeks to years, only to wake up at 40 with a mid-life crisis for not taking action on a problem they were aware of 10 years prior but failed to act.” (Richard, 41)

Biggest regrets I have are almost exclusively things I did *not* do.” (Sam, 47)

Many readers commented on how society tells us that by 30 we should have things “figured out” — our career situation, our dating/marriage situation, our financial situation, and so on. But this isn’t true.

And, in fact, dozens and dozens of readers implored to not let these social expectations of “being an adult” deter you from taking some major risks and starting over.

As someone on my Facebook page responded: “All adults are winging it.”

“I am about to turn 41 and would tell my 30 year old self that you do not have to conform you life to an ideal that you do not believe in. Live your life, don’t let it live you. Don’t be afraid of tearing it all down if you have to, you have the power to build it all back up again.” (Lisa, 41)

Multiple readers related making major career changes in their 30s and being better off for doing so.

One left a lucrative job as a military engineer to become a teacher. Twenty years later, he called it one of the best decisions of his life. When I asked my mom this question, her answer was, “I wish I had been willing to think outside the box a bit more. Your dad and I kind of figured we had to do thing A, thing B, thing C, but looking back I realize we didn’t have to at all; we were very narrow in our thinking and our lifestyles and I kind of regret that.”

“Less fear. Less fear. Less fear. I am about to turn 50 next year, and I am just getting that lesson. Fear was such a detrimental driving force in my life at 30.

“It affected my marriage, my career, my self-image in a fiercely negative manner. I was guilty of: Assuming conversations that others might be having about me. Thinking that I might fail. Wondering what the outcome might be. If I could do it again, I would have risked more.” (Aida, 49)

7. You Must Continue To Grow And Develop Yourself

You have two assets that you can never get back once you’ve lost them: your body and your mind. Most people stop growing and working on themselves in their 20s. Most people in their 30s are too busy to worry about self-improvement. But if you’re one of the few who continues to educate themselves, evolve their thinking and take care of their mental and physical health, you will be light-years ahead of the pack by 40.” (Stan, 48)

It follows that if one can still change in their 30s — and should continue to change in their 30s — then one must continue to work to improve and grow. Many readers related the choice of going back to school and getting their degrees in their 30s as one of the most useful things they had ever done. Others talked of taking extra seminars and courses to get a leg up.

Others started their first businesses or moved to new countries. Others checked themselves into therapy or began a meditation practice.

A friend of mine said that at 29 he decided that his mind was his most valuable asset, and he decided to invest in it. He spent thousands on his own education, on seminars, on various therapies. And at 54, he insists that it was one of the best decisions he ever made.

“The number one goal should be to try to become a better person, partner, parent, friend, colleague etc. — in other words to grow as an individual.” (Aimilia, 39)

8. Still, Nobody Knows What They’re Doing. Get Used To It

“Unless you are already dead — mentally, emotionally, and socially — you cannot anticipate your life 5 years into the future. It will not develop as you expect. So just stop it. Stop assuming you can plan far ahead, stop obsessing about what is happening right now because it will change anyway, and get over the control issue about your life’s direction. Fortunately, because this is true, you can take even more chances and not lose anything; you cannot lose what you never had. Besides, most feelings of loss are in your mind anyway – few matter in the long term.” (Thomas, 56)

In my article about what I learned in my 20s, one of my lessons was “Nobody Knows What They’re Doing” and that this was good news. Well, according to the 40-plus crowd, this continues to be true in one’s 30s and, well, forever it seems; and it continues to be good news forever as well.

“Most of what you think is important now will seem unimportant in 10 or 20 years and that’s OK. That’s called growth. Just try to remember to not take yourself so seriously all the time and be open to it.” (Simon, 57)

Despite feeling somewhat invincible for the last decade, you really don’t know what’s going to happen and neither does anyone else, no matter how confidently they talk. While this is disturbing to those who cling to permanence or security, it’s truly liberating once you grasp the truth that things are always changing. To finish, there might be times that are really sad.

Don’t dull the pain or avoid it. Sorrow is part of everyone’s life and the consequence of an open and passionate heart. Honor that. Above all, be kind to yourself and others. It’s such a brilliant and beautiful ride and keeps on getting better.” (Prue, 38)

“I’m 44. I would remind my 30-year-old self that at 40, my 30s would be equally filled with dumb stuff, different stuff, but still dumb stuff … So, 30-year-old self, don’t go getting on your high horse. You STILL don’t know it all. And that’s a good thing.” (Shirley, 44)

9. Invest in Your Family. It’s Worth It

“Spend more time with your folks. It’s a different relationship when you’re an adult and it’s up to you how you redefine your interactions. They are always going to see you as their kid until the moment you can make them see you as your own man. Everyone gets old. Everyone dies. Take advantage of the time you have left to set things right and enjoy your family.” (Kash, 41)

I was overwhelmed by the number of responses about family and the power of those responses. Family is the big new relevant topic for this decade for me, because you get it on both ends.

Your parents are old and you need to start considering how your relationship with them is going to function as a self-sufficient adult. And then you also need to contemplate creating a family of your own.

Pretty much everybody agreed to get over whatever problems you have with your parents and find a way to make it work with them.

One reader wrote, “You’re too old to blame your parents for any of your own short-comings now. At 20 you could get away with it; you’d just left the house. At 30, you’re a grown-up. Seriously. Move on.”

But then there’s the question that plagues every single 30-year-old: to baby or not to baby?

“You don’t have the time. You don’t have the money. You need to perfect your career first. They’ll end your life as you know it. Kids are great. They make you better in every way. Your kids push you to your limits. They make you happy. You should not defer having kids. If you are 30, now is the time to get real about this. You will never regret it.” (Kevin, 38)

“It’s never the ‘right time’ for children because you have no idea what you’re getting into until you have one. If you have a good marriage and environment to raise them, err on having them earlier rather than later, you’ll get to enjoy more of them.” (Cindy, 45)

“All my preconceived notions about what a married life is like were wrong. Unless you’ve already been married, everyone’s are.

Especially once you have kids. Try to stay open to the experience and fluid as a person; your marriage is worth it, and your happiness seems as much tied to your ability to change and adapt as anything else. I wasn’t planning on having kids.

From a purely selfish perspective, this was the dumbest thing of all. Children are the most fulfilling, challenging, and exhausting endeavor anyone can ever undertake. Ever.” (Rich, 44)

The consensus about marriage seemed to be that it was worth it, assuming you had a healthy relationship with the right person. If not, you should run the other way (See #3).

But interestingly, I got a number of emails like the following:

“What I know now vs. 10 to 13 years ago is simply this … bars, woman, beaches, drink after drink, clubs, bottle service, trips to different cities because I had no responsibility other than work, etc. I would trade every memory of that life for a good woman who was actually in love with me … and maybe a family. I would add, don’t forgot to actually grow up and start a family and take on responsibilities other than success at work. I am still having a little bit of fun … but sometimes when I go out, I feel like the guy who kept coming back to high school after he graduated (think Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused). I see people in love and on dates everywhere. “Everyone” my age is in their first or second marriage by now! Being perpetually single sounds amazing to all of my married friends but it is not the way one should choose to live their life.” (Anonymous, 43)

“I would have told myself to stop constantly searching for the next best thing and I would have appreciated the relationships that I had with some of the good, genuine guys that truly cared for me. Now I’m always alone and it feels too late.” (Fara, 38)

On the flip side, there were a small handful of emails that took the other side of the coin:

“Don’t feel pressured to get married or have kids if you don’t want to. What makes one person happy doesn’t make everyone happy. I’ve chosen to stay single and childless and I still live a happy and fulfilled life. Do what feels right for you.” (Anonymous, 40)

Conclusion: It seems that while family is not absolutely necessary to have a happy and fulfilling life, the majority of people have found that family is always worth the investment, assuming the relationships are healthy and not toxic and/or abusive.

10. Be Kind To Yourself — Respect Yourself

Be a little selfish and do something for yourself every day, something different once a month and something spectacular every year.” (Nancy, 60)

This one was rarely the central focus of any email, but it was present in some capacity in almost all of them: Treat yourself better. Almost everybody said this in one form or another.

“There is no one who cares about or thinks about your life a fraction of what you do,” one reader began, and “life is hard, so learn to love yourself now, it’s harder to learn later” another reader finished.

Or as Renee, 40, succinctly put it: “Be kind to yourself.”

Many readers included the old cliche: “Don’t sweat the small stuff; and it’s almost all small stuff.” Eldri, 60, wisely said, “When confronted with a perceived problem, ask yourself, ‘Is this going to matter in five years, ten years?’ If not, dwell on it for a few minutes, then let it go.” It seems many readers have focused on the subtle life lesson of simply accepting life as is, warts and all.

Which brings me to the last quote, from Martin, age 58:

“When I turned forty my father told me that I’d enjoy my 40s because in your 20s you think you know what’s going on, in your 30s you realize you probably don’t, and in your 40s you can relax and just accept things. I’m 58 and he was right.

Read more: http://markmanson.net/10-life-lessons-excel-30s#ixzz2yNxUAAX4


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

October 2020
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