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20 Things People Learn From the Biggest Mistakes Made in Their 30s

20 Things People Learn From the Biggest Mistakes Made in Their 30s

No matter how wise you think you are when approaching your 30s, you are bound to emerge from the decade even more enlightened. Just as your 20s bring unexpected twists and turns, your 30s most definitely come with surprising discoveries. Whether you want a jump on these lessons, or just want to feel you’re not alone, these are the top 20 things people learn from the big mistakes they made in their 30s.

Waiting too long to start saving

It doesn’t take a six figure income or three degrees on your resume to have a secure retirement. The most sure fire way to save for your future is slowly over the years. Even if you feel like you’ll never be old in your 20s, the day will come when you wish you had started saving a little earlier.

Rushing into marriage

Another one of the biggest mistake from your 30s is to commit to marriage before you know everything about yourself. Too often we jump head first into decisions because society encourages them, only to find out a decade later that we’re painfully unhappy. There’s nothing wrong with taking your time while deciding who to settle down with, or if settling down is for you.

Holding on to the wrong partner

Similarly, once you realize you’re not happy in a relationship, a big mistake is to force yourself to stay. Regardless of your reasons, staying in an unhealthy relationship will eventually take a serious toll. Knowing when to let go, even if you’ve invested years, is a critical skill–one that sometimes only comes after some wrong turns in your 30s.

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Committing to the wrong career

Much in the same way, forcing yourself to stay in a career that’s wrong for you will eventually be more than just a bore. By your 30s, several years of performing unengaging daily tasks will start to weigh you down, until you yearn for a new start. Just like with an unhealthy relationship, cutting your losses at the wrong career can actually help you move forward into a job that resonates with you.

Ignoring finances

While many people in their 40s and 50s wish they made more time for travel in their youth, many people also regret paying no attention to their finances. Even if you don’t value a retirement, a small savings cushion can make all the difference when life grows unpredictable.

Only focusing on work

Another common regret for those leaving their 30s is disproportionately focusing on work. All too often our desire for financial stability eclipses our personal relationships, but in your 30s, you become aware of the damage this can do. Since many people also expressed regret over ignoring finances, a healthy balance between work and relationships is clearly essential in achieving a content existence for the rest of your life.

Ignoring your health

By the time you’re 30, you likely have some energetic, carefree times behind you. While your need to party will start to naturally subside as you age, try to work in ways to boost your health too. Most people coming out of their 30s regret not getting active earlier, as natural aches and pains come soon after this decade.

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Not traveling enough

A common regret from your 30s is not traveling enough. While a balanced approach to finances is best, you will never have less responsibilities. Traveling while you can, but within a balanced budget, can help you feel like you truly made the most of this decade.

Rushing into home ownership

Much like sticking with the wrong partner or career, roping yourself into home ownership before you’re ready can be a big mistake. Remember, not only will you need to pay off this home, you will need to stay in the same city until that happens.

Partying too much

Leaving your direction in life up to the future can also be a mistake. Your 30s should be about discovery, but too much carelessness is a recipe for an unstable, chaotic future. Many people leaving their 30s regret getting stuck in jobs below their potential, simply because they spent too much time partying in their 20s to find something they enjoy.

Using a cheap accountant

Another critical lesson from your biggest mistakes in your 30s is to find an honest, hardworking accountant with your best interest in mind. You likely won’t be a financial wizard by the time you leave your 30s, so you’ll want to have one on your side.

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Ignoring responsibility

Much like never planning for the future, failing to grow up where needed can cause some major mistakes when you get older. Learning how to remain youthful, while still being able to deal with reality, is valuable to your future.

Putting off spontaneity

Another big mistake people in their 30s make is neglecting to seize the moment. By the time you’re in your 40s, it becomes clear that time really is short, and it’s better to act today than never at all.

Investing recklessly

Many people in their 30s also make the mistake of investing their money recklessly. Even though you’re still considerably short of middle age, it doesn’t mean you haven’t earned your money. Avoid losing your earnings by familiarizing yourself with any program you invest in. Generally speaking, if the returns sound to good to be true, you’re better off keeping your money in the bank.

Neglecting your relationships

Much like growing hyper-focused on work, ignoring the best people in our lives can be another big mistake in your 30s. As cliche as it sounds, as we age, relationships really are the most valuable asset. Making time for those closest to you during your 30s is essential for a full life.

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Valuing things too much

Another big mistake in our 30s is to value things more than experiences. It may seem like physical investments bring the most pleasure, but as your possessions grow out of style and break, you will wish you had valued experiences more than things.

Rushing into other commitments

With pressures to have life figured out by your 30s, many 30-somethings feel they rushed into responsibility. Housing and marriage aside, it’s easy to rush into living arrangements, schooling or family commitments you’re just not ready for. There’s nothing wrong with taking a few extra years to work out whether you’re a family person, if you like the single life, or whether or not you’re happy pursuing your career.

Being too inflexible

Another common mistake from your 30s is failing to be flexible. You might think you are pursuing the lifestyle you want, but sometimes the reality of a job or career is different than you expect. If you find yourself unhappy in your 30s, remember that you are free to switch careers, partners or locations. If you find that you’re unhappy with your life, there’s no need to keep pursuing it.

Ignoring mistakes

Another big mistake in your 30s is to fail to learn from your mistakes. If you can’t learn from your mistakes the first few times you make them, you are doomed to have a turbulent, frustrating transition to your 40s.

Squandering your youth

Similarly, forgetting to value your youth is another big mistake in your 30’s. It’s easy to think painless joints and boundless energy will stick with you throughout life, but the opposite is true. Go after the things you really want while you have the health and energy to pursue them.

Featured photo credit: smile/Dima Viunnyk via flickr.com

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Alicia Prince

A writer, filmmaker, and artist who shares about lifestyle tips and inspirations on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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