When I was 30, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, only now in my late 30’s do I have a plan that I’m sticking with.
Some people are lucky to know what they want to do with their lives early; for others, it takes time, and when we have a significant birthday, we are reminded of our directionlessness. Finding purpose by setting a goal or dedicating yourself to something is a great way to feel like you know what you are doing with your life.
For some strange reason, I thought I would die before my 30th birthday, but it came and went without event. Overtime, those feelings of dread passed and I was forced to revaluate things and take action.
Keep reading if you want to know how I figured out what to do.
At 30, I had No Idea What To Do With My Life
As I mentioned before, I thought I would die before 30, so I didn’t pressure myself to think about what I would do long-term with my life. It wasn’t so much that I had any reason to believe this; I might just have been fear masquerading as prophecy.
But when the day came and went, my irrational fear disappeared, and I was scared because I didn’t know what to do.
Figuring out what to do with your life is a longer-term challenge, for some of us at least. Why back in high school, my brother knew what he wanted to do, he was going to be a teacher, and now he is. On the other hand, I had less direction; I was always interested in ideas, experiences, and thinking. At the same time, I had general dismay for work in general; I never really wanted a job.
This is probably why I went through much of my twenties without any plan, just going with the flow and taking what jobs I could get. As I’ve mentioned before, I took a job in Korea teaching English, and at that time, I came up with a plan. The thing was that I had always been interested in making websites and playing with computers, so I knew what I could do but never had a solid, actionable plan or destination.
While in Korea, I decided to apply for college cause I had an idea for a website that I wanted to build. And while that motivation to build that website got me through college, I moved on to other things once it was done because I had bills to pay and no trust fund to support me. This is the thing, often our interests in a particular project might serve as a motivation to learn and get better rather than to get something done.
When I graduated, I was almost 30 and had built my dream project, but with that out of the way and no way to turn it into a business or job, I once again felt like I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. So I took a job, and then another and then another and then ended up getting good at a trade in the process, which is still my day job today.
But having a job that you are good at and pays decently doesn’t mean that you’ve got it all sorted out.
I’d argue having the basics sorted out opens you up to more profound questions. So while I was working, I always felt like something was missing, and for some reason, I came across self-authoring by Jordan Peterson and did the program.
While doing that program, I was faced with a dilemma, do I keep on my current path that is working but is ultimately dissatisfying. Or do I chase after what I always wanted but was afraid to try or concerned that I couldn’t make it happen? While the practical path always makes sense, it doesn’t always bring us the satisfaction we seek.
Knowing what I wanted to do helped, but it didn’t translate into action right away.
Instead, I sat on those ideas. And this is what I suspect could be a problem for other people; often, we know what we want but are afraid to commit to it or focus on it. I’ve always known that I wanted to be a writer, and I’ve written a book, but I never focused on how I could make a job out of writing.
For you, you might have a similar sense to me; you might be turning 30 and feeling like you don’t know what you want to do. But maybe you know what you want to do but are afraid to commit to it?
Undoubtedly, we can get a job that pays the bills and makes our life work, but again, there might be something burning inside us that we are afraid to chase after. At the same time, the more I think about it, I rather fail than regret that I never took my dream seriously.
For me, it took being stuck at home for a couple years that finally got me to commit to trying to make something work.
As I said, I always sensed that I knew what I wanted, but I never focused on it or put in the work. But being stuck at home and not being so busy with life that I couldn’t think, I was forced to reevaluate things and, in turn, take action.
Now I’m almost 40, but at least I have a plan that I can work towards every day, and while it hasn’t paid yet, it gives me satisfaction because I feel like I have purpose and direction in my life.
Often what matters, is that we have a plan and are working towards it; you might not know what you want to do with your life. But if you have a goal or a target to work towards, that might help you feel better about your situation. I’m not going to suggest this is all that it takes, but I can say from my own experience that it helped me a lot.
20, 30, 40 Year Birthdays Feel More Important
For some reason, we humans and our understanding of the world have a particular focus on decades. We seem to think nothing of our 29th or 31st birthday, but the 30th is a big deal that requires action or deep contemplation. I’m not saying that it isn’t good to reflect on what we are doing with our lives, but I think it is arbitrary to think that 30 or 40 is more important than any other year.
Rather than focusing on the years, we should think about our feelings about what we are doing with our lives.
I wonder if we always have doubts or feel that we should do something more with our lives, but only think of it when we have a decade birthday. Our culture has taught us to think specific years are more critical than others, so when we have those special years, we take time to think about it or make it a priority.
We celebrate the new year, but would it be just like every other day if we didn’t get the day off? What would make it different? This is also the same for our birthdays, every birthday is eventful, but certain ones seem like they matter more, so we think they deserve more attention.
Whether you are turning 20, 30 or 40, don’t worry so much about the number. Instead, think of it as a chance to rethink your developments and behaviours.
Are you doing what you want to be doing with your life? A more extreme question might be, what would you do if you didn’t need to work? Not because you don’t want to work, but instead, what would you do with that extra time you’d have?
You don’t need to turn your life upside down; you could instead pick up a new hobby or interest. What you do at work doesn’t need to be your everything; it can be what you do to pay the bills and fund your hobbies and dreams.
Try Not To Think Of Your Age
Being 30 and not knowing what you want to do with your life might be a familiar feeling, but what matters more than age is that you might not feel like you have direction in your life.
Again, rather than focusing on the idea that your decade’s birthday warrants thinking about this stuff, focus on adding purpose and meaning to your life now.
It doesn’t matter how old you are; what matters more is what you are doing with your life every day. Try not to think about the question; instead, focus on what you can do something about. Are you holding back on what you love because you are afraid?
In the past, I’ve talked about why personal responsibility is important; but the biggest reason is that it forces us to look at our situation and know we have the power to change it.
At the same time, don’t worry about what you should do; instead, try to take advantage of all the opportunities presented to you every day. Life experience is important because it gives us a chance to try out different things we have not tried before.
Saying yes to new opportunities gives us a chance to try out new things, but it also helps us feel what we might like to do more of. It also helps eliminate many things that it would be best for us not to waste our time.
What Should I Do With My Life at 30?
Figure out what you want out of life, look at what you are doing and see if your current habits and routines will get you to where you want to go. Like I said before, don’t overthink how old you are; instead, think about what you want out of life and how you need to go about getting it.
If you have a goal that you are working towards, that helps everything else make more sense because when you have a target, you can ask, “does this activity align with where I want to go?”
If the answer is no, then you need to rethink your situation and what you are doing. Should you keep doing what you are doing? Or do you need to change it up and try something else? If your answer is yes, then that is great, and you can keep at it because it is taking you where you want to go.
No matter your age, you need to look at your life as a progression towards a meaningful goal you have set for yourself.
There is nothing wrong with changing that goal when necessary, but as long as you are focused on something, you will always have a framework of sorts that will help guide your actions in the right direction.
Don’t ask, what should I do with my life at 30? Ask what should I do with my life now? Cause the right choice today is the right choice at any age. But obviously, we need to make good choices; this isn’t an excuse to be reckless.
Is 30 Years Old Too Old to Start a Career?
It is never too late to start a new career; as long as you are willing to make an effort, it is possible. Of course, you need to keep in mind that sometimes people will discriminate based on age; this seems particularly true in tech. But it can also be a problem if a career change requires a lot of training; 10 years of training at 70 isn’t practical.
It’s also critical to look at your situation; if you have a mortgage to pay and a family to support, you can’t just quit your good-paying job for a low-paying one. But if you are single or don’t have many responsibilities, you have a lot of freedom to change things up.
In my earlier life, after graduating from university, I had no direction and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. But due to a willingness to try out some different things, I eliminated many bad options and eventually decided to make websites. I got my first job in the field when I was in my late twenties and met many people much older than me in the program at college.
No matter your age, you can always change things up; as long as you are open to the possibility that it will be demanding and willing to face that, you always have a chance that it will work out.
If you are 30 and don’t know what to do with your life, look at my article on ikigai. Ikigai is a Japanese concept that focuses on finding our life’s purpose by looking at what we like and what the world needs and finding something that fits.