Why You May Lose Steam On Your Goals In Your Thirties

November 8, 2019  |  
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career goals and aspirations

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I have picked up on the fact that a lot of my peers tend to go through a slump in the thirties—a career slump, to be specific. It seems a little early in the big picture to lose steam on one’s goals but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a similar slump lately. What is it about the thirties that make some of that go-getter spirit die away? We’re still very young at that age. If anything, we shouldn’t even expect much to happen before that age. What does any young professional in her twenties really know? I knew very little at that age, I can tell you that. But still, I’ve been feeling my ambition waiver lately. And I’m learning it’s quite common for my age group. Here are reasons you might lose steam on your goals in your thirties, and why it’s actually the best time to keep your head up.

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Your twenties were about skill development

The truth is that you probably entered your twenties at a beginners level in your field. You knew nothing or next to nothing. You spend the good first 10 years of any pursuit just mastering the necessary skill set. That’s it. Imagine it like picking up a violin for the first time. You spend the first 10 years just going from terrible to passable. That’s to be expected.

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We can mistake learning for achievements

There is this misunderstanding that achievements should come just as quickly as learning does. So we can spend several years just getting good at something and then, when we have finally mastered that skill, we are frustrated that we haven’t also accomplished the top level milestones associated with it. But, that thinking is a bit delusional. Does a violinist, when she has finally learned how to play well, expect to be first chair in the greatest symphony on the same day? Probably not. But we believe that learning how to do something well would immediately mean seeing the accolades.

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Achievement is just the next phase

Only once we have spent years and years honing our skill can we really pursue accolades and rewards in a real way. That is actually the first time we even begin to be contenders. We must be ready after years of mastering a skill for even more years of proving to the world that we have that skill. It is a new phase, that we enter into in our thirties. But we have pride and we are tired. We can be so exhausted from all the work we have put into just getting good at our job that we can feel we are entitled to the outside recognition. We can feel we are entitled to the higher pay and the more important roles and the praise. Doesn’t everyone know how hard we’ve been working? We know. We are exhausted. So to feel we now have to work to prove that we have put in the work can feel unfair. But that’s how careers go.

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Nobody is a true natural

I beg you to research some of the most accomplished individuals you know. You will probably find their path to success was very, very long. They didn’t just come along in their industry the day Forbes magazine covered them. Often, they were mastering their craft for 10 or more years, then hustling for breadcrumbs of recognition for possibly another five to 10 years. All of that happened silently, not at all in the spotlight, before you even heard of this person.

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You are working with twenty-something’s

The thirties is a weird time because you will probably work with people in their twenties. You may work side-by-side with them, meaning that your superiors see these twenty-something’s as your peers. You are not given much more respect than them, and yet you feel like they just arrived to the game. This can be infuriating.

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Understand that you are still a baby

Try to put yourself in the shoes of the people in charge. Those who have true power in your industry have probably been working at it for multiple decades. So, no, they don’t see a huge difference between you, who has been doing this for eight years, and that twenty-something-year-old who has been doing it for four years. They aren’t going to give you the praise or feeling of superiority you were looking for

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Your young peers have so much hope

So, you are still up for the same opportunities as, and surrounded by people in their twenties. And now you feel they have some things you don’t have, namely youth, energy, and hope. How are you to compete with that?

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Know that you are over the hump

Don’t be intimidated by this young, fresh-out-of-college colleague who is going after the same things you are, with so much inspiration in her eyes. Everyone has all that energy when they are fresh to the game. She hasn’t accomplished what you have yet, which is getting over that five-year hump. You know you are really built for something, and have passion for it, if you are still sticking it out after five or so years when you really haven’t received outside reward yet. You do still have an upper hand, even if it doesn’t feel like it next to this peppy 22-year-old. She may burn out in a couple of years. You already hit the phase of potential burn out and you pushed through. Take confidence in that.

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Some things won’t be fair

This is around the age when you will start to learn that life is not fair. Someone who has barely put in the work may be handed something that you are barely near achieving, and have been working towards for 10 years. That person may be the recipient of nepotism. Or perhaps, she possesses certain traits that really don’t make her better at this job, but people just like to be around. You will start to see this a lot around this stage of your career. And it can actually leave you wondering, what is the point?

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You are doing the work

Keep in mind that when people are handed opportunities too early, they typically squander them. When the door is opened for someone who is not ready for what is on the other side, do not be jealous of that person. Maybe you don’t have the hook ups and the inside connections that this newbie has, but when you earn those opportunities, you will be ready. You will be ready because you had no choice but to be preparing this entire time.

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Be grateful it hasn’t hit yet

So think of how you were in your early twenties. You were cocky, presumptuous, naïve, and selfish. Now think of the things that you want in your career. Doesn’t the idea of having gotten those in your twenties terrify you? You would have blown it all by now. So instead of feeling that things are taking forever to happen because they didn’t in your twenties, be grateful they didn’t happen in your silly and reckless twenties. Be very grateful.

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You want more money

Here is the thing: your tastes evolve as you get older. A lot of your sudden loss of hope could just come from the fact that you are no longer content needing a roommate, and only being able to afford matinee movies. You hold up your career success to the lifestyle you want, and things don’t stand up.

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Try to leave money out of it

Money is of course important. But try not to belittle all you have accomplished in your career, just because you still have to fly economy. If you think like that, you will never feel inspired. You will always feel lacking, and then all of your work is for nothing, so you will lose steam on your goals. That being said, yes, the thirties may be a turning point for your tastes. So it is natural when you want to afford to fly business class and cannot do so that you scrutinize your life choices. It is natural that you might blame your career progress, and think that if things were going well, you would have a luxurious lifestyle by now.

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Young wealthy people probably aren’t happy

The most common way someone is going to be making a tremendous amount of money by the time they get to 30 is if they have climbed the corporate ladder since they graduated college. It is unlikely that someone has a highly profitable business of their own at age 28. If you know a young wealthy person, chances are they just started climbing the corporate ladder early.

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But you are living a life that you like

There’s nothing wrong with climbing the corporate ladder. For some people, that is appealing. But if that is not in your path, and you have wanted more opportunity to explore different industries and really find out what is right for you, then you have to understand that probably wasn’t going to come with a massive six-figure paycheck by age 30. So, the benefit you received wasn’t financial. The benefit you received was giving yourself the time to discover what you could be happy doing for a lifetime. Understand that many young individuals got sucked into the corporate ladder at their very first job may not be doing what makes them happy. They might be jealous of you.

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