7 things I know in my 40s I wish I had known in my 30s

I refuse to believe that I am “over the hill”. But if I am honest, I know that I’m about to crest it. 

The older we get, the wiser we become. Well, at least in theory! And, I cannot help but wonder how different my life would be now had I known this 40-year-old wisdom in my 30s. 

Here are the top 7 things I wish I had known in my 30s. 

1: Don’t confuse busyness with productivity. I once thought that constant activity throughout the day meant that I was being productive. Getting things done. But, the truth is not necessarily that concrete. I have learned that if we aren’t doing the right things, then we’re not truly making progress. Being busy doesn’t necessarily mean progress. 

2: Working smart is more important than working hard. Similar to the first point, smart work trumps hard work every day. Smart work is the result of having a plan. Knowing what the finish line looks like and doing only those things that are necessary to get there. Work, just for the sake of work, gets us nowhere. 

3: Your job is your JOB, not your life. Jobs come and go. Recessions kill employment. Worldwide pandemics like COVID-19 forced thousands of employers to lay people off, often without much notice. It’s okay to love your job. In fact, that’s great. But, your job should not be your life. Why not? Because when push comes to shove, your employer will do whatever is in its best interest, not necessarily yours. 

4: You don’t have to know everything. It’s okay to not know everything. It’s okay to ask for help. The fact is having to be “right” all the time is exhausting, and it rarely improves our lives. In fact, it makes us tougher people to be around. Don’t worry so much about being right. 

5: Social media isn’t real. All those pictures that people post of glamorous lives and amazing adventures? That doesn’t represent real life. Do not compare yourself to what people portray on social media, as it’s often not the whole story of people’s lives. Most people only post what they want others to know, feel, or think about them. That’s purely superficial. 

6: Your future self matters. Retirement seems like a far-off mystery in your 30s, but once 40 rolls around, we begin to understand the impact of our money decisions. If we invested in the stock market, we begin to feel the power of compounding interest. But if we didn’t, then we need to switch spending gears, fast. Our future selves will thank us for building an emergency fund, saving for retirement, and investing. Why? Because retirement is not as far off as it used to be. 

7: Your 20s are over. It’s okay to have fun. But, you also won’t recover as you did as a younger version of yourself. Parties. Drinking. Stupid stunts. Brutally long hikes. We are no longer at that age where recovering from stupid or extreme things only takes a day (or even a few hours). Have fun, but be smarter than you were 10 years ago.