Your 20s and 30s are the perfect time to spread your wings and take some risks. During these early decades of life, you often have little responsibility to anyone besides yourself, which makes it a perfect time for throwing caution to the wind.
But it’s also a time of great uncertainty, which can sometimes freeze you in place. If you’re stuck in a rut, feel unsure of what you want to do with your life, or simply are ready to finally experience what the world has to offer, consider these seven risks you need to take in your 20s and 30s.
1. Seek Work Out of Town
When you get older, you’re more likely to have a significant other, children, a house and even a mortgage — responsibilities which can make a move much more difficult. But living and working in different places is so valuable for expanding your capabilities and understanding of the world, it’s an important experience to prioritize.
So while you’re still young, consider moving for work. Think about a place you’ve always wanted to live, put in job applications there, and visit the city to meet with employers and get a feel for the place. Then plan your escape and move across the country. You can do this on the cheap in a city like Omaha, for example, where rent is inexpensive and opportunities are plentiful. Even if you just want to commute to another city, now is the time to take advantage of your freedom and take a risk.
2. Focus on Your Passion
Growing up, you may have dreamed of being a circus performer, heading to the ocean to become a marine biologist, or making the world a better place through mission work or the Peace Corps. Whatever your passion, why not harness your energy and focus your career efforts in that direction, instead of settling for a job that simply pays the bills?
For example, you can research to find out what it takes to start your own website, then seek financing to start your own company. Or go back to school to completely customize your career path. If you want to open a business but aren’t sure what to do, start by attending trade shows in your intended industry, sign up for business seminars, or talk to local businessmen to get ideas and advice.
The earlier you get started on a new career path that you care about, the better your chances of becoming successful in your later years. While it may sound risky, take some inspiration from Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post. She says, “Failure is not the opposite of success. It is the stepping stone to success.” (Plus, at a younger age, you’ll bounce back quicker from any failures and start again sooner with more lessons learned.)
3. Treat Yourself
Have you ever begged your parents for something expensive, only to never get it? Maybe you’ve had your eye on something extravagant but unattainable since you graduated from college and became an adult. If so, now might be the time to treat yourself.
Purchase that new piece of technology, put down a deposit on the apartment of your dreams, or buy a plane ticket for your dream vacation. Do it now before you get married and the kids need new braces, or before you get a house with a mortgage and a laundry list of other bills and responsibilities to pay for.
If you don’t quite have the money to splurge yet, save up and buy your dream-thing over time. Don’t get into the habit of feeling guilty about spending money on yourself. If you work hard for your money and cover your expenses, then you deserve to spend anything leftover on whatever you like.
4. Save for Tomorrow
On the other hand, you might choose to start saving your money sooner than later. It might not sound like a risk to save money for your future — but it can feel that way when you start investing those savings. You’ll want to start small and, once you’ve got a nice nest egg built up, make a larger investment that could potentially provide a bigger return. The only way to make money on the stock market or mutual funds is to take risks, and the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to retire.
If you find you have trouble saving money, consider increasing the monthly payroll deductions from your paycheck; it’s easy to use an online tax calculator to figure out the amount you’ll need to deduct to bring you a larger refund at tax time. Then you can take the whole chunk and put it into a savings or investment account.
5. Travel the World
Many older adults once made themselves a promise that they would travel — and many never did. They waited for it to happen after college, or after marriage, or even after the kids were born …. But sadly, many people who wait until after finishing graduate school or getting a steady job won’t travel at all once they have these commitments.
Instead of waiting for life to happen, just go! Sooner rather than later! Do some research, get a little money together by renting out your apartment, then set off on the adventure of a lifetime. Go biking across the Golden Gate Bridge, hike in the Grand Canyon, visit the Mayan ruins or the Pyramids of Giza, or take a tour of Europe by train.
Get out and explore the world while you’re still healthy and free. Travelling exposes you to a wide variety of cultures and helps you gain the kind of knowledge you simply can’t get in books. And it makes memories you can happily look back on when you reach your later years.
6. Face Your Fears
To gain confidence while you’re young, meet your fears head-on. If you hate standing in front of people but love to sing, consider going once a week to a karaoke bar. If you hate shopping or eating alone, make sure you get out at least once a week by yourself. Fear of speaking in public is a big fear for many people — and an invaluable lifelong skill, once the fear is conquered — so take a class or join a group that can give you insight and practice.
Regardless of what you’re afraid of, giving into those fears creates obstacles throughout your life that can be much more difficult to get over when you’re older. Face and eliminate those fears now, while you have the resilience and time to do so.
7. Be Yourself
When you’re in high school and college, often the main goal is to fit in with your peers. In your 20s and 30s, you’ll discover how important — and how much more freeing — it is to simply be yourself. March to the beat of your own drum by cutting your hair and dying it purple; follow the interests that nobody else seems interested in; wear your own fashions (even if they look crazy or are long out of style), or simply stand up for yourself when others are doing you wrong.
Now is the time to discover who you really are and embrace all the quirks and special qualities that make you who you are. Understanding yourself and becoming your own best friend is priceless; it ensures that you’ll never feel alone, even in total solitude. Ironically, once you learn this, you’ll discover you have way more friends than you ever did by trying to follow the flock.
Whether you’re just out of college and not quite ready for a career and a family, or you’ve been out on your own and are looking for direction, your 20s and 30s are the perfect time to take risks. Just keep in mind that if you do decide to take a risk, there’s a chance you might fail — but the worst that can happen is that you gain useful experience and have to start over with something new. The important thing is to spend these few years of your life discovering who you are, experiencing new things, and focusing on the things you love. If you wait, you might never get the chance.