While you can obviously work on yourself and pick up new, helpful habits at any age, there are definitely a few skills you should know before turning 30, in order to set yourself up for success. Whether it's learning how to be more assertive, how to manage money, or even how to make small talk whilst standing in an elevator, the sooner you can lodge these skills into your brain — and continue working on them as you get older — the easier life will be.
"Learning life skills early on certainly helps," life coach Brynn Johnson tells Bustle. "If you have parents [who instilled] strong values you might have an easier time in your twenties. But there's no substitute for life skills learned through experience." So, if you notice a few holes in your skill set, or if you aren't currently a fan of how you handle certain situations, never fear.
It's always possible to learn and re-learn — even if it means making a few mistakes in the process. And you know what? Effing up can actually be a good thing. "Don't be afraid to fail," Johnson says. "Hard-earned lessons make you grateful for when you are living your best life as a thirty-something." And beyond. Here are a few life skills you should consider working on, if you haven't already.
1How To Truly Manage Your Money
To start getting all your cash and bills and debts under control, "spend time creating a budget if you haven't already," Johnson says. "Empower yourself with information about a 401k, IRA, and money management. Listen to money podcasts on your way to work." And ask questions. Because the sooner you start learning how to manage your money, the better off you'll be down the road.
2How To Say "No"
Plenty of folks cringe at the thought of saying no, whether it's to friends, a boss, their parents, etc. But since this is such an important life skill, it's definitely worth going through the pains of learning how to do it now.
Remember, "you’re allowed to say no to things that you don’t want to do and won’t serve your long-term goals and values," life coach Samantha Siffring tells Bustle. "And you’re also allowed to want whatever you want — and ask for it without any guilt or shame."
3How To Set Healthy Boundaries
It can also be tough to set boundaries in life — especially if you struggle with saying "no." And yet, it's another life skill we should all be practicing.
Setting healthy boundaries is all about "becoming the leader of your life — not letting the whims of the world around you dictate how you spend your time," life coach Ryann Pitcavage tells Bustle. "It's one of those things that the more you practice, the better you become and if you start today, then it'll be like second-nature down the road."
Knowing how to set boundaries can come in handy in relationships, at work, and beyond, so get on that ASAP.
4How To Think Creatively
From figuring out how to fix a leaky sink in your apartment, to puzzling through a problem at work, knowing how to think creatively is a skill that'll make it all so much easier.
And yes, it's possible to do so, even if you wouldn't necessarily consider yourself the most creative. "Being intentional to develop this life skill and retrain those creative muscles will open up even more creative opportunities along," through your life, author and speaker Jenny Randle tells Bustle. Here are some ways you can start.
5How To Make (Productive) Small Talk
You never know who you'll meet in an elevator, on a bus, or while milling around at a networking event, which is why it's important to perfect the art of small talk.
"Small talk is the starting point for building relationships and trust in both social and business environments," etiquette consultant Julia Esteve tells Bustle. "It's all about chatting over different subjects until you find a mutual interest. Then it becomes more interesting (and of course easier)."
So don't be afraid to try it out in insignificant places (like in line at the coffee shop) and work your way up from there. "The younger people learn good habits, the more confident they become and the lifeskill will be natural," Esteve says. "Small talk is a necessary skill for everyday life."
6How To Stick To A Commitment
So many of us are in the habit of making plans, or setting goals, and then bailing at the very last second. But there really is something to be said for being reliable, and getting yourself into the habit of sticking with commitments early on.
"When you make an agreement it's good form to honor it," Johnson says. "In work and your personal life, you want to be known as reliable and solid." Because, when folks know they can rely on you, all sorts of good opportunities will come your way.
7How To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others
Life is way more stressful when you spend it comparing yourself to others. So if you can break this habit early on, and replace it with healthier, fairer thoughts, you'll definitely be better off in the long run.
"Keeping up with high-achieving friends can light a motivational fire inside," Johnson says. "But when you start shaping yourself to meet someone else's standards, you build a life that doesn't vibe with who you really are."
So, instead of comparing yourself to others, or wishing you had someone else's life, "start admiring everyone's unique path," Johnson says. "It's a whole new perspective."
8How To Make A Few Great Meals
While it's obviously fine to treat yourself and get takeout occasionally, knowing how to cook your own meals at home can be an invaluable skill.
"It’s imperative people learn how to navigate their way in the kitchen and learn the basics of cooking healthy meals," Chrissa Benson, founder of Physical Kitchness, tells Bustle. "When we learn to throw together nutritious meals and develop this simple life skill, habits develop and healthy eating behaviors stick for life."
Going forth into life, you'll not only save money, eat more delicious homemade food, but also be seem super impressive to friends and family.
9How To Check In With Yourself
Since life is super stressful, it's important to learn how to check in with yourself, scan your life for offending stressors, and nip problems in the bud before they get out of control.
"The more we understand ourselves, the more empowered we can [be] ... to ride the waves of life," Pitcavage says. "Cultivating tools and support systems that support you in navigating life's ups and downs is key. Having an awareness of our inner world and knowing how to take care of ourselves is key." So, do you feel anxious? Stressed out? Depressed? Identify it, and then seek the necessary help.
And while you're at it, keep in mind that none of these changes will happen over night. "Don't feel like you have to learn everything all at once," life coach Carley Schweet tells Bustle. "Just pick one area of your life where it feels comfortable enough to make a change and go from there. You'll begin to see that even the smallest change in your habits can make lasting results," in your 20s and beyond.