The 7 Most Popular Reasons For Not Taking Chances In Your 20s And 30s

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If there’s one thing we’re all faced with in our 20s and 30s, it’s opportunity. Whether it’s exploring a new relationship, a career, or challenging your body physically, these decades are about navigating the possibilities and tapping into your potential. It’s about figuring out what you want to get out of life, continuing to ask yourself what your priorities are and evaluating if a new opportunity will help you as you continue on your journey. But sometimes it’s not that easy to take the plunge when the potential for new or unexpected experiences present themselves. Whether it’s familial expectations, financial limitations, or just nerves, there are plenty of valid reasons that hold us back from taking advantage of said opportunities.

When life led me from college in Maine to heartbreak in New York, and from one dream career as a travel writer to another as a physical therapist, I had no choice but to evaluate my goals, and adapt to each moment along the way. Eventually, I learned to prepare for possible new adventures by embracing the opportunities that presented themselves.

We’ve teamed up with Merck on Her Life. Her Adventures., an educational campaign aimed to encourage women to know their options and set priorities, including talking with their doctor about family planning and birth control, to help them feel better prepared for whatever lies ahead.

We’ve pinpointed seven popular reasons for NOT taking chances in your 20s and 30s — and explored why they might not be such great excuses after all.

1.  Fear

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Fear. There is nothing more limiting and more paralyzing than fear. It can manifest in so many ways: fear of failure, fear of disappointing others, fear of not being able to reverse a mistake — the list goes on and on. One of our most basic instincts is self-preservation, so by nature, it’s normal to be scared of the unknown.  

We are physically and often emotionally averse to taking chances, often for good reason. But there is a difference between careless risks and a calculated leap. It’s easy to fear the unknown, but the only way to get over that fear is to make a plan, then take that chance, and explore what’s out there.  

2.  Funds (Or Lack Thereof)

The Good Brigade

For most of us, being in our 20s or 30s means starting from the bottom, financially. Maybe even below the bottom (hello, student loans! Yikes). Whether or not you had help from your parents getting there, we may suddenly find ourselves financially responsible for our future. When you are responsible for your own rent, your own taxes, your own food, and your own loan repayment plan, your financial cushion is essentially non-existent.

As much as I want to imagine a life where finances don’t matter, money is often the most limiting factor in our lives. So yes, not having the funds, or not being sure that a decision is financially “worth it” is a totally valid excuse. But if you’re passionate about something, there are ways to navigate the financial risks, as long as you have a strategy. Before completely talking yourself out of an opportunity you’re excited about, you owe it to yourself to spend some time really mapping out a monetary plan. It may take a while to figure out, and it may require you to sacrifice your morning coffee for a month or a spring break vacation with your girlfriends, but living on a tight budget or hustling to find extra work is way better than regretting your choice 20 years from now.

3.  Uncertainty

Soren Egeberg

Many young adults are still finding their voice and their place in the world. It takes time to build the confidence to trust who you are and shut out the voices from the rest of the world telling you what you should do, what is expected of you, and what you need to be a successful adult. More and more, these 'patterns' of success are being thrown out the window.

Remember — just because other women your age are settling down and starting families doesn't necessarily mean it's the right decision for you. And vice versa: if you're ready to start a new phase of your life that includes more responsibility, don't be deterred by the carefree, jet-setting lifestyle your college gal pal may be projecting on social media. Regardless of your plans, it may be a good time to talk to your doctor and explore your family planning and birth control options, including reversible, daily, non-daily and longer-term ones.

Of course, after years of following the course you've been told to follow, it can be daunting to forge your own path and set your own boundaries. Becoming sure of yourself takes time. But with the right plan in place, each smart chance you take will help you become more sure of who you are, and what you want.

4.  Regret

The possibility of regretting a decision without a safety net is real, but there is no way of predicting the outcome before you ever take that chance. Let’s say you have a good job, a nice enough apartment, and a generally peaceful day-to-day life. You can’t really complain, according to the rest of the world, but you also know that maybe this isn’t enough. You crave more. Rely on your friends for support, make a clear plan, and go after what you want and deserve. If you experience setbacks, use them to your advantage. Learn from your decisions and move forward.

5.  Your Goals Feel Insignificant Compared To Others’

Adam Hester / Blend

This is the worst, especially in the age of social media. You only lose when you look around at what others have earned, or are doing, and fail to look within at what you really want. When I used to compete as a rower in college, we used to have a saying, “Keep your head in your boat.” During races, long rowing shells would line up next to each other, often with 4 to 8 rowers and a coxswain yelling so close to you that you could feel their energy. As tempting as it was to look for the other boats and figure out if you were winning or losing, the absolute worst thing you could do was take your focus off your own race.

The second you look up to see where someone else is, you lose power and momentum. So stop with the shoulds and the feeling like you need to be keeping up with the Joneses in the other boat. This is your race, and what happens in your boat is the only thing that matters.

6.  Expectations

The Good Brigade

Many people have an internal checklist ingrained in them that includes getting a degree, getting a job, getting promoted, getting married, having a baby, and maybe -- if you’re lucky -- having some awesome adventures in between. But an interesting life is never simple. It can be messy and out of order — it can look “unimpressive” on paper and still be awesome. Because trust me: Nobody else is making sure you hit each milestone. What the people who love you really want to see is that you’re happy. Happiness takes on many forms. Find your own, whether that includes the aforementioned goals, or something else that you are striving for.

7.  Shortsightedness

Aubrey and Phillip Westlund

It will lead you farther away from where you want to go. This can be literal or metaphorical. Maybe you are offered a job in a city or country you’ve never even visited (been there, done that). Maybe you are considering a career change that is completely different from anything you’ve done before and you need to commit to more than 5 years of school just to try out the career you have invested all your life savings and time into on a whim (oh yeah, been there done that, too).

No matter how much we try to think this one through, life cannot be mapped out perfectly. All we can do is listen to the whisper in our gut that is telling us what we want, and silence the excuses that are reminding us we don’t know what will happen if we try to go there. Because the only way to find out if something was the right decision is to make the tough choice to go for it.

So, Now What?

Next time you think of any of these excuses, remind yourself of the counterarguments to each one. The most successful and happy people in the world didn’t get there by staying in their lane, by worrying, or by thinking about all the things they could be doing. They evaluated their opportunities, made a plan, and went after what they wanted. Regardless of how big or small the risk is, all I’m suggesting is that you put the excuses on hold and see what happens when you take it.

A teacher once told me, “Leap, and a net will appear.” The net may change, but it’s always there. So no more excuses: Just jump. An adventure is surely awaiting you.

This post is sponsored by Merck.

Visit HerLifeHerAdventures.com to learn more about the campaign, get information, and get involved by sharing your own adventures. And, check out our Her Life. Her Adventures. Facebook and Instagram channels!

Main Image: Pexels; Images: Offset