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30 Things You Must Do By the Time You’re 30 (Or You’re Not Really Living)

30 is an awesomely exciting milestone, and by 30, you will have had time to get plenty of stuff done. Have you, though? Here are 30 things you must do by the time you're 30 (or you're not really living).

1. Genuinely thank those who helped you get where you are.

Whether it’s your parents or your grandparents or your high school teacher or your best friend or all of the above, say thank you. Make it a point to really say thank you, with a handwritten letter, gift, or in-person conversation.

2. Pay it forward.

Think about how you’ve been helped by other people, then find a way to pay it forward. You’ll find that helping others feels even better than being helped (cliché, but oh-so-true).

3. Be a part of a community service project.

In our tech-rich social media-saturated lives, it’s easy to feel like you’re a part of one huge community but also wildly alone. One way to fix this is to become a part of your real community right outside your door, whether that’s your neighborhood, apartment complex, city, or town. Find a community service project that speaks to what you care about, and volunteer to become a part of it.

4. Find a mentor.

There are people in this world who have the answers to your questions, who are already living lives that look a lot like your dream life. Find them, and ask them if they’ll talk to you about how they did it, and how you can do it, too.

5. Be a mentor.

You are, already, someone who others look up to (even if you don’t know it, or if they don’t know you!). Find a local mentorship program and become a mentor to someone. You’ll be amazed at the impact you can have when you just make time for someone else.

6. Find your cause and fight for it.

What do you really care about? And are you doing anything about it? Before 30, make it a goal to identify the cause you care the most about, and to begin fighting for it on an everyday (or weekly or monthly) basis.

7. Memorize a poem or speech or quote that speaks to you.

We all have philosophies, beliefs, and visions that guide us in life. What phrase captures that for you? Write it down, paint it on your wall, tattoo it on your wrist. Whatever it is, keep it in mind, and let it guide you.

8. Join a team.

We were put on this earth to live with other people. And even if you’re not the most social bird in the room, there’s still a lot to be said for learning how to be a team player.

9. Learn another language (or get close). Then use it.

Even if you can’t pronounce words right, even if people laugh at you when you try to speak to them… give it a shot. Learn as much as you can of another language, and of the culture, place, and people it’s attached to. Then find a way to use it.

10. Travel by yourself.

If you haven’t known independence yet, true independence, you’ll learn it when you travel alone. Enjoy the solitude, and soak up the sights by yourself, on your own time.

11. Stay in a hostel, and go out on the town with a bunch of strangers.

Hostels are bustling, happy little strange communities, which constantly cycle in and out the friendliest of strangers. Stay in one, and make it a point to be a part of the little community there, even if it’s only for one night. Make fast friends, and go explore the world together.

12. Learn how to set and reach goals.

What do you want with your life? Learn how to ask that question, answer it, and set and reach the goals it leads you to.

13. Find an accountability buddy.

Your life is what you make of it. That’s where goal-setting comes in. But reaching goals is hard to do if there’s no one there to keep you accountable. Find someone you can trust, an accountability buddy, and check in with each other regularly on what you’re doing to reach those awesome goals of yours.

14. Go skinny-dipping.

Be free. Feel comfortable in your own bare skin. Worship your body and the crisp waters that envelope it. You’ve gotta go skinny-dipping at least once, for the freedom and for the glimpse of purity and wildness it gives you.

15. Climb a mountain.

Literally, or figuratively. Set a goal that seems too high to reach, but one that you know will be worth working all the way to the top for. Then tackle it head-on.

16. Develop a habit that makes you a better person.

Bad habits are easy. Good ones? Not so much. Develop a good habit. This could be doing a favor for a stranger once a week, meditating every morning, or smoking half the amount of cigarettes you currently smoke. Whatever it is, find a habit that makes you a better – healthier, happier, kinder – you.

17. Take on a hobby just for you, just for your own enjoyment.

Not everything you do has to be epic or goal-oriented. Take on a hobby that reminds you how important it is to have time for sheer enjoyment, for real and simple joy.

18. Take a class in something you’ve always wanted to learn about – even if you’ll never make a career out of it.

Like, really, anything. Just take a class. Life is for learning and fun and newness. It doesn’t matter if you’ll never be a master chef or golf great or ballerina or professional painter. Just do it to learn something you’ve always wanted to learn about. That’s enough.

19. Make music.

(Try to) learn how to play a musical instrument. Or make time to sing more. However you do it, make some music.

20. Find a way to be physically active every week – and enjoy it.

It’s one thing to adopt a healthy, fit life. It’s another to enjoy that life. Find a way that you can get active every week – without feeling miserable the entire time.

21. Date someone who isn’t your type.

By 30, you should know that you don’t have a type at all, but if you don’t, go on a date with someone who is just a bit out of your range. Maybe he’ll surprise you. Maybe you’ll realize your type wasn’t your type at all…

22. Find something to take care of.

Whether it’s a dog or a plant or another human being, find something to take care of, find something to put your love and time into.

23. Learn how to cook well for yourself.

Eating food is one of the most essential activities of being a human being. You might as well learn how to cook food that you enjoy eating.

24. Cook the nicest meal you can imagine yourself pulling off. Then have a dinner party.

The joy of cooking is getting to enjoy what you’ve made with the people you love. A dinner party is a great way to spend time with those people, and to show them you care about them by preparing them something delicious.

25. Get a handle on your finances, and learn to save for things you really want.

This doesn’t mean you have to miraculously pay off crazy student loans or buy a load of stocks. It does mean that you have to understand how you spend your money and how it’s helping or hurting your well-being in the present and future.

26. Forgive someone and move on.

Life is far too short for grudges, and you’re about a third of the way through yours.

27. Ask for someone to forgive you, and mean it.

You know you’ve done wrong, but it’s never too late to openly acknowledge that and ask for forgiveness.

28. Finish your education (or commit to a path that will allow you to do it).

Whatever level of education you want to finish, get there by 30. If you’re still working on it or if you’ve put that off, commit to a plan to get where you want to be.

29. Know what you want 40 to look like.

Have a vision for where you want to be by 40, and work towards it.

30. Make a list of things to do by 40.

Then make them happen.

as an autodidact, weightlifter, runner, teacher, activist, amateur buddhist philosopher and proud black lab mama, lauren believes life should be jam-packed with meaning and action. her writing is as all over the place as she is.


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