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20 things to master before you turn 40

20 things to master before you turn 40
20 things to master before you turn 40 - Business Insider

Before you turn 40, it is important to master a few crucial life skills, such as learning how to make friends, keeping a clutter-free home, and negotiating.

  • Before you turn 40, there are some important life skills to master. 
  • Learning how to master small talk and developing a few hobbies that you are passionate about will make your adult life more fulfilling.
  • We put together a list of 20 skills you should master by the time you enter your 40s, based on science, expert opinion, and other sources.
  • Each one will help you get closer to success, happiness, and fulfillment.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

No one ever really feels like a "grown-up." But if you're approaching 40, well, you are one.

And it's high time you refined some crucial life skills, from staying healthy to saving money.

Below, we've listed 20 skills you should master before you enter your 40s.

Negotiating

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Debating your salary with your boss is a nerve-racking scenario that does not come easy. But, doing the right amount of preparation, research, and practice can make a big difference. 

One method is to offer up a range of ideas when negotiating a salary, instead of firing off a more unreasonable number. including and above your target number. For example, if you're aiming for a $200,000 salary, you'd suggest a $200,000 to $220,000 salary.

Playing around with your phrasing can also do wonders for negotiating. Instead of demanding what you want, try reworking the phrase to emphasize what you're giving the other person. For example, instead of saying "I want $300 for my laptop" you would say, "I'll give you my laptop for $300. The latter is much less confrontational and warmer. 

Establishing a regular sleep schedule

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Sleep can do wonders for your body and mental health. Although it may be tempting to sleep as late as possible on the weekends, it is so important to get your body on a more consistent schedule. Oversleeping for even a few days every once and a while can make it much more difficult to reset your body's clock, causing more exhaustion to come later in the day. 

Also, avoid hitting the "snooze" on your alarm. Those few extra minutes aren't going to make you feel any less tired. Instead, hit the snooze once, but use that extra time do lightly stretch and adjust your eyes to the light. 

 

Making small talk at parties

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It is natural to feel intimidated in a large space filled with people you do not know. However, people can often sense your discomfort. It's always better to push yourself outside of your comfort zone and try to at least talk to one new face. 

A Marjorie Gubelmann, CEO of Vie Luxe, told Oprah.com: "Even if you won't know anyone and you're feeling intimidated, you must go. Do not stay home. So many people are afraid that no one will talk to them and they'll leave feeling awful — but has that ever happened to you?"

One easy way to get into a conversation with someone new is to ask your conversation partner lots of questions. Demonstrating interest and asking follow-up questions or encouraging personal anecdotes is an easy way to make them feel comfortable, and learn a thing or two about someone new. 

 

Finding and sticking to an exercise routine you enjoy

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Finding a workout that you like can feel a little like dating. It takes lots of trial and error to find the one that is right for you. Research shows that if you feel inept at your workout, you will be more likely to quit. So, experiment with a wide variety and try making a friend in the class to hold you accountable. 

Once your 30s kick in, you begin to lose muscle mass, so exercise becomes extra important. Workouts are a great way to build a new community and explore a city. Try joining a running or cycling club that is not only good for your body, but gets you outside and gives you a chance to learn new neighborhoods. 

 

Finding your career 'sweet spot'

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Your career sweet spot is that beautiful point where you have found a job that satisfies three things: what you're good at, what you love to do, and what the world values. This intersection does not come easy, but your 30s are an important time to take initiative over your career and steer yourself in the right direction. 

 

Saving for retirement

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It is never too early to begin saving for retirement. Business Insider's Lauren Lyons Cole one reported that by the time you're 40, you should have saved about three times your annual salary.

While this report may seem daunting, investing your money is an easy method to grow your savings exponentially. Even just putting small amounts of money in a few stocks is so easy and low-maintenance, and it yields big results over time. 

Investing in relationships

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On a Reddit thread about lingering regrets people have from their 30s, multiple people posted about not spending enough time with their family.

For example, mustlovecash writes that they regret "not spending more time with my parents - walking, talking, travelling - while they were still young enough to actively enjoy it" and "ever, ever choosing work time or personal time over spending time with my wife and children. Children grow quickly, and leave home quickly, and the spouse who remains with you will again become the closest and most important person in your life."

 

Saying 'no' to people

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There's an entire Quora thread dedicated to learning how to say "no," where Eva Glasrud writes, "we routinely overestimate the cost of saying 'no.'"

According to Glasrud, the best way to muster up the confidence to turn down a request is to recognize that "[t]here are some things you can never have back. Your time, your health, your virtue, your life.

"Don't mess around with those things. It's fine for people to ask — most likely, in their mind, they're trying to help introduce you to a great person or opportunity or meaningful cause. And it's just as fine for you to say 'no.'"

 

Keeping a clutter-free home

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The de-clutter movement has truly skyrocketed, as everyday people are becoming inspired by Marie Kondo's "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up." The series instills the mantra of keeping only the items that "spark joy" — and getting rid of everything else.

Even baby steps can do wonders for your living space. Clearing out old boxes and baskets that you usually dump junk into can create a lot of space in your room and de stress your mind. 

It is also important to acknowledge that everyone works differently, and sometimes people's creativity skyrockets in a more messy environment. Reflect on how you work best and take the necessary steps. 

 

Practicing hobbies

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Writing on Quora, Vishwa Sharan advises 30-somethings to develop hobbies. People "forget that there is a beautiful life outside of their work," Sharan says. Thinking back to everything you loved to do as a kid and young adult is a great start. If you played soccer all throughout high school, why not explore a recreational adult sports league? Or get a group of friends together weekly to play pick up in a nearby park?

If you're looking for ideas, check out this list of hobbies that successful people practice in their spare time, from bridge (Bill Gates) to playing the ukulele (Warren Buffett).

Making new friends

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Adult friendship is way different than college friends. However, it is not impossible. An adult friendship is a beautiful new relationship, often driven by activities, hobbies, and even traveling. 

One easy way to try to meet new people is to immerse yourself in a lot of activities. That way, you can meet a variety of people with similar interests as you, already giving you something to bond over. 

Even just meeting one person can open your network up, as you can then meet her friends and eventually hit it off with a larger group. Be patient and keep an open mind. 

 

Failing — and getting back up again

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Over on Quora, Mragank Yadav says it's important that 20-somethings learn how to fail, and more importantly, how to get back up again: "Failing comes naturally. Rising up again is something that needs to be [inculcated]."

Yadav's insight applies just as well to people in their 30s.

Take a tip from now super-successful figures, like Paul Allen and Oprah Winfrey, all of whom learned from multiple professional failures.

Managing stress

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Living in a chronic state of stress and exhaustion can take its toll on you physically, mentally, and emotionally, and if brought on by work it can lead to job burnout.

You won't make it that far in your career if you don't pick up some strategies for managing stress — even seemingly simple strategies like listening to music and exercising can help.

Lifelong learning

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The fact that it may have been several years since you set foot in a classroom doesn't mean you should stop learning.

And don't limit yourself to subjects that would have an obvious impact on your career. After dropping out of college, Steve Jobs still audited the occasional class. One course he took on calligraphy was a huge influence on him and inspired "the wonderful typography" personal computers have today.

Time management

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Proper time management is a skill you should have down by the time you hit 30, says Barry S. Saltzman, a business-strategy expert and the CEO of Saltzman Enterprise Group.

So for 39-year-olds, it should be a given.

You may get away with being all over the place as an intern, but it's not cute when you're leading the team and you can't get your own act together.

Time is money, Saltzman points out, and no company will be happy with needlessly wasted money: "Learning by 30 what makes you efficient is important to professional development, and beyond that, improved efficiency makes you look a lot better in the eyes of your superiors."

Cooking

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"Have you ever truly figured out how to cook?" asks Sachin Shubham on a Quora thread about important things to do in your 20s.

As in, maybe you can feed yourself and your family with spaghetti and omelets, but what would you serve at a fancy dinner party? Sign up for a course and learn at least one dish so you can impress guests with your culinary expertise.

Knowing your personal values

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Don't let other people define happiness and success for you. On Quora, Anna Lundberg writes:

"The number one priority at this stage [30 years old] is getting clarity on what your priorities actually are!

"A great way to do this is to define your personal values, getting to a list of your top three is ideal. Then ask yourself if these values are really reflected in your career and your lifestyle today. If not, you can go about setting goals that are aligned with those values, and then creating an action plan to achieve those goals."

You can also take a tip from Stephen Covey, author of the bestseller "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People," and craft a personal mission statement. It's similar to a company mission statement, except it's just for you.

Covey wrote: "It focuses on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based."

Selling yourself

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Once you understand your own career vision, you must figure out how you will explain it to others.

"Sharing that you're a copywriter or that you work in finance is fine and dandy, but it doesn't make you stand out or inspire people to want to ask you follow-up questions," says Michelle Ward, a creative career coach and coauthor of "The Declaration of You!"

Instead, when people inquire about what you do, answer with your "what," "who," and "how." Don't be afraid to mention what you're passionate about, the types of people you help, and what you do for them specifically, she says.

When Ward introduces herself, she tells people that she offers dream-career guidance for creative women. "That way, the person listening can connect with what I'm saying or introduce me to any creative women they know who are looking for dream-career guidance," she says.

Being happy with what you have

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"If you are content with what you have, you will have a happier life," says Robert Walker on a Quora thread about things to do at 30 to benefit yourself later on.

That's especially true in the relationships domain. "The Gratitude Diaries" author Janice Kaplan found that simply saying "thank you" to her husband breathed new life into their marriage. And psychologists have found that couples who express gratitude toward each other are more likely to stay together.

Forgiving yourself for your mistakes

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"Forgive yourself your mistakes. We all make plenty of them. Don't dwell on the errors of the past — learn from them, let them go, and move ahead," writes Liz Palmer in a since-deleted Quora post.

In "The Happiness Track," Emma Seppala, science director of Stanford's Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education, argues that self-compassion is a key component of success. If you're kind to yourself when you fail, you have a chance at learning from your mistakes and doing better next time.

She recommends a simple strategy for exercising self-compassion: Treat yourself as you would treat a colleague or friend who has failed.

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