What does success look like in your thirties?

I don’t know about you, but hitting the milestone of your thirtieth year on this planet, comes loaded with unanswered questions, worry and often downright panic (or is that just me?!). We set so many expectations upon ourselves throughout our teenage and young adult life: earning x amount of money, being in x position at work, married with kids, mortgaged up to the eyeballs etc etc. But what does success look like in your thirties? Does anyone actually really talk about it? I bet it’s not what you think…

What does success look like in your thirties?

Surprisingly, success in your thirties, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a millionaire with five kids and a mansion. For some it might, but for most, that’s not it at all. But let’s go back…

Expectation vs reality

Put your hands up if you’re not where you thought you’d be 10 years ago. Yup, most of us in the room? I for one, at the age of 23, two years out of uni, had no idea I’d be where I am today, at the age of 33. I guess if I asked my 23-year-old-self the question “where will you be in 10 years time” , I probably would have said something like: “a successful Events Manager, living in a flat in London with my fiancé and a pretty decent salary”. 

For me back then, the focus would have predominantly been on my job status, progression, dosh and being near my friends and family! I think because largely, in today’s society, that’s what we’re taught to measure success from – how much we earn, which promotion we got at work and if we own a property. I was applying for jobs that sounded good, in Fulham and Chelsea, because I thought I wanted a certain lifestyle and I wanted to be able to go out after work, with my friends to cool wine-bars and restaurants.

The reality…

Fast forward 10 years and the reality is: I relocated across the country (leaving my friends and family behind), am married with two kids and a dog, have a hefty mortgage and am working for myself with a lower income than I had 10 years ago.

Hmmm…quite different.

what does success look like in your thirties hollygoeslightly tuscany

Do I feel successful?

Hell yes I do! Going back to the initial questions about what success in your thirties actually looks like…well, this is down to you. Only we can be the measure of our own success, in my opinion. Yes, there might be benchmarks and comparisons, but many of these are largely set because we think they ought to be or because someone else has set these goals for us. Parents, teachers, bosses, partners…

It took me a while to make that mental shift, I’ll be honest. Before I had my first baby, just over 4 years ago, I was on a steady path of progression in my career, earning a decent wage and enjoying my social life. So was the hubby. Because we’d relocated from London to Manchester, we could just about afford to get on the property ladder, so we owned our first flat together (something we would never have been able to do in London). But I was still comparing myself to my London friends, my peers, who were on higher salaries and progressing more quickly (largely due to the beast that is London…more money, more expensive!). I was doubting myself, worried I wasn’t in the right job and questioning myself every day. In my late twenties, I didn’t feel entirely like I was “on the path to success”. Looking back, I’m not sure I would have felt successful if even earning £50k more, as I think it was a lot more about self-confidence and knowing what I wanted from life.

Success after kids…

…right now, a huge salary isn’t priority and it isn’t a benchmark of success for me.

So fast-forward another year, I’m 6 months into my maternity leave and I was made redundant. A turbulent time, worrying, confidence-knocking and most certainly not-in-the-plan. But 100% the best thing that could have ever happened to me as it gave me the kick up the bum to get out of a job I’d come to loathe and reassess my “why”. I spent the second half of my maternity leave thinking about what I wanted out of the next few years of my life and what would make me feel successful. The answer was vastly different from 5 years previously…

I realised that suddenly there was another human being way more important than me, that I wanted to be able to provide the most amazing life and experiences for, alongside my husband. This, at that time, didn’t equate to money. It equated to me being around as much as possible. And that’s what I decided. I decided that I still wanted to work, but it had to be flexibly and it had to be less physical days in the office, so I could have more time with my baby girl.

Success in my thirties was starting to look more like being the best mum I could be and finding a way to pay the bills.

Fast forward another 3 years and that baby is now going to school and our second child is benefitting from that time with me, whilst I continue to work flexibly and try and pay the bills… note, “try and pay the bills”, not “try to earn £100k”. Because right now, a huge salary isn’t priority and it isn’t a benchmark of success for me.

Success at 33

Being in my line of work, I often get people commenting that I’m “smashing it” or presuming I’m raking in the dosh. I take this as a compliment entirely, but it’s not necessarily true. I’m still figuring things out, “winging it” and adapting. There are still months where I don’t earn very much and then months where income doesn’t seem so much of an issue. I’m juggling being around for my littlest, the school runs, growing a small business and still trying to have a relationship and social life. It’s definitely not easy. But I’m doing it. In my own way, I’m doing it.

I’m 33 years old, I have 2 kids, I work for myself and I earn enough money to get by (just), with the help of my husband. Right now, this is what success looks like for me.

So instead of waking up every morning, worrying that I’m not where I “should” be, or that everyone else in their thirties is “smashing it”,  or that my house could be bigger, or our holidays could be more luxurious, or that my clothes could be more designer…I’m thinking, I’m so glad I’m my own boss, I’m really happy that I get to drop-off and pick-up my kids from school each day, I’m so grateful for a loving and supportive husband. Because, that for me, right now, is success.

what does success look like in your thirties hollygoeslightly portrait

Navigating success going forward…

So I’ve talked about what success means for me right now, at 33. But what will it mean when I’m 40? In honesty, I’m not entirely sure and I’m still figuring that out. Yes, I have financial goals (and dreams…come on Euromillions!) and I’m aware that once my littlest starts school, then my work landscape and possibilities will change drastically.

So until then, I’m going to keep goal-setting regularly, touching-base with my “why” and making steps to give myself the best tools and the most options I can (hence the Psychology Masters that I’m about to embark on). I’ll keep checking that I’m happy and if I’m not, I’ll ask myself why and what I can do to change that. I’ll keep working hard and thinking positively. But most importantly, I’m going to do my best to not compare myself to others and have unrealistic expectations…that’s not good for me (and it’s probably not good for you either).

So success in my forties? Ask me again in 7 years and I’ll be able to tell you 🙂

Now you’ve read this, ask yourself the question: What does success look like in your thirties? What does success actually mean to you now, if you strip it right back to basics?

I’d love for you to share in the comments below or over on my instagram or twitter, tagging me in so I can reply.

what does success look like in your thirties?

This is just one of the many topics I discuss with my guests on my podcast, Can We Have It All?

I think it’s important that we talk honestly and openly about this with each other because when we do, we realise that we’re all pretty similar and on similar journeys. We realise that the people we’ve put on a pedestal and benchmark our successes against, started out just like us and are probably still going through the same troubles and questioning their own definition of success. We realise that we’re stronger together. That’s why I started my podcast, so I’d love for you to have a listen. #CanWeHaveItAllPod