Recently on Notable, we chatted with our favourite young professional MD, Dr. Jamie Rusen, to find out why it seems that our bodies change, and not really for the better, in and around the big three-O. While it was very helpful and insightful to find out just why we can’t drink like we used to, or lose weight as easily as we used to, some who read the article were left feeling a bit down… even a little wary of the future. So, in true Notable fashion, we would like to offer some balance, some upside to the downside of the aging process. To do so, we sought the wisdom of another brilliant YP, psychologist Dr. Joe Flanders, who is the Founder and Director of the MindSpace clinics in Montreal, and an assistant professor at McGill University. Dr. Joe knows all about the important transitional age of 30. Now 34, he claims that from both his personal and professional experience, turning 30 can actually be quite wonderful, particularly when it comes to issues of identity, stability, and productivity. Here’s more of what he had to say:
Notable: After learning about the various, mostly negative physiological changes that occur around the age of 30, what are some of the psychological changes, of the more positive variety, that YPs can look forward to?
Dr. Joe: The 20s are a period that psychologists call “emerging adulthood.” The label refers to the fact that in this day and age, many 20-somethings are often not educated, autonomous, or experienced enough to be fully functioning and contributing members of society. Their adult identity is emerging. The upside of this lack of identity is that many possibilities are still open. The downside is that uncertainty and instability can be stressful. The nice thing about entering the 30s is that we tend to start seeing many of these pressing existential questions get resolved. Our identities solidify. Our lives become simpler, clearer, and more straightforward. I really appreciated the improved focus and energy I experienced when all the questions were laid to rest and I could just get on with what I enjoyed doing in my career.
Notable: That does sound great! So how do these psychological changes go on to change the lifestyles of young professionals around the age of 30?
Dr. Joe: Most people tend to settle down a bit as they enter their 30s. This does not mean life necessarily gets boring or routine, it means greater clarity and focus on what matters most. And with that clarity and focus comes greater efficiency and competence. You really start getting traction with projects and making a difference in the world. And along with that comes a sense of achievement and self-efficacy. You start to know yourself better, too. Specifically, you start to understand what it takes to mobilize your greatest personal assets and avoid the traps set by your limitations. Many young professionals in their 30s tell me that they feel very engaged and empowered at work as they begin to taste what it’s like to really get things done.
Notable: For those YPs who will soon be reaching 30, and who may be looking to the future with trepidation, what are some things they can actually get excited about?
Dr. Joe: The clarity and stability of the 30s are actually quite wonderful. At this age, coming out of school, we are equipped with the most up-to-date knowledge, technological know-how, and cultural savvy. Veterans of the workforce will be chomping at the bit to get a piece of all that fresh intelligence. It’s a very creative time.
Notable: Finally, what advice would you offer YPs to help make the transition into their 30s a little less daunting, a little more awesome?
Doctor Joe: My sense is that the late 20s and early 30s is a period of making commitments – to romantic partners, jobs, etc. For many people, these decisions will have greater magnitude than any others they’ve made up to that point. This can feel overwhelming to say the least. It’s really important to keep in mind that we tend to over-estimate the consequences of decisions (good and bad) and underestimate the sense of relief and freedom we feel once a decision is finally made. So what I would say to someone turning 30 soon is that things will probably work out for you one way or another and probably in a similar way to how they worked out in the past. So relax and focus on pursuing what is of interest and value to you. The rest will take care of itself.