Re-discovering Your Purpose in Your 30s and Beyond

15 Aug ‘22
5 min
Finding purpose
Gabie Rudyte
Reviewed by psychologist Ida Dommerholt
looking for purpose rediscovering your passion
Our 20s are often seen as the defining decade. This is a time for self-exploration, adventure, and setting up the foundation for our professional lives. We graduate high school, leave the family nest, and begin to build a life of our own.


However, what happens if we find ourselves well beyond our 20s, after 10, 20 or 30 years in a particular career or lifestyle, wanting to change our lives? Is it too late to take risks and change directions?


Growth = change


It is amazing – and sometimes unrealistic – that we ask individuals in their early teenage years to pick a path and follow it for the rest of their lives. Some individuals find their burning passion early on and enjoy it throughout the course of their lives – others need more experience before knowing what they want to settle for.


Think back to your early teen years: a period of everyone’s life that is filled with immense change, growth, and figuring out the big question ‘Who am I?’. With each year and each experience, we learned about our likes and dislikes, what subjects in school were interesting to us (or not), what we were looking for in friendships, and the hobbies we wanted to be a part of.


As we grew up, we learned more about ourselves. As we learned more about ourselves, we changed. In our 20s, we weren’t the same individuals we were in our teens. Therefore, it’s only expected that in our 30s and 40s, we’re not the same as in our 20s.


The two halves of life


Dr. Stein, a psychoanalyst at the International School for Analytical Psychology in Zurich, explains that life can be divided into two halves. In the first half, labeled the ‘achievement of conventionality,’ we focus on dipping our toes into traditional social roles. Getting our first jobs, experiencing romantic relationships, and having children. We are figuring out who we are by following conventional routes and seeing what fits.


In the second half, labeled the ‘development of individuality,’ we step out of the norm. We might pursue a second career, new hobbies, move to different locations, and seek other personal developments. It’s about taking a step into the unknown and beginning to transform into our true selves.


🌟 You might also like: A Psychologist’s Guide To: Being Your Authentic Self 


It might seem like a scary thought to change the direction of your life or career in your 30s and 40s or 50s and 60s. However, change is a natural part of life. Psychologist Ida Dommerholt says: “In your 30s, 40s or even later in life, you know yourself much better than in your 20s, which will set you up for success in your new direction.”


After years of experimentation and trying different things, now more than ever, you might know who you are and what you want. That’s a beautiful thing! No matter the timeline, it’s never too late to make big changes and re-discover your purpose in life. It might seem scary, but your thoughts and beliefs about the change create more fear than the change itself.

According to a National Center of Education Statistics report, 17 percent of part-time undergraduate students attending a four-year university program are 35 and older.

How to overcome limiting thoughts and beliefs


When deciding to change careers in your 30s or go back to school in your 40s, you might experience fear and uncertainty. That’s expected and absolutely normal. You’re making a significant change and intense feelings are a part of it.


“Acknowledge that change always brings friction, and it takes time to adjust,” says psychologist Ida. It’s important to let yourself investigate the thoughts and feelings that come up. To help you overcome limiting thoughts and beliefs when making a significant change, psychologist Ida shares the steps below as guidance.


1. Identify what is holding you back. What beliefs come up when you consider starting a new career, returning to school, or quitting your job to travel? Things like ‘it’s too late,’ ‘I’m too old,’ or ‘what will other people think’ might come up. Investigate the things you are telling yourself that might stop you from making this big change.


2. Identify that it is just a belief. The thing that is holding you back and causing tension is the belief that you keep repeating yourself. Good news? It’s just a belief – and you can change it.


3. Challenge this belief. Ask yourself: ‘what if this belief is wrong? What if the opposite is true?’ If your belief is ‘it’s too late,’ challenge this by asking yourself, ‘is it really too late? If I’ve lived on this planet for 40 years and still have at least 40 to go, am I not just getting started?!’


Do this exercise whenever you are unsure, confused, or scared about whether you should take a leap of faith and make that big change you crave. 


💡 Also interesting to read: How to Live Your Values (and Learn More About Yourself in the Process)


It’s never too late


Most of us have heard of Vera Wang, a fashion designer most known for her iconic wedding dresses. However, it wasn’t until she was 40 that she decided to take a risk and start designing wedding dresses.


Vera Wang was planning to get married just before her 40th birthday and struggled to find a wedding dress she liked. Her father saw this as a business opportunity, but Vera was hesitant. ‘I thought maybe it’s just too late for me,’ she said in an interview.


With her father’s encouragement, she decided to take that risk and start designing wedding dresses. If Vera Wang would’ve followed her belief of ‘it’s just too late for me,’ her iconic wedding dresses would’ve never existed. Let alone she would’ve not built her fashion empire.


It’s never too late to re-discover your purpose and change directions. Go after that change you desire and challenge your limiting beliefs. If you need any inspiration, take a look at this TED talk from Paul Tasner, who founded his start up and became an entrepreneur at 66 years old.  


If you need any support navigating big changes, you can book a session with Ida or one of our psychologists.