10 Years of Growth: Recapping My Lessons Learned On My 29th Birthday

Reflections on Personal Growth, Networking, Time Management, and Self-Care

I’m turning 29 and in the last 10 years, every year has been better than the last, and I hope it will not change.

10 years ago I started studying and since then I achieved, improved, and experienced a lot. This is one of the reasons I started writing: to help you improve too by writing about the lessons learned and the experiences.

Here are the top lessons learned from my last 10 years:

Take The Opportunities to Go Out of Your Comfort Zone

I was shy. I needed to go to a therapist to get confident to do the application talk at the university I wanted to study. But I was always ambitious and if I wanted something then I did everything to achieve it. And I always did.

Taking opportunities to go out of your comfort zone is the best way to grow. It can be uncomfortable. (Oh man how often I was uncomfortable at networking events). But repeatedly doing it will get you comfortable and you might even enjoy it.

I don’t enjoy presenting yet, but I had to do it many times at university that I got comfortable.

This is something I would have never imagined. 

10 years ago I was so nervous speaking in front of people, it was really uncomfortable. But the mandatory presentations at the university were the best thing that happened to me. 

I can even imagine giving speeches on big stages now and getting mentoring for it. Crazy how much you can change your mindset about something uncomfortable. 

Go out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself! Get comfortable with something uncomfortable!

Expand Your Network and Experience

As I told you before I was a shy person and it was hard for me to connect with people. But during my semester abroad I met many amazing and interesting people and I got hooked on meeting new people everywhere.

A lot of people are living in a bubble of a safe environment with the same people every day. Don’t let that happen to you!

Meeting new people is such an amazing experience.

  • New life stories
  • New opinions
  • New ideas 
  • New experiences

And don’t stay in your bubble of work-related people. Go out to different events to learn something new and to network!

I participated in female-empowering events last year, and the lectures were motivating and I learned a lot. But the best part was networking with strong women who are data scientists, data protection consultants, or event organizers,…

I extended my network and my knowledge. Going out and meeting new people is the best way to do it.

In Austria, we say that the economy is based on “favoring friendships”. This means that most people get their jobs and projects because they know someone. 

That’s how life works. A network of people will help you get a job or a project. If they have a problem, and you have the skills to fix it, then they will hire you because they know you. It’s the same the other way around, right?

Find Your Balance

Having a job, studying and volunteering can be overwhelming, and usually, the time with my family got cut. In the last years, I managed to find a better balance because I know how important family is for me and there’s limited time. 

Actually, COVID helped me to have a better connection because we regularly did Zoom meetings. 

You don’t know how much time you have left with your family. Life can go by really fast. You will regret it later if you don’t spend time with your family and loved ones now when they are still here.

It’s easy to cut family time for projects and university, but you have to change your priorities then. 

A big mistake a lot of people are making: they take family and friends for granted.

Loved ones are more important than a job or university.

Learn Time and Self-Management

One of the best skills I learned in the last ten years is time management and self-management. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve so much. 

It was not intentional to learn it. Juggling studying, working and volunteering was the challenge that helped me improve my time management skills. 

During my studies, the workload steadily increased and it helped me be able to do more in less time and to experience that I can do more than I thought I could. 

In my first semester, I had a lot to do, and I thought I’m not able to do more but then the projects got bigger and the exams got harder. 

And I still managed to do it.

You don’t have to take on the hardest projects immediately. Increase the difficulty slowly and you will learn to improve and become better. 

In your first semester, you wouldn’t be able to do a project from the 5th semester. That’s good because you have to learn and experience more to successfully do it later.

Read about self-management! Challenge yourself! Implement and try out different tools for time management!


Volunteering gave me the opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and learn skills in a safe environment.

  • I organized career fairs 
  • I was in contact with big companies
  • I spoke in front of the head of the university
  • I participated in big international events and experienced different cultures

Find an organization with a cause you want to support and help out! 

You will meet new people, experience new things and you will give something back to the community. 

Figure Out Your Personal Finances Early

I know money is short in the 20s. But even if you only invest 10$ for your future, it’s a starting point for your goals. 

Don’t fall for “get rich quick” schemes! Getting rich (I prefer wealthy) doesn’t happen from one day to the other. 

By starting to invest you will start to figure out your personal finances and learn about the financial industry. 

You don’t need to be good at maths or anything. But managing your finances and knowing your money status is even more important than algebra (in my opinion). 

Money rules the world. But it doesn’t have to rule your life. 

By studying personal finances and investing in your future you are able to get out of this terrible cycle of “working for money -> to spend money -> not having money -> working more for money…”

I don’t want you to have that kind of life. That’s why I tell you now to start as soon as possible to figure out your financial situation and how you can invest into your future. 

I can recommend the books from Ramit Sethi. 

Take Care of Your Body

When you are young you don’t care about your body because you are healthy and fit. But it declines fast and at one point your body will ache and you will get sick. 

It didn’t happen to me yet but I’m still already taking care of my body. Do you know why?

Because prevention is the cure for almost all illnesses. I’m not a doctor so please don’t take it for granted. Accidents happen. 


Do you always hear the stories: red meat is partly causing heart diseases, sugar is bad, fats are unhealthy… 

Your nutrition is something you can change while you are healthy to prevent deadly illnesses. I’m not an expert that’s why I recommend Dr. Greger and his great website full of resources.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m also eating a lot of chocolate but I’m taking care of eating nutritious meals with vegetables and fruits.

Taking care of your body is not just about what you are eating but also how much you are moving. 

In this busy life full of smartphones, notebooks, and TVs it’s easy to just sit all day and do nothing. This is not healthy.

Your body is built to move. Else we wouldn’t have legs. 😉

Your body wants to move. Your muscles and bones need movement. You don’t have to start going to the fitness center to lift heavy weights. No. As always: start small and improve every day. 

I started going for a walk after work. And I’m also going for walks on weekends. I’m stretching my body every day to not get sore. This prevents back aches from sitting all day at work. 

Take small breaks at work and stretch or move. Go for a small walk outside during your lunch break. 

Take Care of Yourself

Additionally, to nutrition and movement, there is another big point to taking care of your body: self-care.

This is about your mental state. We usually forget it and skip it.

Having breaks and relaxing is as important as exercising. Stress is also damaging your body, including your brain. It can burn you out really quickly. 

My problem was that I wanted to have everything now. I wanted to participate in everything, do everything, and be everything. That’s impossible. I had one really bad semester with no time at all for myself, or for a healthy meal.

As an introvert, it hit me more because I need quiet time to keep my energy high, and participating in all meetings and events was draining my energy.

When Covid hit it was the best time for me to slow down and to take care of myself. I started reading, journaling, and spending time with my boyfriend again.

I guess it’s one of the reasons I started writing online again. It helps me figure out my thoughts and all information that is stored in my brain.

Don’t have plans for every evening of the week! 

Take at least one night off to relax! Spend it with people who relax you, read, write, go for a walk, or exercise alone. 

Consciously block time for self-care. 

I also started skincare recently and it helps me to have a small quiet moment alone in the bathroom in the morning and in the evening. This is just about me.

Appreciate Your Young Energy and Life!

I tend to plan and manage all time every week. I forget to live and enjoy being young.

It’s ok to go party with friends. It doesn’t mean you wasted time and can’t go back to a productive routine or work. 

Enjoy this beautiful life! Enjoy your young energy! 

Get crazy with your friends!

Celebrate your favorite artist at a concert! Enjoy music! Enjoy art! 

Explore your city!

Do you want to get more time every day for your important things and join my weekly newsletter?

Get your free copy of my tips about how to boost your productivity!

(c) Karina Ahrer

I’m also on Twitter and LinkedIn, you can join and connect with me! I would love to hear from you!

To continue reading my other articles on Mediumjoin the membership to read unlimited.

If you are as addicted as I am to reading books, then check out my list of favorite books!

Do you live in Austria, Germany, or Switzerland?

You get 60 days of audiobooks for free on BookBeat! A lot of the books from my recommendation list are included!

BookBeat mehr Zeit für Hörbücher