My Journey in Accomplishing 35 Goals Before Turning 35

Photo by Martin Reisch on Unsplash

On my 33rd birthday, I found myself in the exact same place I had been nearly every year since graduating college: I was another year older and I had nothing to show for it but some gray hair and a couple of kids. The kids were great; the gray hairs weren’t. With the passing of yet another year, I was reminded of all that I wanted to accomplish and, at the same time, all that I had not accomplished.

I was committed to making this year different.

Something about turning 33 motivated me in a different direction. Maybe it was the fact that 33 was almost 35, which was uncomfortably close to 40, which seemed like the age where I was supposed to have it — whatever it was — figured out. Or maybe I realized that 1) I was well into my adult life and I hadn’t done, well, nearly any major goals, BUT 2) I wasn’t SO far into my adult life that I couldn’t work hard and get caught up.

Whatever the reason, shortly after turning 33, I decided to take a page out of my wife’s playbook. For at least the past decade, she had been making lists of things she’d wanted to do before reaching age milestones — “30 things to do before turning 30,” “25 things to do before turning 25” — and she had done a remarkable job of accomplishing most of the goals on them. Some had been small goals: try new foods, visit historic sites, read books; others had been bigger: get in shape, travel abroad, make a large purchase.

In like fashion, I grabbed my journal and titled the next blank page, “35 Things to Do Before Turning 35.” As I numbered the lines in my journal from 1 to 35, I realized just how many lines 35 actually was (they filled a full page), and how difficult it was to fill each line with something I wanted to accomplish. I felt, simultaneously, like maybe I hadn’t not accomplished so much at all, and maybe there was time to accomplish just a little bit more.

The first few goals were easy enough; there were things I’d wanted to do for as long as I could remember: write a novel (who doesn’t), get in better shape, and spend more time reading. Other goals included ones that I had long ago given up on (learn to sing), that seemed frivolous (buy a nice briefcase), or that had sentimental meaning (record an interview with my mom and dad).

It took two days before my list was complete, and even a week later I was still changing, combining, or tweaking a few goals. When it was all done, I posted my final list on the bathroom mirror, where I could be reminded of it each day:

35 Things to Do Before 35

  1. Publish a kid’s book
  2. Publish an article
  3. Minimize my possessions
  4. Hike all the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Forest
  5. Be more physically fit
  6. Perfect my daily diet
  7. Read the entire Standard Works
  8. Eliminate my commute
  9. Shoot a pistol competitively
  10. Build built-in bookshelves for the living room
  11. Build a desk for myself
  12. Learn a song on a musical instrument
  13. Launch a SAAS website
  14. Learn to fish
  15. Compile everything I’ve written in one location
  16. Develop a daily writing habit
  17. Work for myself & start an LLC
  18. Set up a garage workshop
  19. Interview Mom
  20. Interview Dad
  21. Learn to sing
  22. Organize my digital photos and music
  23. Make 72-hour kits
  24. Write a will
  25. Buy a rifle
  26. Learn cursive
  27. Do 20 consecutive pull-ups
  28. Fund something on Kickstarter
  29. Make something out of leather
  30. Publish a time management website
  31. Start on online Masters degree
  32. Buy a nice briefcase
  33. Set up my home office
  34. Read 10 great works of literature
  35. Collect family memories in one place

After writing my list, I marked each goal with the amount of time I anticipated it would take (short, medium, long). The times were kept abstract on purpose, so that I didn’t tie myself down to a particular limit, but so that I knew which goals I could knock out in a weekend and which would take some considerable time.

With my goals written and posted, it was now a matter of doing them. Each goal would take different steps, a different length of time, and a different amount of effort, but they would all stare me down every day with the ultimate goal of accomplishing all #35by35.

Ervin Sinclair writes articles that help people accomplish their goals and master their creative process. More articles like this are published at ervinsinclair.com.