My Journey in Accomplishing 35 Goals Before Turning 35
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
- Publish a kid’s book
- Publish an article
- Minimize my possessions
- Hike all the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Forest
- Be more physically fit
- Perfect my daily diet
- Read the entire Standard Works
- Eliminate my commute
- Shoot a pistol competitively
- Build built-in bookshelves for the living room
- Build a desk for myself
- Learn a song on a musical instrument
- Launch a SAAS website
- Learn to fish
- Compile everything I’ve written in one location
- Develop a daily writing habit
- Work for myself & start an LLC
- Set up a garage workshop
- Interview Mom
- Interview Dad
- Learn to sing
- Organize my digital photos and music
- Make 72-hour kits
- Write a will
- Buy a rifle
- Learn cursive
- Do 20 consecutive pull-ups
- Fund something on Kickstarter
- Make something out of leather
- Publish a time management website
- Start on online Masters degree
- Buy a nice briefcase
- Set up my home office
- Read 10 great works of literature
- 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.