TL;DR In 2015, I set myself a whole bunch of “before I turn 40…” goals. Well, I turned 40 last Saturday! I feel healthier, both physically and mentally, than I did at 30, or even 20 – and I think this goal list has helped with that.
Of the 175 goals I have put on the list over the last four years, I’ve completed 51 of them, with another 47 “in progress” (and of them, 10 are more than 75% complete so should be finished soon). I’m super chuffed with all the things I’ve done – including how hard I’ve smashed some of them and how additional goals have grown from small acorns.
But almost as interesting are the goals that I have consciously – or unconsciously – left by the wayside. Some of these have been because my interests have changed but others illustrate what my priorities really are, and the gap between who I am, who I want to be and realistically, who I can be.
This time last year, I wrote a post asking for help with ticking off some of the (many) goals from my “Before I’m 40” goals list.
As I explained last year, the list started a few years ago when I was coming out of the depression which engulfed my early 30s and I needed a push to start living my life again. The goal hasn’t been the goals themselves really, but to get me up and doing stuff, almost no matter what it is. Because of that, over the years, the goals have stretched and morphed – and been added to extensively. Some of the later goals, I couldn’t have imagined completing when I started the list back in 2015; some of the original goals I have less interest in now. It’s been a fascinating journey for me.
The 51 goals I’ve completed
A good chunk of these are language or cycling related.
I had just dipped my toe back into language learning in 2015 and the first goal I ticked off was “Get a 50 day streak on Duolingo“. I love how this has grown – that 50 day streak stretched into a 100 day one, then before long, I completed the Duolingo French tree, attended a year – then another year – of French classes at Leeds Beckett Uni, read five of my favourite novels in French and have written an essay over 1000 words long in “another language” (which was, unsurprisingly, French). None of the later ones would have happened if it wasn’t for that first 50 day streak. I’ve done three years of classes now and will hopefully start my fourth in September: we’re now working at the equivalent of B1 in the standard European language framework definitions (roughly first year of uni level). I enjoyed language learning at school but struggled hugely with being called on in class – that put me off doing French at A Level at 16. I’m very happy that I’ve finally come back to it – and I willingly signed up to a class that I enjoy. My accent is terrible (tear-ee-bleh) and I mess up a lot, but I’m one of the people most likely to speak up in class – and to come from there, given where I was with social anxiety in my early 30s is huge for me.
Cycling is similar. While “Travel the whole length of the Leeds-Liverpool Canal” was one of the original goals I came up with in 2015, I imagined it would be by boat, or maybe walking it in many tiny chunks, or a combination of the two. In 2015, I’d been on a bike perhaps five times in the previous decade, for no more than a couple of miles at a time, but then at the start of 2017, Tom suggested we cycle the canal over the May bank holiday. My earliest cycling goals were prep for that canal trip (eg cycle to Shipley & back on the canal), then I started to move off the canal with “do five 16km bike rides” and the like. Like with French, they grew – five 30km rides, five 50km rides, complete a sportive or audax, beat my longest cycling day then beat it again, ride 100miles (160km) in a single day, have a 100km day in each month of a year (I did 14 in total), complete another multi-day bike tour, cycle more than 3500km in a year, cycle 5 days out of 7, cycle Coast to Coast… Cycling has transformed my life over the last few years – I’m much fitter physically and mentally, I’m way more confident; I’ve made new friends and had many fantastic adventures that I couldn’t have predicted when I started this list.
(Walking/hiking has also grown in a similar way. Cycling has made a more obvious impression on my life but I’ve enjoyed the walking nearly as much because it’s been with some awesome people.)
- Go to a “cultural event” (eg a talk or a concert/gig etc) on average once a month – which was 55 times over those 4+ years. I set this goal because I realised we were rubbish at arranging to go to things and I had a feeling of “I suppose people go to that sort of stuff more when they’re older” – then I realised we were older already… As soon as I started more consciously looking, I realised how much good stuff we’d been missing. I started making a much more conscious effort to look out for gigs by musicians we already liked (Songkick is v useful!) but for a while, for example, we went to just about any gig in West Yorkshire where the band photo/video showed a squeeze box (since John loves accordion) – we discovered a few of our new favourite bands that way. We’ve also been to see acrobatic clowns; talks on genetics, extracting DNA from medieval vellum and the ethics of sex robots; organ recitals; and a science-themed ceilidh. The goal was 55 things over 55 months: we did 80 and had a blast :)
- Show something in an exhibition (in any medium). It was only a few small thing, at a small scale exhibition but the process was the goal: preparing something and submitting it, choosing to put something of my work out there instead of hiding it away in a drawer at home.
- Swim with Daisy-dog & Wild swim in 5 different places. I’d always wanted to swim with Lily-dog but we’d never had the chance. Daisy is a much stronger swimmer and it’s so much fun swimming with her. John, who hates being cold, wasn’t keen to start with but he’s a convert too now. (One of my in-progress goals is to swim in every swimmable lake in the Lake District – done 7 out of 11 far.)
- Research & visit 5 prehistoric sites and 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites; take a road (or rail) trip, traveling for at least a week; spend at least five consecutive nights on a boat; visit the Scottish Highlands & Islands; and ride a horse along a beach. These, and a few other things like learning to identify birds, constellations or wild mushrooms, are in my “Wonders of the World” goal category – because the world is a wonderful place. These, particularly the first two, have been good prompts to go off route and look around a bit more – often not too far from home.
- Spend a day doing a completely new-to-me craft or practical skill x 10. I was not exactly been reluctant to try new things before (I flipping love doing short courses on fun subjects) but I had noticed that I was narrowing down a little, doing variations on something I already knew (eg stumpwork when I already do a lot of embroidery) rather than striking new territory (eg resin casting). As I said on Twitter, repeatedly trying new skills feels good for my mental health. I have a lot of ego wrapped up in being a knower of things: I think these experiences help me accept that I can’t know everything, and that being a bit rubbish at something new does not make me a failure as a person. Some of the things I tried, I loved and have continued to do since my taster session; other things, I didn’t enjoy as much as I thought I would, and now I can stop thinking about wanting to try them.
- Give up sugary treats for a week (then a month). After procrastinating over it for a long time, I surprised myself by how much I eventually smashed this one – the original goal had some caveats (eg “not counting squash or tea”) because it was focused on the habit of eating “treats”, but when it came to it, I ended up giving up all sweet things for a full month – no artificially sweetened substitutes, honey or agave etc. Given how much of a slave I am to sugar, it was surprisingly easy – after a week or so, I’d broken my usual habits and it wasn’t really any effort (except for the time when my friends & John wanted to go to a gelato & waffle place during an evening out: I deserve a flipping medal for sticking to my goal that night.) I quickly went back to eating sugary things after the month was over but nine months on, most of the original bad habits remain broken, my palate has adapted somewhat and my daily sugar intake has dropped considerably.
The 47 “in progress”
I try to keep this category in good faith – if something was in progress but it stalled, it went back to the “to do” list – but even so, realistically, a good chunk of these will probably never be completed. Nearly half (19/47) are more than halfway done though, and ten of those are more than 75% complete so should easily be ticked off by the end of the year.
As last year, the most interesting of these to share are the ones that other people might be able to help with. Please do shout if you can or want to join!
- Walk or cycle both the Leeds & Bradford city boundaries. I’ve cycled Bradford so just Leeds to do.
- Have a mini adventure every month in 2019. We’re 7 for 7 so far!
- Go on four multi-day cycling tours in 2019. I’ve done three – Coast & Castles (Newcastle to Edinburgh), Coast 2 Coast (Morecambe to Scarborough), and Yorkshire Wolds – so far. I’m eyeing a couple of options for autumn…
- Climb 5 mountains/fells/munros/hewitts etc. I’ve done two but am hopeless at organising the time to do more. Autumn!
- Improve my swimming, yoga & bouldering skills. (Not at the same time ;) ) I’ve got some specific skills listed for each – am nearly there for the swimming ones, yoga just needs me to focus again, but have a considerable way to go bouldering.
- Become a “confident beginner” at a water sport. We’ve done a short kayaking course and messed around in one in Ireland, so I’m hoping another day or two on the water will help me feel I can tick this off.
- Visit 20 islands around the British Isles. Fourteen down. I feel the Orkney archipelago calling me ;)
(These all make it seem like all my to-do goals are terribly active and outdoorsy. They are not. These are just the more social ones. I’m also working on art and/or craft related goals, writing ones, and have more based around French language practise.)
Over the last couple of years, I’ve moved a dozen or so into my “unlikely but still possible” category – see the optimism ;) These are mostly things that would have been a stretch when I came up with them in 2015 and have become even more unlikely as my focus has shifted onto other things. They’re mostly craft related (eg, sew a piece of clothing from my own handwoven fabric) but there are a couple of (German/other) language ones, as I’ve deep-dived more into French. These goals I feel I’ve consciously abandoned.
As for the rest (of which there are 62), some are a touch too aspirational to be achievable (especially with my flightiness) and a large amount are things I want to be able to do/have done, but clearly not really, really want to do, else I’d have got on and done it. I’m finding value looking through this category and thinking honestly about why I’ve not done each one: it’s mostly internal factors (procrastination & distracted by other things etc), rather than lacking resources or other external issues. This is giving me quite a bit of food for thought regarding who I am now (versus in 2015), and who I might be going forward.
I’m going to keep working on this flabby list until the end of the year to sweep up those last “in progress” goals, including the ones based on the calendar year, and maybe crack some of the things I’ve procrastinated over these last years.
After that though, I think it’ll be time for a new list, perhaps a 101 in 1001 days or just a random number until the end of, say, 2021. I have notes about some new things I want to do, and some of these old goals (especially the later additions) will make the transition as well but I’ll consider each one carefully to make sure I don’t clutter it up.
I have asked myself if I even need a list, now that I’m doing a lot better about actually living my life, but I think it’s still useful: a way to inspire myself and track my progress through new pursuits & adventures. I tend to have my list open in a tab on my laptop at all times, so it’s there, ready and waiting, whenever I have an idle “hmm what shall I do next?” moment. I want to keep doing things and I think this helps me keep doing things.
I also want to help others to do things too. Let’s share lists – whether you’ve got 3 things or 300 things on yours – and let’s see what we can push each other forward on. Let’s see what we both want to do and let’s go an adventure. I’ve got to do five more adventures in 2019 after all :D