“Before I’m 40 goals” update

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.
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Help me achieve my goals!

A few years ago, when I was coming out of the depression that engulfed my early 30s, I decided to put together a “101 goals in 1001 days” list. My friend Tom has sworn by them for a long time and I needed a bit of motivation to do things so thought I’d give it a try. Then I realised it wasn’t that much longer until my 40th birthday so I decided that would be my end marker instead.

For the first year or so, I mostly focused on the low hanging fruit – mostly the ones that I could do without leaving the sofa – then at the start of last year or thereabouts, when that Tom inspired me to actually start doing the things on my To Do list, I’ve started ticking off the bigger ones – and adding new things that I wouldn’t have dreamed about when I set up the list in 2015. (“Cycle 100miles in a day? Are you crazy??”, is what 2015 Louisa would have said about the thing I did fairly trivally at the start of this month.)

The list has evolved considerably since I started. Back then, I was addicted to pottery so there are a lot of goals around improving my throwing skills. The early ones also indicate how closed down my life was then – there is literally a goal that was to have a conversation with someone (not John/family/closest friends) every day for a week because that’s not a thing I did very often. (It still took me until April this year to do it.) I add ideas whenever I think of them so there is way over 101 on there now, even with a bit of mild pruning every once in a while when I think my interest has moved on too much (eg, I think it’s unlikely that I’ll put time into learning how to doubleweave on a rigid heddle loom any time soon).

I also stretch goals sometimes when I think I’ve achieved it too easily – or add another goal to say “do that X more times” – because the main aim for me isn’t to tick things off a list like I’m collecting Panini stickers; it’s to be doing stuff, to be living my life – because for a long time, I wasn’t. With that in mind, I won’t care too much if I get to 40 without ticking off a swathe of them as long as I’m making some progress working towards them. That said…

It’s my 39th birthday today. I have a year and a whole lot of “to do” items left on my list. A lot of them are things only I can do – eg, read five of my favourite novels in French (I’ve done two and a half so far) or finish writing another of my own (in English, because that’s hard enough) – but it would be great to have a bit of help with some of the other things. I could do them alone but it’ll help me prioritise them and they’ll be more fun with other people. And who knows, maybe they’ll help other people tick things off their lists too.

So can you help me?

Here’s some of the goals I think might benefit from a bit of assistance:

  • Organise a scavenger hunt
  • Produce and release ten episodes of a podcast
  • Spin yarn starting from raw fleece, ideally having helped shear the sheep/animal first.
  • Make mozzarella
  • Learn how to dive – I don’t mean fancy high board stuff, just regular swooping into a pool from the side.
  • Research & hide 5 local history themed geocaches
  • Go coasteering/surfing/kitesurfing/sea-kayaking and/or paddleboarding again
  • Walk or cycle both the Leeds & Bradford city boundaries – I’ve done Bradford but Leeds is a bit longer
  • Give a talk or teach a class/workshop on something I love
  • Travel Coast to Coast, by bike probably (possibly this autumn) but maybe walking?
  • Meet 2 internet buddies in person
  • Ride a roller coaster
  • Visit 5 prehistoric sites (large or small) and 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites (not counting Liverpool and Saltaire for obvious reasons ;))
  • Publish 3 more zines, including at least one factual one
  • Swim in all the swimmable lakes in the Lake District, and maybe a tarn and the sea too.
  • Visit 25 different islands around the British Isles – 12 down already, not counting the mainland
  • Climb 5 big hills – Hewitts/Munros/Wainwrights or whatever
  • Complete another personal mapping/location project (ie, using location as a way to explore memories. I already have a couple of these, for example, a map of everywhere I’ve ever spent the night in the UK.)
  • Top my longest ever walking day – then beat it again (longest day to-date = 19miles)
  • Learn to turn wood on a lathe and make something specific

Can you show me how to do these things? Do you know of relevant courses/workshops or other people that could help? Can you recommend locations or routes? Would you like to join me for any of these things?

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11 Goals for 2011: progress update

At the start of the year, I set myself 11 (+ another 5 subgoals) goals for the year. We’ve third of the way through the year now so I thought it was time for an update.

1. Increase the food output from our garden and make a meal only using stuff I’ve grown/foraged/caught/killed which can be cooked off-grid

I’m writing this during a tea break from working in the garden. We haven’t eaten anything we’ve grown this year yet but I’ve been busy busy busy out there. Our salad has been a bit slow off the mark this year but we should have our first lettuces this month, as well as maybe our first potatoes near the end of the month. We planted a lot of fruit trees and bushes at the start of the year too – six apple, two pear, a cherry tree, four blackcurrant bushes, two redcurrant bushes, two raspberry bushes, twelve strawberry runners, three honeyberry bushes, a cranberry bush and a loganberry bush. We also planted about six jostaberry canes but only one of them seems to have taken — all the other bushes & trees are growing well though.

The chickens are doing well – I spent a lot of time defrosting their water at the start of the year but not had to do too much of that lately ;) Two out of the three second batch of girls started laying in January and Buff, the fancy pure bred one, started eventually in March so (present broodiness aside) they’re all productive now. In March, when Buff started laying, they cranked out a massive 200 eggs between them. April has been a little slow – at only 180 eggs in total – because Ginger is broody. Only 180 eggs….! We’ve had on average of 5.43 eggs a day since the start of the year, rising to 6.45 eggs a day in March. We have give a lot away ;)

Foraging has been a little slower than I would have thought – we’ve eaten plenty of wild garlic but little else. I am getting better at identifying early Spring stuff – just not picking it and eating it ;)

2. Learn how to successfully take and propagate cuttings from every applicable type of perennial plant/shrub in the house/garden

Nothing has really been ready for this year – but I will start experimenting with some of the bigger herb bushes soon.

3. Create my own font – possibly of my handwriting

Not done anything on this yet.

4. Make a piece of furniture for the house (woodworking)

I have not done this yet but I have made a lot of things for the garden from wood – which is movement in the right direction. As I said at the end of last year, my goals were/are supposed to be putting me on a journey – this goal was supposed to get me making things, anything from wood, with the hope that my skills will improve gradually to the point where I’m confident to build something for the house out of nice, purpose bought (or nicer-than-normal salvaged) wood. I’m certainly making progress along that path so yay!

5. Make an entire outfit (to include conquering sewing patterns)

Spent January frantically crocheting a blanket but have done very little sewing/yarn crafty stuff for the last couple of months. Need to get back to it!

6. Go fishing in the North Sea

Not organised this yet. Am crap.

7. Learn how to screenprint

Yays! I’ve done this one! It was a lot of fun and we’ve been back for our Factory4 induction & a second screenprinting session since. Hopefully we’ll go back again in a few weeks.

8. Buy no more than 12 items of clothing across the year

This a Really Good Life challenge – and it’s going really well. I haven’t bought a single item of clothing or any accessories from either my exceptions list or from my quota in 2012. It’s actually been a lot easier than I thought – I do have “am bored of my clothes!” sulks but they pass surprisingly quickly.

I’ve also encouraged some other people to do the same challenge – which is great :)

9. Finish a developed piece of fiction writing

Not *really* done anything for this, aside from a short scene I developed with the kids from class as part of a performance at a youth theatre festival in February.

10. Specific food makery and/or eatery:

a) Bake at least once a week
I haven’t been as regular at baking as I’d like but if I include stuff like pizza dough as well as breads & biscuits, it probably is nearly once a week on average. We struggle with bread in the winter as we keep the house cooler than yeast-exciting temperature so hopefully we’ll bake more regularly over the spring/summer/autumn period.

b) Grow a sourdough starter and make bread from it
We’ve kinda done this – we got sourdough starters when we went on a bread making course with the Handmade Bakery in March — we’ve kept them alive and baked from them since. We didn’t actually grow them from scratch (they were started in Russia in the 1970s and River Cottage in 2005) but we’re cultivating them and using them. So yeah!

c) Make a hard cheese
Not done anything cheesy so far this year. Well, not cheese-making cheesy. Those in earshot of many of my jokes would contest the “done anything cheesy” assertion.

d) Try ten vegetables (or veggie wild foods) that I’ve not tried before
As I said above, I’ve not done much foraging this year but I did try wild sorrel earlier in the year and I’m growing three things I’ve not tasted before (rapini/broccoli raab, marigolds-for-salad-leaves and achocha!) so that’ll hopefully up my total. Oh, and I had pea shoots (which aren’t too exciting but were new to me) as part of my starter when we went to Salvo’s a few weeks ago.

e) Build a cold smoking cabinet, try cold smoking more stuff & try hot smoking too
I’m really keen to build another smoking cabinet and have been on the look out for furniture to adapt or wood to build a cabinet from scratch. Not spotted anything suitable yet but I’m hoping to get hold of some old kitchen cupboard doors soon, which should work. Can’t wait to make more smoked cheese!

11. Participate more in the real world – engage more with our local community and meet some internet people in real life
I so nearly met an internet person but then got sick. *shakes fist at culinary establishment that caused food poisoning* Boo.

Have mostly hidden inside/in our private garden for the last few months so not really done anything locally.

Not particularly local community related but at least away from my computer – I’ve been still doing dramatic things at Bingley Little Theatre – I made my debut as a stage-manager on the kids’ production of “The Would-Be Gentleman” in April. (I shadowed as a ASM & SM on a production earlier in the year too – didn’t really do much but learnt a lot.) We also went to the aforementioned youth theatre festival in York – two days of dramatic funness.


One goal (and one sub-goal) done, six (and two) in progress, and four (and two) still to do. On track!

11 Goals for 2011

Compared to last year, these seem a lot less varied – almost entirely simple living stuff. I think it’s partly because for many, it’ll mean they’re easier to accomplish so I can actually feel some achievement (unlike last year’s disappointing 2 out of 10 hit rate) and partly because this is where my interests are at the moment. No point making goals that I know in my heart of heart I have no interest in achieving!

1. Increase the food output from our garden and make a meal only using stuff I’ve grown/foraged/caught/killed which can be cooked off-grid
The driving goal of last year will be the main one for 2011 too – I want to dramatically increase the amount of food we produce in our garden this year. This means using our limited growing space in smarter ways (intercropping & continual use) and creating more growing space (more containers, baskets & wall planters etc).

I’m not sure how to measure this yet – a lot of people measure by weight but I think that underplays the value of light things – like salad, herb & chillis etc – and I don’t want to just grow heavy things in order to meet an arbitrary goal.

The second bit extends last year’s goal a little. The “cooked off-grid” bit will hopefully encourage me to make a rocket stove and/or solar oven — both things that have been on my vague to-do list for a while.

2. Learn how to successfully take and propagate cuttings from every applicable type of perennial plant/shrub in the house/garden
I save seeds where I can but that’s not always appropriate/possible – I’d like to learn more about taking and propagating cuttings to decrease my reliance on garden centres etc for certain types of plants. (Eventually, I’d hope this would include tree grafting but this won’t be in 2011.)

3. Create my own font – possibly of my handwriting
This is a bit of a nerdy one but something I’ve thought about doing for a while. I use a lot of handwriting fonts for personal projects and it would be nice to use my handwriting (such as it is) for a change.

4. Make a piece of furniture for the house (woodworking)
I’ve very much enjoyed making bits for the garden and want to continue doing that. But as I get better, I’d like to make something for the house to force me to learn and refine actual skills.

5. Make an entire outfit (to include conquering sewing patterns)
One brought over from 2010 – something I’d still very much like to do. I think I might need to attend a class or find a mentor to teach me about making stuff from patterns before I can really get going.

6. Go fishing in the North Sea
Another brought over from 2010 because I’m disorganised and didn’t get it booked in in time.

7. Learn how to screenprint
I increasingly find myself wanting to do art projects that would be much better and easier if I knew how to screenprint.

8. Buy no more than 12 items of clothing across the year
This is one of my big goals that I’ve talked about more on The Really Good Life. It’s more about reducing consumption than saving money – I might end up spending a similar amount because I buy better quality items.

9. Finish a developed piece of fiction writing
A bit of a vague one but I want to keep my options open – it might be a short story, it might be a one-act play, it might be a graphic novel, it might be a full length play or it might be a novel – I’ve got ideas for all five in my mind right now. I start a lot of things but I haven’t seen anything right the way through to the end of a while – and I’d like to get back into the habit of that.

10. Specific food makery and/or eatery (because if I did them all separately it would take up half the list):

a) Bake at least once a week
I really enjoy the process and the output but I don’t always make the time for it I should. I’m probably not far off this anyway but I’m going to add it to my recurring to-do list prompter to make sure I make time for it regularly in the future.

b) Grow a sourdough starter and make bread from it
I’ve tried growing starters a few times but not managed to get them lively enough to bake a loaf from them (or they’ve got too lively – with bad rather than good yeasts). I want to crack this!

c) Make a hard cheese
I went on a cheesemaking course last September and I loved it – but have yet to put into practise the things I learned. This year, I want to change that. I want to make proper soft cheese and a hard cheese too.

d) Try ten vegetables (or veggie wild foods) that I’ve not tried before
I know people that have goals to eat as many different kinds of animal as possible – but while I do enjoy many meats, I fancy having a veggie/wild food goal instead. I’m going to keep a track of the types of veg/veggie wild foods I eat so I can see how (un)varied my diet is – and force myself to try new stuff.

e) Build a cold smoking cabinet, try cold smoking more stuff & try hot smoking too
We loved the cheese I cold smoked last summer and I want to extend my smoking range. Since my last smoker cabinet got damp & fell apart (it was made from a cardboard box), I’ve been wanting to make a new one. I also want to try smoking meats and/or fish, as well as more cheese, chillis, eggs and other things.

11. Participate more in the real world – engage more with our local community and meet some internet people in real life
The goal is from last year but with a different suffix (last year was about organising an event). The first part isn’t a SMART goal because it’s not very specific or measurable – I might try to pin it down further as the year goes on. The second part is easier to measure and something I’ve been meaning to do for a while.

I’ll be adding some more not-quite-goals on The Really Good Life soon too.