The internet is full of bucket lists.
One sub-genre of this phenomenon is the X before X list, most commonly interpreted as 30 before 30. I’m sure you’ve seen some of these lists before. They tend to stick pretty close to the model of “30 Things You Absolutely Have To Do Before You Turn 30”, “30 Things Everyone Should Try Before Turning 30”, or even the scarily accusatory “You’ll Regret It If You Haven’t Done These 30 Things Before 30”. I’ve stumbled across these lists often enough, and even deliberately sought some out. I really do like the idea of lists like this, particularly as I see 30 as perhaps not as arbitrary a milestone as some people might. Ultimately however, these lists left me feeling kind of… unenthused.
I understand that lists of this nature have to be vague, in order to appeal to as great an audience as possible. I get that. I just don’t find it particularly appealing. Are there some wonderful ideas on those lists? Yes. Are there things I’d like to try at some point? Sure. Are they good at coming up with life experiences that can better you as a person? Absolutely.
From what I know of myself though, I won’t reach some higher point of satisfaction by ticking off somebody else’s list of must-dos. In all probability, I would never finish it in the first place due to that very same lack of motivation. So instead, I allowed these lists to get me to thinking for myself. What do I want to do with the rest of my twenties?
Keeping that question over to one side, I started thinking also about this very blog, and the whole idea of betterment. Can I create something tangible for myself? A checklist-formatted path to self-improvement? Maybe not in such clean terms, but I can certainly think about the kind of life I want behind me when I turn this chapter over, seven years from now.
And here’s what I have come up with.
Friends, let me present to you the most unnecessarily complex version of a thirty-before-thirty list that you’re likely to come across. I have eschewed the standard structure of 30 individual things, and have instead taken the two numbers, 30 (for the age I’ll be turning) and 7 (for the number of years until then), and have created a list of seven goals. These goals each represent their own lists, comprising either 30 things or seven. With me so far? No? It will probably become clearer once you see the list itself, but let me explain a little further.
Over the next seven years, I will be chipping away at each of these goals, none of which will be achievable with just one action. I have chosen lists of tasks that I believe will better me as a person simply for working away at them, rather than for completing them. Think of these lists perhaps more as forced hobbies than as goals. Make sense yet? Still no? Okay fine, I’ll just show you the list. Here goes.
1. Watch 7 new films each year
Pretty self-explanatory, but essentially the minimum is 7 new films per year that I’ve never seen before. Going over 7 in one year doesn’t mean I can watch less than 7 the next year.
2. Read 30 new books
This is a total of 30 by 30, meaning that it’s okay to read none one year and ten another year, and so on – as long as I read a minimum of 30 new books between my 23rd and my 30th birthdays.
3. Try 7 new hobbies for 7 x 30mins each
This one means that I have to try 7 different hobbies before I turn 30. For each of the 7, I have to commit at least 7 sessions of 30 minutes. That means 7 days where I practice -- one hour-long session does not count as two 30 minute sessions.
4. See 30 new acts live
Like the reading list, this is 30 acts I’ve never seen live before, between my 23rd and my 30th birthdays.
5. Visit 7 new countries
For this, I have to visit 7 countries I’ve never been to before, by the time I turn 30. It doesn’t have to be one per year.
6. Write 30 new short stories
Same as the reading list, but completing (not just starting!) 30 short stories.
7. Achieve 7 amazing things
Great, you say! I understand now! But Katie, what’s with the seventh goal?
What, you didn’t think I’d allow myself one vague one?
Seven amazing things between now and the age of thirty. Sounds good, but what qualifies as an amazing achievement? What doesn’t qualify? Well, that’s the beauty of it – I don’t know yet. Credit where credit is due, this idea was presented to me by the wonderful Mammy Eustace, who has suggested that when I know, I’ll know. If someone else says something I’ve done should count but I don’t feel it? It doesn’t count. If I think something’s an amazing achievement but it might not fit with the standard definition? It counts.
I love the seventh goal for two reasons. First, because it keeps the list open-ended. The things I see myself wanting now may not continue to be what I want as I get older, but I’ll always want to do amazing things. Leaving this undefined gives me room to try new things that aren’t on my list. Second, because I’ve always loved a bit of ironic self-sabotage. I could plan out the other six goals with a calendar and a schedule, but you try planning to achieve seven amazing things and let me know how far colour-coding gets you.
So that’s it, that’s my plan for a better me by ’23! My list of seven goals to keep me expanding my mind and trying new things. I’ll keep this blog updated on my progress, so you can expect to hear a lot more about each element.
If you like this idea, if you hate it, if you’ve ever tried something similar, let me know and we can talk about the magic of lists and imprecision.
Here’s to the next seven years!