The summer I was 25, my then-26-year-old friend and yoga sister Natalie shared
This list can be comprised of small things or big things, silly things, serious things, goals, travel aspirations, relationship goals, financial, academic, and career dreams, hobbies, or whatever else crosses your mind. I had a blast creating mine and editing it as items become more or less important (I care less now about being able to do the splits, for example, and more about doing a vipassana meditation retreat), and checking items off the list as I complete them. This list helps me reflect on what is important to me and where I want to be at 30. I much prefer this to a 5-year plan because it includes aspirations beyond financial and career ones, and because I prefer to remain open to opportunities rather than have a fixed plan.
I originally made this list a year and a half ago and temporarily forgot about it until a few months ago when I was pleasantly surprised to discover that I had already completed a number of things on the list and am on track to complete just about all the other ones. This list can help shape the trajectory of your future, helping you maintain balance in the areas of life which matter most to you. The benefit of a practice like this is in setting intentions which will naturally unfold over time if they remain important.
This morning, I shared this practice with my new 23-year-old friend Emily I met at the Thai Embassy in Penang, Malaysia (we were both renewing our visas. Who knew the embassy was a great place to meet BFFLs?) Anyway, we had a blast brainstorming her list. This was so fun to do with her, and she seemed to get so much out of it, that I decided to share it with my online community so that more people can benefit from it. This list is best completed sometime in the early to mid-20s (22-26ish) to give you enough years in life to have an idea of what you want, but enough time to reasonably complete 30 things. However, I think it can be completed at any age and can be adapted for different decades.
Here are some pointers for making your list:
1. Don’t think too hard. Just start scribbling stuff out, even if you’re unsure. You can add, cut, reword, and alter it later
2. Know that you’re not married to this list. You can change it at any time!
3. Make it a living document in Word or Google Docs so you can easily edit it
4. Make SMART goals when possible – specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound (don’t just put “be healthy,” “make good decisions,” etc. (Some items will lend themselves better to SMART goals than others
Ideas for what to include on your list:
1. Relationships and family
2. Silly or weird things you’ve always wanted to do
3. Travel aspirations
4. Career and finances
5. Academic and intellectual pursuits
6. Health and physical aspirations – wellness, lifestyle, nutrition, competing in races, attaining physical milestones, etc.
8. Charity and social/environmental pursuits
9. Spiritual, psychological and emotional development
In case anyone is curious, here’s my list. It’s a work-in-progress, has more than 30 things on it, and will probably change over time! The ones I have completed since first making the list are in bold. I’m still working on the rest.
Emma’s 30 Before 30
1. Start a website and write articles to share with others
2. Go to Southeast Asia
3. Finish my master’s degree
4. Complete a 500-hour yoga teacher training
5. Squat 200 pounds
6. Confidently ask a boy out on a date (I have always let others come to me first!)
7. Become a multi-faceted wellness professional able to offer multiple therapies/practices such as yoga, counseling, TRE, massage, etc.
8. Live in another country for at least 1 year (almost there!)
9. Do a Tough Mudder or a similar race
10. Participate in a 10-day vipassana meditation retreat
11. Visit at least 30 countries
12. Develop healthy self-compassion, self-confidence, and self-efficacy
13. Contribute the maximum amount to my Roth IRA every year
14. Have a long-term relationship
15. Launch my own private therapy practice
16. Make an edible garden (this can be a tiny windowsill garden, a large outdoor garden or anything in between… I just want to have the experience of growing my own food and tending to plants!)
17. Develop a healthy lifestyle as a habit and as a baseline – follow the USDHHS weekly exercise recommendation and eat 5+ fruits and veggies a day at minimum
18. Go on a long (1 month +) hike such as El Camino de Santiago, the Appalachian Trail, or the Pacific Crest Trail
19. Read at least 10 books per year
20. Become a Licensed Clinical Professional Counselor
21. Begin to build a home by making an intentional move to a city where I will flourish
22. Visit a close friend who lives in a foreign country
23. Set foot on all 6 continents
24. Have a strong mindfulness meditation practice; practice mindfulness as a way of life
25. If I’m living in the U.S., make at least $50,000 per year by the time I’m 30
26. Face the things that have happened to me throughout my life, understand how they have shaped me, and do my very best to become my own person. Have compassion and acceptance for my past and the people involved in both the good and bad parts, be grateful for the goodness, accept the things I am unable to change, commit to my personal work, and take responsibility for who I become (This is an ongoing process which I commit to in my 20s, but I will not be “complete” by any certain date)
27. Be able to do 10 pull-ups or chin-ups
28. Swim in bioluminescent water
29. Meet a famous person I admire (Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, Jedadiah Jenkins, Bec Chambers…)
30. Get published in Psychology Today or Yoga Journal
31. Have a strong, healthy spine, and hopefully correct my posture as a result (this has powerful psychological and physical value for me)
32. Begin regularly donating 10% of my income to charity (this is something I have intended to do, but need to ensure personal financial stability first)
33. Go on a long road trip through the United States or Australia, preferably with people I love a lot
34. Start a Ph.D. program or advanced studies program of some sort
If you think you’d benefit from a list like this, grab a pen and paper, your phone, or whatever you have to write with and start brainstorming! This might be the first step towards shaping your life the way you want to live it.