40 Before 40: 40 Goals to Achieve Before my 40th Birthday

A Creative Living Challenge


“Who wants to do a 40 before 40 list?” says my school friend Julia Davies, founder of The Quiet Rebel Club, in the midst of all of us turning 37. I’m a big fan of a list, but it’s really only in the last year that I’ve made a to do list work for me. Essentially, it means realigning your actions with your core values and goals, and scrubbing out every “should do” item that creeps on (unless it essential to daily life  – MOT, fixing something that is broken, going to the dentist…). My weekly list used to be 50 items long, and so…bleurgh. Boring. Now, it’s around 10-15 and always at least half filled with goodies. 

Today, I’m sharing the list for a giggle and also maybe for some accountability. And because I want the original version on record before I overwrite it with updates over the following 2.5 years. Have a read and please let me know if you want to join in (obvs you don’t have to be heading for 40, just insert whatever number of goals and whatever deadline you fancy). 

The Goals I’ve Already Ticked Off Since my Last Birthday

1. Complete compiling my 40 before 40 (15th April 2024) list. No, it’s not cheating.

2. Watch the sunrise somewhere with a view. I woke early during an Airbnb cottage stay in the South Downs with a view over a meadow and out to a lake. There was a woodpecker. I’m not sure I’d ever seen a woodpecker for real before.

3. Be a London tourist with my daughters. Done. It was like having toddlers again, as since the Pandemic they have completely forgotten how to walk down a crowded pavement, move through a ticket barrier and negiotiate an escalator. It was like herding an octopus into a Coke can. 

4. Read The Magical Art of Not Giving an F by Sarah Knight. Not ground-breaking for me, but packed with healthy reminders and overall, an enjoyable read.

5. Read Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig. I love listening to Matt on podcasts and found the book a pacy read of eclectic thoughts. I wouldn’t read it if you are actually experiecing anxiety though, as it reminded me of things I had forgotten I should be anxious of – like Electro Magnetic Radiation.

6. Go on a boat trip. I’ve been on a couple, actually. For one of them, I was dressed as a pirate. 

7. Read Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker. Highly recommend. I helped me process what I went through when I had my first (non-sleeping) daughter. I also think I’ve picked up some nuggets about children/teen sleep and what happens in your body when you go to bed late or rise early (spoiler alert: it’s not good). Thought-provoking. A tad sciencey in place. There are podcast interviews where you will definitely get the gist instead. 

8. Read The XX Brain by Dr Lisa Mosconi. All humans should read this, but especially women over 30. It’s sciencey but accessible, shocking in places, ultimately empowering. I wrote to her to say thank you for writing this book after reading it, as I think sometimes we forget to thank authors who move us as reading is very one-directional.  

goals vs to do list blog post


9. Treehouse minibreak with best school girlfriends 

10. Day out with my father, his choice

11. Day out with my mother, her choice

12. Fancy afternoon tea with my daughters

13. Take my daughters to a West End musical

14. Take a kitchen garden mini break for two eg The Pig

15. Plan a special day out with my godson


16. Write a letter to five best girlfriends

17. Host a garden dinner party for friends

18. Big night out with school run mums, outside of our postcode, with no curfew


19. Sell a product with my illustration printed on it

20. Take piano lessons

21. Try a new dance class

22. Be hired as a creative living mentor

23. Take a driving lesson, by order of my school best friends

24. Learn to wallpaper

25. Run 5k under 30 mins

26. Hold a yoga headstand

goals vs to do list creative livingblog post

The Rest of the Reading List

27. Read Essays in Love by Alain de Botton

28. Read Olive by Emma Gannon (I asked for contributions from a few of my inner circle. This book was proposed by a schoolfriend to deepen my understanding of what it means to be childfree by choice)

29. Read Any Human Heart by William Boyd (proposed by uni friend)

30. Read A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (proposed by my mother)

31. Read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time (proposed by another schoolfriend)

32. Read Think Again by Adam Grant

33. Read Super Attractor by Gabrielle Bernstein

34. Read The Good Ally by Nova Reid

goals vs to do list creative blogger blog post

At Home

35. Schedule all our Lockdown wishing jar wishes This is a jam jar of ideas we created throughtout 2020. Everytime one of us said “I wish we could just go to the cinema” or “I reeeeeaalllly fancy sushi tonight” – it got scribbled down and put into the jar. 

36. Reduce household single-use plastic to bare minimum (need to find a way to qualify this)

37. Reduce Amazon Prime consumption to bare minimum (need to find a way to qualify this)

38. Eat veggie for one week

39. Have up to date photo albums

40. Create an A1 artwork I’m proud of, just for us

The list will change, of course. My commitment to the yoga headstand is hovering around the 20-30% mark. I’m content with the idea that the list is organic, dynamic, just as all goals can be. I’m am loving checkig in on my friends’ progress too, especially Julia who is fastidious about marking which of the tasks are in progress. I know I’ll open up the spreadsheet around my birthdays/ Christmas/ New Year’s Eve and make cheeky tweaks. It’s ok. Creavite living is for the process, not the outcome. 

love Charlotte

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