The Before You're 40 Bucketlist

20 things everyone should do before they turn 40.

Your twenties and thirties are two of the most important decades of your life. You’re figuring out what you want to do professionally, determining what you believe spiritually and establishing yourself as a real-life grown-up. But don’t let your young adult years slip by without making an under-40 bucketlist—a list of things-to-do before you hit the big 4-0.

Here are 20 things to accomplish before your 40th birthday:

Read the Entire Bible Cover-to-Cover

Reading the Bible from front to back may sound like a daunting task, but with read the Bible in year resources like the YouVersion app, it’s a manageable goal. Even though you may have already read most of scripture throughout the course of your life, reading it as a linear narrative, one book at a time, gives you a new perspective on the story of the Gospel.

See Your Favorite Band Live at Least Once

One day, you’ll want to tell your kids, friends or family about that time you drove all night to see U2 play a stadium in Chicago, found tickets to a sold-out Sufjan Stevens show at a small venue in your hometown or saw Sigur Ros under the stars at an amphitheater. Concert tickets can be expensive, but it's worth it to see a great band live.

Run a Marathon (or Some Kind of Endurance Race)

No matter what your current fitness level is, there are lots of options for you to take part in an endurance race. Whether it’s a 5K, Tough Mudder or a full-length marathon, choose a distance you’ll actually have to train for a few months to complete. Part of the joy of the accomplishment is looking back at all of the hard work you put in.

Watch Every Film on the AFI Top 100

Back in 1998, the American Film Institute polled 1,500 leaders in the film community and asked them to help assemble the top 100 American movies ever made. The list (which was updated in 2007) contains some movies that you’ve probably already seen (like Rocky, Forest Gump, Star Wars and Jaws) but its the deeper cuts (like Rear Window, Stagecoach, Duck Soup and All Quiet on the Western Front) showcasing the evolution of filmmaking and American pop culture, that make the task of watching each film such a rich experience.

Pick a Country and Go Visit

Before you turn 40, pick at least one country that you’ve always wanted to visit, and make it happen. Create a plan to save a little money and store up some vacation time to go to the one place you’ve always wanted to see.

Speak a Second Language

If you are picking a country to go visit, why not try to also learn the language spoken there?

Write Letters to the Five People Who Have Most Impacted Your Life

Don’t make the mistake of not telling the important people in your life how much they’ve impacted you. Even if the letters are short, sometime before you turn 40, think of the five people who have helped shape you as an adult, and let them know what they’ve meant to you.

Watch Every Season of a Few Great TV Shows

We are living in a golden age of television, in which critically acclaimed shows are the new Great American Novels. Pick out a few of the shows that will be remembered for making serialized TV important again, and watch them in their entirety. Marathon through a series like Arrested Development, The Walking Dead, The Wire or Breaking Bad, and see how the medium of television was reinvented in your generation.

Give Away Something Really Expensive

Before you turn 40, you should know the feeling of giving something away that costs a lot of money. Maybe you pool money with a couple of friends to buy a car for a single mom in need. Maybe it’s plane tickets for friend to go on a mission trip. Maybe it’s a bunch of really nice Christmas presents for kids who wouldn’t get any otherwise. At some point in your twenties or thirties, make it your personal goal to save enough money to give someone else something amazing.

Make Amends With Any 'Enemies'

Once you hit your late twenties, you are officially too old to still harbor bitterness toward anyone else. Before you hit 40, make an effort to make amends with anyone in your life that you have any ill feeling toward. As Christians, there’s no excuse to carry unforgiveness—especially through adulthood.

Apply for Your Dream Job

Don’t look back later in life with regret, wondering what could have been. Even if you don’t think you’re qualified for the job you’ve always dreamed of, at some point in your twenties or thirties, apply for the job you've always wanted. It may not lead to any dramatic career choice, but unless you give it a shot, you will never know.

Take the Stage. Alone

Preach a sermon. Try stand-up comedy. Deliver a TED-like lecture. Find an opportunity to be alone on a stage in front of a crowd with nothing to move them but a microphone and your own thoughts. Public speaking can be terrifying—but it can also be exhilarating .

Go on a Road Trip of at Least a Thousand Miles

There’s something philosophical that happens when you’re on the road for more than 15 hours, exploring America through highways and interstates. Just consult the work of Jack Kerouac and you’ll see that the journey isn’t about the destination—it’s about the road trip.

Write a Short Story

Everyone has a good story in them. Take the time to craft at least one good short story at some point in your twenties or thirties. You don’t ever have to publish it or even share it with anyone else, but it’s an exercise of self-analysis that everyone should go through at least once.

Go On a Mission/Humanitarian Aid Trip

Sure, sometimes “short-term mission trips” have been criticized for offering short-term solutions to long-term needs, but if you find the right destination and the right cause, it can be a life-changing experience. But remember, the point of a trip isn’t to teach others about what you know—it’s also about allowing them to teach you from what they have been through.

Learn to Play an Instrument

Grab that old guitar sitting in the attic, pick up a harmonic or go ahead and purchase that drum set you’ve always wanted. Who knows? Maybe you even a have a hidden talent that’s just waiting to be discovered.

Find a Mentor and a Mentee

You’re never too old to learn from someone older than you—and to teach someone younger.

Memorize the Lord’s Prayer, the Apostle’s Creed, the Great Commission and the Beatitudes

By memorizing these relatively short items, you’ll be able to recite four key principles of Christian faith—how to pray (the Lord’s Prayer), your calling (the Great Commission), the teachings of the Gospel (the Apostle’s Creed) and how to live (the Beatitudes).

Face your fear

Whether it’s public speaking, an aversion to water, the fear of rejection or a dislike of flying, you don’t have to totally conquer your fears in your twenties or thirties, but you should face them. Sign up for swimming lessons, go to Toast Masters or even seek counseling. Taking steps to control your fear as an adult will make sure it doesn’t have to control you.

Sponsor a child

There are a ton of organizations (World Vision, Compassion International, ChildFund International), that will let you sponsor a child in need for less than your cell phone bill. Sometime between before your 40th birthday, commit to a year—the letters you’ll receive alone make the whole experience worth it.

21 Comments

Greg Neumayer

4

Greg Neumayer commented…

This is a good list, although I get the feeling the use of "by the time you're 40" is a euphemism for saying "before your life gets complicated by things that not everyone gets to have it complicated by so I won't be explicit because it will totally derail the comments with angry people who think I'm generalizing." LOL. Ok. So, 40's not significant, but I will agree. Get out there. Do those things. I have great memories of quitting my job, living abroad for no particular reason, pretending I'll be Nashville's next big thing, or serving in Africa. I'm 41 now, and whether it's kids, careers, illness, or even aging parents, you never know what twists life will take that will make you appreciate (or regret) the opportunities that happened back when it wasn't a big deal to quit a $10/hr job, put your ferret and your life's possessions in your Honda and hit the road. Go.

Sara Gonzales

20

Sara Gonzales commented…

Alright, I’m 28, and I’ve done 8/20... That’s not too bad. But there are still more countries I want to visit, an instrument and a language I’ve only started, and a mentor I still need to find. I think I’m on the right track...

Katherine Coble

1

Katherine Coble commented…

If you do it before you're 40 it's technically not a "bucket list"; it's a "before you're 40" list. A bucket list is so named because it's the stuff you want to do before you die.As a 43 year old believer I kinda resent the implication that turning 40 is akin to death.That's a bit of ageism I'm disappointed to see in a Christian-targeted publication.

Dawn Sullivan

3

Dawn Sullivan replied to Katherine Coble's comment

Katherine, no one implied that 40 is akin to death. I think you are reading way too much into this. My goal as a Christian is to continue to become more in touch with Jesus in character traits like being less harsh, critical and judgmental.

Grant Story

37

Grant Story commented…

LOL, I'm a little surprised to hear that reading the Bible is so hard that we can only hope to do it once before 40!

C'mon you guys... the Bible's awesome. Read it all the time! Once a year, at minimum, is totally possible and good for your walk with God!

Ryan Beachy

5

Ryan Beachy commented…

Pretty good list. But isn't the author (Jesse Carey) only in his 20's. We need an older author for a legit list.

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