The Thirty (Or, How To Get the Most Out of a Year)

Today, I'm turning thirty. Since that's a grown-up age, there will now be a certain level of gravitas attributed to my every word, and I will automatically be taken seriously by all academic researchers, corporate executives, and government officials. I will be perceived as a fount of wisdom and showered with laudations for my every deed. Don't tell me I'm wrong; I've been waiting for years to gain admittance to The All-Powerful Thirty Club. You can deny me no longer.

At the beginning of each year, I create a list of tasks that I want to accomplish. This year's list is titled "The Thirty" and consists of thirty tasks because I'm unbelievably boring. There's only one guideline that I keep in mind when creating this list: I need to feel excited about completing every single task. That doesn't necessarily mean that the tasks themselves need to be exciting. "Get your driver's license" wasn't going to light my world on fire -- but the thought of using that little ID card for my passport application (after the post office rejected my permit) was enough to put that task at #13 on my list.

So, without further ado, The Thirty:

1. Run a 5K (registered for The Color Run on May 8)
2. Join a gym
3. Apply to lecture at a conference (completed)
4. Travel abroad
5. Visit a nutritionist (completed)
6. Become a WW Lifetime Member
7. Apply for a teaching award
8. Order a food-related subscription box
9. Go to a group fitness class
10. Take a cooking class
11. Buy a bikini for the first time ever
12. Go on a date
13. Get your driver's license (completed)
14. Learn to ride a bike (first lesson completed: February 21)
15. Submit an article for publication
16. Take the GRE exam
17. Apply to a summer program (completed)
18. Get a new tattoo
19. Email a theater company that you really admire and introduce yourself (completed)
20. Go on a scenic multi-day hike (scheduled for April 25-29)
21. Take a personal day off of work (scheduled for June 13)
22. Go on an adventure tour of a cave
23. Do an athletic activity that cannot be found at the gym (archery, circus skills, etc.)
24. Go to a spa and get absurdly pampered
25. Get professional headshots taken (scheduled for June 13)
26. Then get trashy boudoir photographs taken (scheduled for June 13)
27. Have a makeup lesson with a professional
28. Have a party in your apartment (like with other people)
29. Start a personal blog (completed -- obviously)
30. Actually celebrate your 30th birthday (completed)

One quick best practice: I used to write down "get published." Now, I write down "submit an article for publication" instead. I have no control over whether or not a magazine chooses to publish my work. I could deliver unto them all of the Graze snickerdoodle dip in the world, and it might not change their minds.

(Seriously though, I dream of this stuff.)

So you need to think carefully about your locus of control. What can I do that will get me closer to my goal, even if things don't work out as planned? For example, I've already been rejected from one summer program, but I generated tons of copy working on the application. I know that I can go back to that application and reuse parts of my personal statement and project proposal in the future.

I've never done this activity with students -- but I'd like to start. All too often, students think exclusively about the goals that we, as teachers and parents, have for them. You will graduate from college. You will make two years of reading growth. You will get onto Honor Roll this quarter. They often don't get the chance to consider what THEY would like to accomplish, what excites THEM. I'd love to see students take greater ownership of their aspirations for the future, as opposed to listening to them regurgitate whatever they heard during fifth grade orientation.

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