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Birthday Bucket List: 25 Things to Do Before Your Next Birthday

birthday bucket list

Birthdays—like the New Year– are a fresh start, which means that they’re a great time to create a bucket list.

Experts at Wharton found that “fresh starts” throughout the year cause people to evaluate their lives in a wider context and be more effective at setting goals. In addition, tackling a goal during a “fresh start” increases people’s chances of achieving that goal. “Fresh starts” are temporal landmarks that allow us to say the following:

  • The past is behind me.
  • I’m ready to become a new, improved version of myself.

The most obvious “fresh start” is New Years. However, birthdays are another opportunity to start anew. My birthday was on May 2nd, so I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what I want to achieve before my next birthday. One popular tradition is to create a bucket list every year on your birthday, with the number of items to be achieved in the next 365 days equal to the number of years you’ll be turning next.

So, for example, you could create the following bucket lists:

  • 30 Before 30 Bucket List
  • 40 Things to Do Before Turning 40
  • 50 Experiences to Have Before Turning 50

You get the picture. With that in mind, here are 25 ideas on things to do before your next birthday:

1. Splurge and have a meal at one of the world’s best restaurants. If you’d like some ideas on restaurants you may want to dine at, year after year these three top the lists of great restaurants:

  • Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark;
  • Alinea in Chicago, Illinois; and
  • Napa Valley’s French Laundry.

In the alternative, you can try at least one dish you’ve never eaten before.

2. Test drive your dream car. Most people have a dream car. What’s yours? Find a dealership for that car and just walk in as if you own the place (attitude goes a long way), and ask one of the salespeople for a test drive.

In the alternative, rent your dream car for a day. Last, but not least, there are companies that will allow you to spend the day driving several exotic luxury cars. By your next birthday you may not own your dream car, but at least you’ll have driven it.

3. Conquer one of your biggest fears. Everyone’s afraid of something. What are you afraid of? Choose one of these things and start planning now how you’re going to get over that fear. This could be fear of heights, fear of public speaking, fear of rejection, or anything else that makes you shake in your boots.

There are few things in life that will give you more of a confidence boost than conquering one of your fears.

4. Learn to make one cocktail really well. Think Margaritas, Long Island Iced Tea, or Mai Tais. Once you’ve gotten the hang of it, invite some friends over and let them sample and enjoy your new-found talent.

5. Try a new sport. There are tons of sports you can try. To name just a few, you can try paddle boarding, ski boarding, or mountain biking.

6. Get into the best shape of your life. These days, getting into the best shape of your life is achievable even if you’re in your forties (look at Sofia Vergara and Hugh Jackman). However, it’s not a goal that can be put off until the last moment, so you better get going with this one.

7. Own a power suit. Make this the year you finally get that power suit you would be proud to wear if you were suddenly called in for an interview for the job of your dreams. It doesn’t have to be a Giorgio Armani pantsuit or a Channel suit, but you do want it to suggest exclusivity.

8. Sign up to be a mentor or spend some time volunteering. Teach others something you’re knowledgeable about, raise money for a charity, or coach a youth soccer team. Opportunities for helping others abound.

9. Attend a major sports event. What’s your favorite sport? What’s the major event for that sport? Make plans to go before you reach your next birthday. Here are some ideas to consider: the Kentucky Derby, the World Cup, or the Super Bowl.

10. Take a MOOC—a Massive Open Online Course. Although you can find a MOOC in practically any subject you can think of, popular choices include Gamification, Learning to Program, and Songwriting. Here are ten ways taking a MOOC will improve your life.

11. See your favorite artists perform live. Think David Bowie, Fleetwood Mac, and The Rolling Stones.

12. Adopt one habit that will have a major positive impact on your life. Ideas include becoming an early riser, starting an exercise program, or writing for an hour every morning. Meet your next birthday with another positive habit under your belt.

13. Drop one habit that is holding you back. Do you have a bad habit that’s sabotaging your efforts to get ahead in life? Drop it within the next 365 days! This can include smoking, eating junk food on a regular basis, and spending too much time watching TV.

14. Read a book. Cross at least one book off of your “books to read before I die list” and come one step closer to your goal of being well-read. Popular options include Don Quixote, War and Peace, and Moby Dick.

15. Take a 30-day challenge. Taking a 30-day challenge is a great way to jump-start an important goal. For example, you can challenge yourself to do the following:

  • Exercise for half-an-hour every day, for 30 days;
  • Stick to your budget for the next 30 days; or
  • Take a photo every day, for 30 days.

The possibilities for 30-day challenges are endless.

16. Cross one item off of your travel bucket list. Take a look at your travel bucket list and choose one place to visit before the earth orbits the sun–with you on it–one more time. Make this the year you finally climb the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France; or visit Machu Picchu in Peru; or transit the Panama Canal.

17. Increase your income. There are many ways to start making more money. Examples include making yourself more valuable at work and then asking for a raise, getting a job that pays more, or starting a business on the side. Start taking steps now in order to be a little bit richer by your next birthday.

18. Redecorate one room in your home. Remodel your kitchen by adding classic country details; add a swing and some wicker furniture to the front porch to encourage neighbors to stop by and shoot the breeze; or turn your bathroom into a peaceful oasis, complete with a clawfoot tub for taking long baths.

19. Do something adventurous. The truth is, everyone’s definition of “adventure” differs. However, typically, adventure refers to activities such as taking a glider flight, trying indoor skydiving, or going abseiling. If these ideas don’t rock your boat, that’s OK. Come up with your own.

20. Improve your relationships with others. You shouldn’t leave relationships out of your bucket list. It’s important to have a close group of friends you can rely on, and to get along well with others. There are many things you can do in order to improve your relationships with others, such as the following:

  • You can choose to befriend someone new;
  • You can reconnect with someone you’ve lost touch with; or
  • You can look for ways to spend more time with someone you love.

21. Create something new. Who doesn’t have the urge to create? By the time your next birthday comes around you could have a painting made by you hanging on your wall; you could be selling an eBook you wrote on Amazon; or you could be wearing a scarf you knitted yourself.

22. Become a better person. You can become a better person by achieving one of your personal development goals. Personal development goals can include things such as becoming more confident, overcoming procrastination, or learning to manage stress effectively.

23. Have more fun. As Jim Morrison once wrote, “No one gets out of here alive.” Make a list of ways to have fun (think of things that are fun for you) and make sure that you incorporate as many items on that list as you can into the next year of your life.

24. Make yourself more attractive. Let’s face it, attractive people have a leg up in the world. However, there’s no need to go out and get plastic surgery. Instead, work with what you’ve got. You can get a great haircut that suits your face, have your teeth whitened, or get yourself some clothes that fit you well.

25. Put yourself out there. Stop holding yourself back. Submit your short stories to magazines to be published; read your poetry out loud at a poetry open mic; or audition for the lead in a play. “Someday” is now. Make this the year you muster up the courage to make your mark in the world. After all, each birthday is a reminder that you’re not getting any younger.


If you create a bucket list on your birthday, and you begin crossing items off of that bucket list right away, by your next birthday you’ll be a new and improved version of yourself. And isn’t the point of life to be a little better each year? I think so.

Think of your next birthday as a “fresh start” and spend the day creating a bucket list of all of the things you’re going to achieve before you’re blowing out candles on your birthday cake once again.

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