40 Things Every Woman Should Do Before Turning 40

Ah yes, the daunting inevitability of getting old. Whoops, did I say old? While I have not yet surpassed the quarter-century milestone myself, growing further and further away from my carefree teenage years definitely has me thinking about my life’s “bucket list.” I often think about what I have accomplished in the past and what I hope to accomplish in the future.

The ever-increasing number of birthday candles on the annual sweet symbol of aging should be an inspiration to continue to live our lives to the fullest. Not all to-do lists have to be formidable! These 40 things to do before you’re 40 should serve as a source of inspiration as opposed to a source of stress!

1. Go abroad. 

At least once. Even if it is just over the border. I suggest, no I urge you travel outside of your home country just one time. Being in a foreign country, far from the boundaries of your comfort zone, provides learning and growing opportunities like no other. Just do it already.

2. Read a classical novel in its entirety.

woman reading book in the park 2

There are so many amazing, incredible, beautifully written, life-changing, phenomenal (adjective overload?) classic works of literature collecting dust at the library. Put away your mortifyingly terrible 50 Shades trilogy and pick up an honorable example of the English language.

3. Write a thank-you card.

If you have never handwritten a thank-you card, I’m not really sure what to say. Get your pen and paper out and write a thank-you card to someone, anyone, who deserves a note of gratitude. “Thank you for being you.”

4. Cook a new recipe.

Grab the nearest cookbook, pick a random page, and put your apron on. It’s time to excite those taste buds.

5. Write in a journal.

Even if one entry is all you get, put those busy thoughts on paper. At least once.

6. Smile at a stranger.

For no particular reason.

7. Go 24 hours without technology.

Put away the smartphones, close your laptop, and shut off the television. All of this technology in our lives, while wonderful at times, can turn our minds into a jumbled mess. Give your stress levels a rest and enjoy at least one day of complete solitude. You’ll live, I promise.

8. Laugh until you cry.

Salty little bundles of joy!

9. Sing karaoke.

I don’t care how bad you are. If it will cause eardrums to bleed, maybe try a bar out of town.

10. Get your adrenaline pumping.

skydiving group

Go bungee jumping, white water rafting, skydiving, riding roller coasters, rock climbing, whatever. Just get that blood pumping and your heart racing, and live to tell the tale.

11. Attend a sporting event.

If you haven’t yet, you’re missing out. There’s nothing more fun than eating food out of the back of a truck, painting your face, and screaming until you have no voice. Right?

12. Do something in front of a large group of people.

For some this may sound easy. For others, this is your worst nightmare. Give a speech, do a dance, sing a song, whatever it is, do it. Kiss those anxieties goodbye.

13. Go camping.

Camping can take many forms. While I prefer a single person tent and a shower of muddy river water, others choose the luxuries of a cabin with beds and electricity. Try the former option just once. Nature is incredible, and there’s no better way to enjoy it.

14. Go vegetarian.

Try it for one week. Want to take it to the extreme? Go vegan.

15. Finish a race.

Any race will do. Whether it is as ambitious as the Iron Man or as simple as a one mile walk, the feeling of accomplishment you will feel after finishing any race is unbeatable.

16. Do something alone.

Something that you’d never imagine doing solo. Catch a flick or check out that new restaurant, and intentionally forget inviting anyone.

17. Volunteer.

Whether you simply want to spend a day sorting donations or take a whole summer abroad to build a school, volunteering will broaden your outlook on the rest of the world and life in general. I’ve never had a greater appreciation for life than when I was volunteering in a village in Thailand.

18. Go to the beach.

two friends on the beach

If you’ve never seen the beautiful phenomenon of sand meets sea, then your life is incomplete.

19. Watch a sunset.

One of the most astounding natural occurrences. It happens everywhere, every day.

20. Watch a sunrise.

See above.

21. Go to a concert.

Any kind of concert. Enough said.

22. Grow your own food.

I have a brown thumb. I’ve settled for a simple basil plant. It seriously rivals cats and their lives.

23. Finish high school.

Here’s a shocker: college is not, and should not, be for everyone! Too many of us graduate with thousands of dollars of debt looming over our heads only to find out that what we invested in learning for the past four years was a complete discovery of what we don’t want to do. Finish high school, and figure out the rest along the way. College will always be there. And so will those loan sharks.

24. Write a letter to yourself.

To be read in 10 years. That will be interesting.

25. Think one positive thought every day before you get out of bed.

This great feeling will follow you throughout the day.

26. Decide whether or not you want to have kids.

Women reaching the ripe young age of 40 should have come to a conclusion by this point as to whether they want to be incorporating diaper changes, timeouts and acne as a part of their lives. And all the love and joy that comes with it.

27. Play in the snow.

Build a snowman, go skiing, jump on a snow tube.

28. Learn a foreign language.

The more obscure, the better.

29. Play the lottery.

You never know! Be sure to allocate a portion of your winnings to me.

30. Go scuba diving or snorkeling.

woman snorkeling

There is a whole other world down there, and you’re seriously missing out if you never try it.

31. Give yoga a try.

Even if you just sit there and breathe through the whole class. You owe it to yourself.

32. Quit a bad habit.

Smoking, biting your nails, gossiping, texting while driving. Identify your worst habit and get rid of it.

33. Vote.

If you’ve never casted a ballot, get your butt to the voting booth! You don’t have to vote for the next president, but at least take part in the local elections. Come on already!

34. Teach.

Teach somebody, anybody, something, anything, new. Does that make sense?

35. Work out.

female workout at gym

Exercise those muscles at least once in your life. For your sake, I hope this is already a well-formed habit.

36. Create something and sell it.

You can write a book and sell it or simply bake some brownies and send them in for the bake sale.

37. Replace your coffee with green tea.

Instead of getting your caffeine fix every morning, try some green tea. It’ll help keep those pearly whites, well, white, and that late afternoon crash at bay.

38. Bake bread from scratch.

My homemade version of Wonder Bread wasn’t exactly wondrous, but still cool nonetheless.

39. Watch international news.

Learning more about the way the rest of the world works will forever be valuable and offer fresh perspectives.

40. Attend a festival.

Find a festival you think you’d love, or one you think you’d hate. Who’s to say the crochet festival isn’t going to be exciting? Or just stick to wine and jazz…

There you have it. 40 things that every woman should do before turning 40. Now get to work!

What are some things you would like to do before turning 40?

About the author

Alexandra Sheehan

Alex is a self-proclaimed nomad, having lived in three different countries over the past two years. When she isn’t cooking or traveling, you can find Alex curled up with a book, at the gym, or cheering on her favorite football team.


Click here to post a comment

  • Thank you, Alexandra. It’s a beautiful list, not to mention that out of all such lists I have read, this one is head and shoulders above the rest. Keep writing and all the best!

  • Thanks, Emme! I’ve been slowly but surely making my way down this list. I have to practice what I preach! I hope you had as much fun reading this post as I did writing it. :)

  • Such a fun list;I turn 40 next year and will get to go to Europe and build a snowman for the first time in my life….yipee! The rest of the list;got a few things to accomplish.Thanks Emme.

  • I’ve done all but 30 and 36 on this list, I’d like to do those things though oh well I got 12 more years!

  • I’m only 23 and I’ve done everything on this list except write a letter to myself to read in ten years…thankfully I have 17 years to do that :p great list! Really covers a lot of ground :)