40 For 40 Progress Report 6/12

And my year of being 40 is now halfway over. In the last month, I’ve finished four more goals, bringing my total to 16. Here they are, with some comments, an update on all the goals not done yet, and an overall thought about this project so far.

Study 40 General Conference talks: I just finished studying last October’s conference (which had 35 talks) right before the one a month ago, and annotated five more talks as soon as they were on the Gospel Library app. These last three conferences have all been increasingly legendary. Do we take them for granted because there’s just so much awesomeness so often? Maybe so. I know I do.

Talk to 40 people about the Book of Mormon: I always knew this wouldn’t be one-on-one, but to a group. I’ve been trying to set up a live debate since late December, but the guy who said he’d do it must be too busy–I’ll email him again. However, a few weeks ago, a critic of the LDS church asked to interview me on YouTube, and I think it turned out really well. It has over 100 views, so I’m counting that for this.

Listen to 40 great albums from my teenage years: I need to update my posting about this, but it’s been a ton of fun. I want to keep going, because there are so many more than forty I want to hear again! But I need to do my other music goals first.

No soda for 40 days: today is day 40. This was by far the hardest thing so far. Going without Netflix was easy, and I’m about four weeks into no social media–which is also surprisingly easy–but I must be addicted to soda pretty hard. It took me three tries this year, and I only finished because I let myself have a Slurpee every week or so. Still, I’ve gained a new appreciation for lemonade, and I don’t really crave soda like I did, so I want to keep going without this one. But I’ll still have a Slurpee sometimes.

Here’s the 24 goals that still need to be done in the next six months:

  1. Do some family history or temple work 40 times. 26 days done, but only 4 of those are actually going to the temple. Still, I have a lot of names ready to go.
  2. Track my meals and nutrition for 40 straight days (end 5/12). This has been interesting. I’ll report on it next month.
  3. No fast food for 40 straight days. This was a stupid idea. I have zero faith in my ability to do this. What was I thinking?
  4. No sugary treats for 40 straight days. See my comment above. You know what I should have tried? No naps for 40 days. That likely wouldn’t work either, though.
  5. No social media for 40 straight days (start 4/4, end 5/13). I think about it a lot, but I’m not even tempted to fall of the wagon here. A lot of time has been freed up. I’ll report in detail next month.
  6. Don’t buy anything unnecessary for 40 straight days. I’m not sure what this even means, much less how I’ll do it. If I can do this at all, it will have to be this summer, so pretty soon now…
  7. Run a 10k 40 different times. Only 8 runs done. I really should have said 5 miles or even a 5k, but I’ve already reduced this goal twice, so I don’t want to tweak it any more. I missed a half marathon last week because of some killer shin splints–which are still bothering me–so like the last one, the summer will have to be the savior here.
  8. Do 40 pushups in a set. I was close, but then started neglecting upper body work. I’ll focus and try to have this one done for next month.
  9. Take 40 relaxing baths. 17 done.
  10. Learn 40 new Portuguese words each month. I’m on a 67 day streak on Duolingo. I’m really learning a lot.
  11. Sketch 40 new drawings. Zero progress. I’ll watch YouTube tutorials this summer and get it done.
  12. Study 40 paintings. I have some books from the UNLV library I’ll use to reach this goal this summer.
  13. Read 40 great books. 22 done since my last birthday.
  14. Listen to 40 works by Haydn. 11 in my notes, but I want to hear these all again, deeper, many more times each.
  15. Listen to 40 new jazz and blues classics. Only FOUR in my notes, but this is my next goal. Next month? Maybe, maybe not. Two months for sure.
  16. Learn 40 new chess moves. I have a great book to read for this…
  17. Eat at 40 new places. 19 done, and all good except for the last one…I need to post an update on this, too.
  18. Send 40 encouraging cards. 12 done. I’d be closer, but my resource is on Facebook, and I’m staying off for another week and a half…
  19. Watch 40 episodes of The Twilight Zone. Zero progress, but this summer will do it–looking forward to a fun, easy one! :)
  20. Give my wife 40 back rubs. Only ten done. Poor Mrs. Huston. She deserves better.
  21. Watch 40 classic films with my children. 22 done. I realize that I didn’t mean “classic” as much as I meant “grown up.” My older kids at home need to see fewer kid movies, and more real world stuff, even Marvel movies. The younger kids need to see kids’ classics. I enjoy doing this.
  22. Wrestle with my kids 40 times. Only eight times done. Really shouldn’t have put this one off until summer…
  23. Don’t say anything negative about anyone for 40 straight days. I can’t believe how addicted I am to sarcasm. I tried to end the school year with this, but even being really generous with myself, I still couldn’t do it. It’ll have to be another summer (school) one :( I am doing better at being nicer at home when I’m tired and frustrated, though–not perfect, but better. 
  24. Write 40 poems. Zero progress, really. I suspect some time this summer I’ll try to crank out 40 little prose stanzas and call it good. I think I like the idea of this one more than I like the actual work. 


So….is life better because of this effort? Short answer: yes. I worry about the trade-off here between achievement and comfortable spontaneity, but I’ve long believed that serendipity likes to be seduced. Amidst all the hustle and bustle, I spent an hour at the park with my littlest kids tonight, and while I sat on a bench and watched toddlers chase birds, a rabbit hopped by me, while a rainbow wavered in a misty cloud not far off. So life still has plenty of wonder and joy, even while I press it with artificial goals.

I think ambition and contentment are both important virtues, and rather than conflicting, I think they can complement each other. A great life will welcome both.

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