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Ifesinachi Okoli-Okpagu: Before You Turn 40

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Rewind to January 1, 2017 – fireworks, hundreds of New Year calls and messages, and of course, family. While everyone else seemed excited, I had a nagging feeling of unfulfillment. I felt restless and kept thinking: Is this it? In a few years, I would be 40. Am I happy with all I had achieved? Could I have done more?

Not to mix things up, the previous years had been kind. But that was my problem – everything was okay to me, not great. A few projects were struggling, I badly wanted a slight change in my career, I was felt under-challenged, that the world was moving fast, and I was moving like a snail. Worse, I felt frustrated by it all. Something had to change. I knew it. I sensed it. And I also knew that the change could only begin with me.

So, I did what I knew how to do best – I researched. And I came upon this really great article by Mark Manson. Immediately, I grabbed my journal and a pen and began writing.

What I wrote that day turned my life around in less than 2 years, and I believe it can change yours too. I mapped out a life plan that made me really excited to wake up every morning, and I laid out detailed goals, 5 of which I have accomplished.

This is what I did, and I recommend that if you wish to look back someday in the near future and not feel regret/resentment, you should do this too:

In 10 minutes, write down everything you would like to achieve in the next 5 years.

In my case, I wrote down everything I would like to achieve before I turned 40. The trick is to write down things that would make you genuinely happy, things that if you looked back in life at a ripe old age, you will have no regrets whatsoever. Be audacious but not unreasonable, and stick to your own goals, not writing down things others would like you to achieve. Do not allow fears creep in and stop your thinking process.

You see, fear is the one thing that shrinks the way we dream. Fear can cripple childhood dreams; it can make you believe that you are overreaching or getting ahead of yourself.

Fear is what whispers in your ear: “But you don’t have a PhD. But you don’t have millions of dollars. But you don’t know anyone. But you’ve not stepped into the Nigerian international airport. But nobody will believe in you. But you will never get the capital to start this. But you are just a woman or just a man. But you are nobody.”

My friend, that’s why you only need 10 minutes to block out Mr. Fear before he causes the havoc he has been causing all this while. Write as if you have all the resources in the world; as if all the doors you knock on will open, because they will, and we will get to that in a minute.

On my list, I stuck to writing 40 things that I would like to achieve before I turned 40. You define what your list will be.

Go ahead. Grab a piece of paper. Let’s get started. You will be surprised the amazing things your subconscious will throw out. You have 10 minutes to change your life, and it begins now.

Next, assess your list.
I took Mark Manson’s theory one step further and divided each of those goals into what I call BRELPH, which stands for Business, Responsibility, Experience, Legacy, Philanthropy, and Hobby.

Let me break these down in the way I defined each.

Business – things I would like to achieve business and career wise. Your financial goals should go in here. For example: Earn XXX amount every month by the year 2020. I have this crazy target for my business revenue expectation and my salary. You should too.

Responsibility – things I ought to do for my family and close circle. For example, I have something like “Send my children to XXX University”. Faith-based goals would also go in here.

Experience – The softer side of life; the things I would like to experience in my youth. For example, I have a list of places I would like to travel to with my family and some other crazy things I want to do in life.

Legacy – These are things I would like to leave behind some day. For example, I would like to compile the stories my own father told me when I was a child for my own children. Stuff like this goes in here.

Philanthropy – These are activities to give back as others gave to me.

Hobby – These are, of course, things I love and never have time to do. In the list, I force myself to do them.

If you have done this, well done so far. We are close.

At this point, feel free to modify your list. Don’t remove oh. Only include any item you might have forgotten. Please note that this is a living document, meaning that at any point, feel free to include to the list.

Mr. Fear might be knocking on the door by now. Don’t let him in. We will achieve this.

Baby Steps
Now that we have our list, print it out and write it down on a handy journal. Paste it on a wall or anywhere visible, and take one long, hard look at it.

Seems intimidating, doesn’t it?

Do not let this deter you. You are supposed to take baby steps to achieve all these one at a time, and while they might seem crazy to you, trust me, you are more than capable. I say this with all confidence, because in less than two years, I have achieved 5 of the items on my list, and they are not small items.

They are really massive things I never thought I would achieve. How was I able to? This brings me to the next point.

When Preparation Meets Opportunity
Do you have all the skills, talents, and more required to achieve these? My gut feeling says you don’t. If I am right, what do we do about this? We need to get them.

Some of these may not be yours to get directly. To achieve some goals on your list, you may need to partner with others. More importantly, you need to be true to yourself. Ask yourself: what do I need to take me from Point A (where I am now) to Point B (where I want to be).

For some of these, you may need to put yourself out there some more, which might be difficult. I know it was for me (still is for an introvert like me). However, the more you put yourself out there and meditate on these goals, the more you attract the opportunities you need to achieve these goals. I have seen it happen several times, plus there is the psychology of things that make your brain suddenly re-align to become a hunter of opportunities, not the hunted.

The problem for most people is that when those opportunities show up, we are not ready. How we do make ourselves ready?

The Ultimate Sacrifice
The answer to the last question is clear: By learning the art of sacrifice. Painful as it is, Gucci bags will be here forever, but you only have a limited time to prove this point you want to make. In other words, sacrifices can come in various dimensions – you may need to give up certain lifestyles, certain expectations; you may need to cut short your spending habits. Ouch!

For some, like me, I had to give in more time to work. When others closed officially at 5 or 6 PM, I would take extra hours late at night to get some work done, to be prepared. Aside from business, I have a thriving “paying hobby” and I used these extra hours to keep it worthwhile.

It has not been easy, my friend, but the dividends have paid off. Now, I earn thrice what I earned in January 2017, I am much more confident in myself, I have been able to steer my career towards the direction I really wanted, broadened my network and experience, met new amazing people, supported my family and set a unique trend, my CV reads like that of a boss just the way I had always dreamt of, I am happier as I tick off my goals one by one, and I have too many testimonies God has blessed me with.

Don’t wait. Start now.

By this time in 2019, I hope you invite me to celebrate the achievement of some tough goals.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

12 Comments

  1. olajumoke

    January 4, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    Thank you so much for this! I clocked 40 last year and though i was grateful for my side business, that nagging feeling that i can do more crept up however i have a determination to do much better this year and i have started already. I will write my goals down and watch it like a hawk and actively start doing it,

  2. olajumoke

    January 4, 2019 at 10:45 pm

    Can you also share your email? just incase i need cheering on!

    • Ifesinachi

      January 6, 2019 at 8:19 pm

      Hi Olajumoke, thanks for the comment and well done on starting. I too need cheering on. Please reach me anytime on [email protected]

  3. OgeAdiro

    January 5, 2019 at 12:38 am

    Sacrifice vs experience? The list should be weighted because I suspect that some categories will depend on others.

    • Ifesinachi

      January 6, 2019 at 8:19 pm

      You are right but you can define your list

  4. Ethel

    January 5, 2019 at 1:24 am

    This is one of the best articles I have ever read on BellaNaija. Thank you to the author.

  5. Tijanee Olalekan

    January 5, 2019 at 2:31 pm

    Fantastic article. It gears you ahead. Thank you all the same. My goals and aspirations are already written down. We keep working towards it.

  6. Ajala & Foodie

    January 6, 2019 at 3:53 am

    I actually just did this. No, I did not read a book. It is actually the verse of the day, 4 days ago, on You version that gave me an epiphany. Towards the end of last year. Actually, I can pinpoint when it all started, it was while i was watching the funeral service of Senator McCain. Then i watched the late President Bush’s funeral and then there was Tosyn Bucknor and all I heard was impact, living a life of “intentional purpose”. I was already unsatisfied with the trajectory of my life, then I read Proverbs 16:9. I not only have goals for this year but 5 year and even 10 year goals. No neatly laid out plans to be honest, but, I know what I am working towards. I told my sister I got to leave room for the God factor.

    BTW that was when I started working on volunteering at the women’s shelter I mentioned in the Atoke article.

    • Ifesinachi

      January 6, 2019 at 8:18 pm

      Thank you for sharing this. We can define our own happiness, right?

  7. Dami

    January 7, 2019 at 3:52 am

    Best article I’ve sat down to really read and finish. Thank you BellaNaija and Ifesinachi

  8. Bruno

    January 13, 2019 at 12:43 pm

    Thank you so much for this piece. I v written goals in the past but was not disciplined to followed them through. I m nearing 40 and have written another, but this write up has challenged me to make some modifications (to add to the list).
    I have also added some principles to my approach not considered in my list. I shall be sharing my testimonies by December 2019. You just told me what to do.

    Thank you

  9. BeadsbyEnque

    January 29, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    Thanks so much for the article ify. It really encouraged me…i have being trying to achieve a particular goal for sometime now and i seemed to let it affect my happiness until i got alot of encouragement from a grp of ladies recently and that helped me alot. I’m now looking forward to writing down my own list #40before40. I have to be very intentional with my life and not let life happen to me. I have to create my own happiness.

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