Bucket Lists – Just a Fad, or Something More?

bucketA few weeks ago I posted a blog, “What’s in Your Bucket?” In exploring the “why’s” behind most people’s bucket lists these days, I was inspired by the variety and depth of bucket-listers who also blog about it. Some of them blog specifically about adventures like scuba diving and rock climbing. Others tick off locations, travelling from one country to another. Some people’s bucket lists focus on acts of kindness, volunteering and good deeds, while others highlight their gastronomic adventures. I was so inspired by other writers’ perspectives on the concept, I took it as a personal challenge to write my own Bucket List, as an experiment, and to explore more fully the how’s and why’s of writing a bucket list. I had no idea how it would turn out, but I thought it would be fun!

But, alas, as I got started on the list, it turned out to be harder than I thought and here’s why:

Initially, most of the things I wrote down were so outrageous and beyond my current means that I began to get discouraged. I’d written things like ride the Marrakesh Express, drink coffee at a sidewalk café in Paris, swim in the Mediterranean Sea: all things that sounded amazing, but expensive and out of reach. I knew if everything on my list was difficult to realize, I would get discouraged and give up.

I’m not saying I’ll never do those big things, but looking at the list, I knew the chance of doing any of them any time soon wasn’t likely. A voice in the back of my mind was pointing out that my list was too ambitious, a bunch of “pipe dreams.”

I listened. The voice made me feel sad, insignificant. I didn’t think I could realize any of it. So I left the list alone, thinking I’d come back and work on it later.

Two days passed and I returned to the list with renewed vigor and a new strategy. I’d made up my mind that I would only add things to the list that could definitely be marked off within the year. I began writing things that I already knew were going to happen anyway like run a marathon (which I’d already signed up for). But after jotting down just a few, I began to feel like I was cheating. I erased all those things and put my pen down.

I couldn’t find a middle ground. My action items were either too small, or way too big. I had originally hoped for a 50-item list and I couldn’t even get to 15. My imagination stalled. I kept thinking about things that had already happened like a recent visit to the Minneapolis Art Institute or competing in my first ballroom dance competition.

I began to question why I was writing the list. What did I hope to gain from doing it? Was it just a fad, or did it mean something more? I thought about all the amazing things I’d already done and I wondered, if beautiful things were already happening in my life, then why did I need to write a list? It’s not like fun things were going to stop happening if I didn’t have a list.

True. But what if even MORE could happen if I was thinking about it? If I had a reminder of what is possible?

Confused, I sought out the advice of fellow bucket list writers. Lesley Carter, Bucket List Publications, writes a new list every year. She seems to be able to accomplish almost all of the 50-ish items on her list yearly and they are not simple, easy efforts. She says, “The more unrealistic we are with our dreams and goals the more we are able to achieve.” On the other hand, Zoe Fagan, Whole in My Bucket, says, “The secret is to start small. If we make our dreams small, realistic, attainable and achievable we slowly develop a deeper sense of self-confidence as we accomplish these simple yet meaningful dreams.”

Both of these bloggers’ advice rang true to me. I could see the wisdom in both approaches. Simply understanding that there is no “one” way to make your list gave me the freedom to include both the little things that have a high probability of happening and also add items that will take a greater leap of faith just to put them in writing.

For these reasons, I decided to include everything that came to mind; big, medium, and small experiences and desires. If it came to mind, it had to be added to the list. I carried around a scrap of paper everywhere I went. I made my list, the big and little things, things just for me and things I wanted to do for others, things that had been on my mind a while and things that popped in as I invited the engine of imagination to conjure up an even bigger life than I already enjoy. Some things on my list excite me, some are downright scary. It wasn’t easy. It took two weeks and I’m pretty sure there’s more to add. I’ve decided it will be flexible.

For me, writing a bucket list helped me break free from a limited sense of vision. I wanted to stimulate my creative imagination and visualize more for my life. I wanted bigger dreams and to look for more to happen, every day. By writing out a list, I invited expectancy as an approach to everyday experience. Bucket lists are not about dying anymore; they are about not waiting until you are dying to start living. Writing a bucket list affirms you don’t intend to waste a single day.

It was an opportunity to get more clear about the kind of life I want to lead. It helped me figure out what I want more of and what things don’t really appeal to me. I’m not really that big on rock climbing, so things like that didn’t make the list. You can tell a lot about what matters to someone by looking at how they want to spend the best days of their life.

It was a practice in gratitude. I wanted to appreciate my experiences. I felt like a list would show how great my life already was. It was tangible evidence of the good in my life and I felt the more I maintained the list, the bigger it would grow and the greater my appreciation for my life would be.

It was a practice of intention. To believe enough in the possibility that I get to have an incredible life full of happiness, joy and adventure. To believe that I have every bit as much opportunity as anyone else out there having a great time with life. To have faith that I don’t have to know how things will happen, just trusting enough to know that if I make my desires clear, the Universe will help me find a way to get there.

If you’re curious about how it turned out, click on the My Bucket List page above to see what I’ll be up to this year. Wan’t to join me on an adventure? Let me know.

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