Have you ever talked about something super awesome you did or an amazing place you visited and someone said: “That’s going on my bucket list”? So what is this “bucket list” everyone is talking about and why should you have one, like ASAP?
The definition of a “bucket list” is a list of things we would like to do before we die… Places we want to travel to, things we want to achieve or buy etc. Full disclosure: I LOVE lists! That feeling of accomplishment when you cross something off your list can make my day (even if it’s just “buying milk”) that’s why having a list of all my ‘wants’ and desires was a no-brainer for me.
Why Should You Have a Bucket List?
I think we should always strive towards living a meaningful and intentional life. If we only dream and wish for things but don’t set goals and plan how to achieve them, we’ll most likely find ourselves caught up in a mundane day-to-day kind of life.
If you’ve ever felt like sometimes life is passing you by without any tangible accomplishments to speak of, or when asked “how are you doing” all you can answer is “the same”, then you understand what I’m talking about.
A bucket list is a great inspirational tool to create the life we want for ourselves. It’s a way to remind us of all the things we want to achieve and helps us to stay motivated to pursue our best life.
WHEN? Before You Die?
Besides being a big believer in dreams, I’m also a big believer in making them come true. That’s why I have a problem with the term “before I die”. As I’m not planning on dying any time soon, this list has no sense of urgency or accomplishment. Having a goal without a plan or a deadline will most likely cause you to suffer from the “someday” syndrome – another excuse for us not to work for it.
“A goal without a plan is just a wish”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Therefore, let’s make our bucket list but strive to complete it in the next two, five or ten years, before we turn 30 or 35 – whatever works best for you as long as you have a time frame in mind. This will also help you set better and more achievable goals. The list can change and vary along the way but it’s no secret that we are best motivated when we have a deadline.
How to Write the Best Bucket List
So you’ve decided you want to live your best life and you’re going to create your very own bucket list but don’t really know where to start? Don’t worry, follow these 14 easy steps to writing a great list and actually perusing your dreams.
1. Set the Mood
Take the time to enjoy this process. First of all, clear out an hour or two from your schedule. Then, choose an inspiring place to write, get comfy, put some music on and maybe light a candle or pour yourself a glass of wine.
2. Write it Down
Your list can be created on your computer or on a piece of paper, but one of the most important steps in creating a good list is to write it down. Sounds pretty basic, I KNOW… but a lot of people skip this part.
When you’re writing your dreams down you are making a commitment (to yourself) and becoming more motivated to work towards them, making them tangible goals instead of wishful thinking. Research suggests that handwriting activates different, critical areas of the brain than typing. Personally, I’m an old school pen and paper kind of girl but you should do what works best for you.
Take the time and write down every idea that comes to mind without holding yourself back. You will edit the list later on so don’t overthink it – this is your place to dream big. Also, don’t be embarrassed or self-conscious – nobody is going to see this list except you.
If you don’t know where to start, begin with asking yourself these 10 questions:
What would I do if I only had one year to live?
What would I do if I had unlimited time, money and resources?
What have I always wanted to do but haven’t because of fear/limiting beliefs?
What were my childhood dreams? Are they still relevant today?
Where in the world would I like to visit?
What skills do I wish I had or have always wanted to learn?
What experiences or activities do I want to try out?
What achievements do I want to obtain (in my personal, family, career and financial life)?
What events have I always wanted to attend?
In what ways do I want to become a better me (physically or mentally)?
4. Edit Your List
Okay, so you have your no-restrictions-wild-dream list. But because we don’t want our bucket list to stay on a piece of paper at the bottom of our drawer, now is the time to ground it. You see, goals are not like wishes. They are tangible aspirations we want to achieve. In order to turn our bucket list into the road map to living our best lives, we need the goals on the list to be meaningful for us, so we’ll have the desire to make them a reality.
5. Consider Value and Importance
Go over the list you made and think about each of the items. Cross off every item that isn’t relevant — the items that are just there because they sound cool but you don’t really want to do. The ones that made the list just because everybody is doing it and you feel like you should be doing too. All items on the list should be meaningful to YOU, be aligned with your values, be ones with an intention to pursue, and most important– ones that will bring you joy once you’ve achieved them.
6. Consider Cost-Versus-Benefit
Remember that you set a time frame for this list so some items might come at the expense of others. We do have a certain amount of limited resources (physical and mental) and we should focus on what’s important to us. Ask yourself if the goal or dream you’re setting is going to be worth the time, money and effort needed to attain it?
7. Consider The Number of Items
The length of your list is totally up to you. Don’t try to fill up a magical number of goals (like 100) by putting things you don’t really want on the list. It’s just fine to have 38 goals for now. The smaller the list, the easier it will be for you to focus on it. With that said, I do recommend having at least 10-20 items to accomplish on the list (big and small), depending on the time frame you set for yourself.
“You can’t hit a target you cannot see, and you cannot see a target you do not have”
– Zig Ziglar
8. Remove Unrealistic Items
I do NOT mean unrealistic because they are too ambitious, too expensive or you don’t see how you are going to accomplish them from where you are right now. I mean things like being a 31-year-old woman that has never touched a ball and writing down ‘become a professional basketball player’. If you have dreams like that, maybe try to amend them into something more concrete like ‘learn how to play basketball’ or ‘sign up for a local women’s team’.
I DO think that you should have one or two somewhat crazy dreams on the list. Something that you intentionally won’t put the effort toward accomplishing although it might be really cool (like meeting Oprah or going to the moon). It might be an old childhood dream or just something super wild. I like keeping items like that on my list just as a little reminder of something crazy that might happen one day — because you never know where life might take you or what kind of opportunities might cross your path!
9. Be S.M.A.R.T
The goals you pick need to be S.M.A.R.T goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).
Be specific and don’t set vague goals like ‘I want to be healthier’ because you won’t know how to achieve them. Set goals that allow you to know the exact minute you’ve accomplished them so you can cross them off your list. Set time frames in order to stay motivated but nevertheless, don’t be too specific: you might need more time than you think in order to achieve a goal. “Running a marathon” or “getting married” is enough – don’t add a time frame like ‘next year’ to it.
10. Include a Variety of Goals
Your list will ideally include both big and small items. Ones that you can check off next week or next month and others that might take you years to accomplish. “Cleaning your closet” shouldn’t be on this list unless you want to adopt a minimalistic lifestyle and get rid of everything you own except for 33 items. Save day-to-day “tasks” to your weekly to-do lists. Nevertheless, don’t be afraid to put “small” goals on the list like “making pizza from scratch” or “finishing a book you’ve been meaning to read”. You need to find the right balance between big and small, as long as it has some meaning to it. Achieving small goals will give you a sense of accomplishment and will keep you motivated to go on. Because there is nothing like the feeling of crossing off something of a list.
11. Consider Breaking it Down
If you have a huge dream you’re setting your mind to accomplish, you can break it down to smaller, intermediate goals or tasks. If you dream of becoming the CEO of your own company someday, begin with starting a company and setting up the business plan for it to grow. If you dream of being a published author with a top-selling book, start with your own blog or publish an article in a local paper.
12. Stay Accountable
After you’ve finalized your list – print it out or re-write it on nice paper and put it somewhere prominent so you will see it frequently. Remember, it’s the road map to living your best life so it deserves the right honour. Share your list (or parts of it) with other people. It will give you that extra sense of accountability when people ask about your progress, but most of all by talking about it, people might share opportunities with you. Don’t be shy or embarrassed to share your dreams with others because you never know who will open the right door for you. People usually tend to (and are happy to) help wherever they can. This will increase your chances of success.
13. Be Flexible
Life changes rapidly and so do people, desires, and dreams. Allow your list to evolve and don’t be fixed on dreams and goals that no longer serve you. Review your list every now and then and tweak it if needed. Don’t be afraid to change or mend it because its relevancy will help you stay motivated and focused.
14. Reverse It
One final tip: Letting your imagination go wild with future planning can be really fun and motivating but it can also feel a little overwhelming. Seeing all the things you hope to achieve one day and not knowing how you’ll find the time and the money to do it all might take the wind out of your sails. The trick? Reverse buck list! Writing down a list of all the things you’ve accomplished thus far. Recollecting all the things you’ve already achieved will give you a sense of progress, will reinforce your sense of capability, fill you with satisfaction and pride and will encourage you to go further.
Go through your list and choose what items to start with. Choose 3 goals that excite you the most and think about what can you do RIGHT NOW (well, right when you finish reading this post) to make it happen. It might be the goal itself if it’s a small one, or it can be something that will get you started (a phone call or an e-mail to someone that can help you).
One last thing, remember that it’s okay if you don’t achieve all of the goals on your list. Some dreams will go from list to list with you until you do. Also remember, it’s okay to “fail” but not to give up. Failing is an important and even necessary part of our way to success. You just need to keep going once you stumble and never stop dreaming.