How To Take Charge Of Your Bucket List

how to take charge of your bucket list

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You've seen the 2007 movie . . . Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman’s characters meet in a cancer ward – they’re most unlikely companions, bonded in circumstance, with a united desire to complete a list of things they want to see and do before they die. Against their doctor's advice, they leave the hospital and set out on the adventure of a lifetime together, ticking off experiences on their bucket list. (It helps that Nicholson’s character is a billionaire!)

So that’s one ‘angle’ on having a bucket list. But having a life threatening condition or an incurable disease is NOT a pre-requisite to establish a bucket list. Oh no. The scope is much broader than that.

Most importantly, it applies to you – so watch this video which we recorded whilst achieving one of our dream ambitions:

How To Take Charge Of Your Bucket List

Where Does The Term ‘Bucket List’ Come From?

The idea derives from the phrase “kick the bucket”, which is slang for dying. It’s not known, exactly, where the phrase ‘kick the bucket’ comes from but it likely means when the bucket is kicked out from underneath someone standing in a hangman’s noose. Either way, it’s pretty final – the end!

And most sane people will want to achieve something meaningful with their life before time runs out.

As William Wallace (of Braveheart fame) said in the movie:

“Every man dies, not every man truly lives”

So Why Have A Bucket List Then?

The whole idea behind having a bucket list boils down to having dreams and goals to aspire to. To give you purpose and direction in live. It’s like a To-Do list but on a grander scale.

Without a bucket list, there’s a high likelihood of drifting along through life, just existing or surviving, There’ll be no higher level of enjoyment to aspire to or attain – so no injection of fun, thrills and awe.

Just to be clear, it’s not just about listing the places you want to visit, it’s also about people you want to meet (guess they have to be living though), and things you want to do.

A wise man once said a goal that’s not written down is simply a wish. There’s power in consciously documenting your goals. The age old adage that “life is short” means it’s too easy to let days/months/years become history without ever exploring and experiencing anything outside of the daily routine of life.

Think about this: You know when you plan a holiday . . .

  • you save up to book flights
  • book the days off
  • research every angle
  • maybe plan every nitty-gritty detail
  • look for your hotel on Google maps street view
  • discover all the things you can cram into the week

You build anticipation of the escape and don’t really believe it’ll happen until you're sitting on the plane, right?

It’s the same with building a bucket list, only on a lifetime scale.

The whole point is in the anticipation of the ambition as well as the enjoyment of the completion of the event. It’s a change of scenery, a sense of fulfillment, and ultimately, a heightened sense of happiness and satisfaction.

Always looking on the bright side, achieving your bucket list ambitions can also help deal with the stress and anxiety of a busy career, as long as you focus on enjoying the chase and the achievement of each bucket list entry.

Why The Skeptics Have it All Wrong About Bucket Lists

You don’t need to overthink the reasons behind having a bucket list – it becomes too morbid, and isn’t in the spirit of happiness. But you don’t want to be overly glib about the subject either – as it’s quite a commitment and investment in your personal betterment. Which the skeptics don’t like, as the ‘powers that be’ want to keep you locked in your 9-5 cubby-hole, feeding on political whims, and eating from the hand of big pharma!

So let’s consider:

The 3 Most Common Mis-Perceptions About Bucket Lists:

[1] ALL The Things On Your Bucket List Must Be Achieved Before It’s Too Late

We disagree with this as it’s practically impossible to achieve all the things you can ever imagine doing in one lifetime, when you think big enough and adventurous enough. The object of the exercise is to have goals, and to dream far and wide. The intention is not to tick off every single item on your bucket list, because that implies it’s just a perfunctory list, like a shopping list. But it’s way different than that.

The higher purpose of your bucket list is to dream about what’s possible, to have something to live up to, but to grow (extend) the list as you mature – which means you’ll never complete it in this lifetime.

Because you’ll never finish building the list!

So you’ll never complete it either.

But it’ll serve to excite you, inspire you, stretch you – help you dream – and help you remain happy.

[2] It’s A Competition To Do More, See More, Live More, Than The People You Know

NOPE! Your bucket list is completely personal to you.

It’s a reflection of you and what you’re up to in the world – so there is no right or wrong.

And it’s not a competition.

You don’t need to out-do anyone else. You simply need to stretch your own horizons, your own experiences, and your own happiness.

Your bucket list is about your own personal dreams and goals – no-one else’s. Anyone else can take a running hike!

A BIG point to note is: items on your bucket list don’t always need to be costly experiences like:

  • swimming with wild dolphins off the coast of Kaikoura in New Zealand, screeching like a lunatic so they’ll give you the 1-2-1 experience you crave, or
  • flying in a hot air balloon at dawn over the Serengeti spying on the awakening lions with sleep still caked in their eyes, or
  • experiencing the exhilaration of driving an Aston Marten DB9 Vantage at 174mph, with the top down, and the wind breezing through your hair (this was on a race track, btw!)

You should also include free or priceless experiences (along the lines of, but not similar to of course – you’ll get the idea) which connect with your inner fantasy, like:

  • witnessing your very first shooting star, lying out flat on the ground, with all the pin pricks of stars peeking through the black velvet night sky
  • welcoming your first grandchild into the world – a pure new being – cuddly, loveable, vulnerable
  • a teddy bears picnic sitting on a red tartan rug in the park, eating fairy bead and drinking mead . . .
  • catching your very first 14lb pink salmon on the banks of the Rakaia River, standing shoulder to shoulder with seasoned fisherman, who are egging you on to get the net in underneath it before it slips away . . .
  • seeing your first humming bird/monarch butterfly/lunar eclipse . . .

Get the hint? We’re sure you’ll have a ton of thoughts, wishes and ideas? We sincerely hope so.

[3] If You’re Focused On The Future, What Happens In The Now

Skeptics like to poo-poo bucket lists because they believe they encourage false hope and imply you’re not happy living life in the here-and-now.

Fair point!

But . . . how hum-drum would day-to-day life be if you had no life goals and dreams to pursue? No passion.? No vision?

We agree, you have to be happy in the moment, live the moment, carpe diem – which is where the free/priceless/creative experiences come in.

There needs to be experiential real life in between the ‘paid’ bucket list experiences – to ensure you’re not always focused on making the next holiday/escape/dream happen.

You need to have the ebb and flow or day-to-day living, else the bucket list highlights will cascade into expectation.

After I Brainstorm, Where Else Can I Search For Inspiration (Not Competition)?

There are a couple of websites where you can compile and share your ambitions – non-competitively, of course. But you can also research them for inspiration:

There are also books on the 1,001 films to see, the 1,001 albums to listen to, the 1,001 paintings to see, and the 1,001 things to do. Look on Amazon.

Remember though, your bucket list is an individual thing. It’s personal to you. There is no right or wrong.

We’d encourage you to think big, think adventurous, think outside your comfort zone.

To read more, click through to this earlier blog post: Are You Letting Your Dream Life Get Away?


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