Several years ago, I had the best bucket list. It mirrored most bucket lists I found on the Internet and in self-help books.
Those types of lists really boomed somewhere around 2007 inspired by the movie The Bucket List with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. Some still call them 100+ Things to Do Before You Die. (this always sounded a bit too urgent for me so I went for The Bucket List!)
I even had my bucket list board on Pinterest, called… you guessed it My Bucket List, where I collected all the different things I wanted to:
- achieve and
- become in my life.
A popular blogger I read at the time had a 101 items list, and she was crossing them off and writing about it. I watched this and piled items onto my list, too.
I kept my list saved in an excel spreadsheet, like the serious business that it was.
My list consisted of beautiful and diverse wishes and wants, ranging from very ordinary items I could complete at any moment (but for some reason didn’t) to more extreme and extraordinary that I didn’t even know I wanted to do until I saw other people putting them on their list.
Excerpts from My Bucket List
To illustrate, let me analyze some. They have been around for a while, so maybe some of these are on your bucket list, too.
Go on a Zipline
Being the adventurous soul that I am, I had to look up “zipline” to find out what it was. Oh, yes, it had to go on my list. It looked like fun.
I finally went on a zipline last year (and not for bucket list reasons!) and it was…ok. Kind of like ‘been there done that’. Scary, empowering, yes, but mainly it made me wonder why we crave such adrenaline rush experiences. Is there something else missing in our lives?
Meet Hugh Laurie
I loved Dr. House as much as anyone, but it never occurred to me that I wanted to meet Hugh Laurie. I mean, I know he isn’t really Dr. House. But when I saw it on Pinterest, I thought, what a splendid idea, let’s make that a life aspiration.
Have a night picnic
I could have accomplished that one the same week it appeared on ‘the list.’ But then again, did I really want a night picnic that much? At the time of writing this, I still haven’t had my night picnic.
There were some harder to achieve items (not that meeting Hugh Laurie would have been easy) like:
Climb a volcano
I mean, really, look what happened in New Zealand in 2019.
Stay in an underwater hotel
I am pretty sure I didn’t even know underwater hotels were a thing until it popped up on someone else’s bucket list. Goodbye, thousands of dollars for the experience of …..being there.
Experience zero gravity
Hey, I kind of still like this one.
Rent a luxury yacht and spend a vacation with family
Sure, a nice one. But on a more philosophical level, what would this achieve, what would be the focus, the yacht, or a vacation with family? I have since acquired a family and have had many vacations, none of which featured a luxury yacht and all wonderfully memorable anyway.
Would I still like a vacation featuring a luxury yacht? Yes, of course. But would I want to end up paying for that vacation for years to come?
Anyway, the majority of my items were in the same theme, egocentric, picture-worthy fun stuff. I was much younger when I made it.
It was a fun list.
To be fair, there were some worthy life goal items on there like:
- Become a bestselling author
- Learn to play piano
- Open and run a bookstore
- Have a book I’ve written made into a movie
- Take my mum on vacation of her dreams
Now if you have one of these lists and you are slowly crossing off items, perhaps documenting the experiences for your blog or your social media, or just dreaming about them during the pandemic, know this, I don’t judge you.
I loved my list. It gave me a purpose. An escape.
I prettied it and refined it. I even added pictures to it to enhance visualization.
Time to Delete
But with time, as my life unfolded, and I set out to examine it and strive towards inner minimalism, I realized that my fantasy wants have gradually waned.
Maybe it wasn’t the result of my various efforts on improving the inner self. Maybe it’s simply the wisdom of age. Maybe we all get there, eventually.
I came to realize, albeit slowly, that I didn’t need any of those items crossed off to be happy.
So one fine day I was looking at my Bucket list, all the successes to achieve, possessions to possess, experiences to experience, places to travel and I realized that there was only one thing I still needed to do.
Right-click and delete.
The whole thing. (Well, I did keep a reminder of it in one of the Evernote Notebooks I keep for such memories.)
And just like Marie Kondo makes you ask yourself, “does it spark joy?” to help you declutter, I decluttered my Bucket List by asking myself:
Will any of it bring value to my or anyone else’s life? Will it make any difference to anyone (including myself) whether I do this or not?
Most of the items didn’t pass this test.
There was, in reality, nothing on my list but what are, in itself, meaningless experiences, enhanced by a profit-motivated industry that tells you that you are not worthy enough if you haven’t experienced this or visited that or traveled there or hiked here.
But Here Is a Surprise
I had completed many of my bucket list items anyway, but not because they were on my list but because I either:
- Combined it with something more meaningful (visiting Arthur C. Clarke’s home in Colombo, Sri Lanka while visiting a very dear Sri Lankan friend and her family).
- Did it spontaneously (a trip to San Antonio and the Alamo while staying with another old friend in nearby Houston — yes, I went to the Space Centre and ticked another one as well).
- Because it was convenient to do it (like zip-lining during a team-building retreat with my work colleagues) And yes, that’s me on the zipline picture above.
- Or accomplished an item I wanted with what was available and needed at the time, like creating a home office in my apartment that had always seemed to have had no space for a home office.
Now, this could be simply the result of the Law of Attraction working its magic on my vibration of not needing and therefore attracting it on the same vibrational level as having it would have. But that is for another post.
Analyze Your Wishlist
With the onset of dedicated Travel bloggers, the enhanced nature of colorful listicles type posts that sometimes makes you feel like you have accomplished nothing until you have ‘been there done that,’ it is now, more than ever, important to analyze your wish list.
- Why is this item really on there? Is it a long term desire?
- What do you really want to get from the experience?
- Would you still do it if nobody knew about it and you couldn’t decorate your social media with it?
Or as this Psychology Today article on Bucket Lists postulates:
“How many items on a typical bucket list would be deleted if someone were not allowed to talk about them to others?
A likely answer: Many of them”
Examine Your Bucket List
Let’s say your item really is to do a hot-air balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey.
- Why do you want to go to Cappadocia?
- Are you passionate about its beautiful, natural rock formations?
- Have you read up on it and you want to combine it with another item you are passionate about, like seeing the sandy beaches of Antalya in Turkey
- Maybe you are tracing the locations of a favorite book?
- Maybe you are taking your mother on the trip of her lifetime?
Ever since I started honestly analyzing my travel and desired experience (and possessions!) wishlist, my list narrows down further.
In fact, most of what I want from life experience and travel is time spent with friends and family. Or time spent by myself.
And that, thankfully, I can all do anywhere.
Do What You Can With What You Have
Ideally, we would appreciate and enjoy our lives, now, as they are, and not wait for some future life that may or may not come.
Don’t limit yourself to just the highlights, the listicles.
A good example of this is to look at a Travel blog describing your own home location.
You will probably see someone who has spent 4 days (or less!) in your location, listing the cool places to visit. Something like ’10 Things to Do in…’ or ’10 Must See Places at…..’ And there is nothing wrong with that. I certainly check them out too before I travel somewhere. You want ideas, of course.
I live in a tourist destination and I constantly see these lists about my home town.
But they miss so many other places and experiences, they miss the people and history.
Many (if not most) will rush through focused on doing more without any genuine interest in the country. They will leave knowing nothing of the place at all. Except for the superficial, picturesque, check-in worthy places.
I used to do that, too, of course.
But now I make sure visiting a specific place has a specific meaning or outcome for me, and when I can achieve that, it is time and money well spent for me personally. Rushing to see more in a shorter time period becomes meaningless. You will get a better value from watching a documentary.
Don’t plan your annual 2 weeks to visit 7 countries (people do!) Savor one.
A Word About Travel Bucket Lists
It amazes me how many people cannot bear to stay put locally even in the pandemic.
If it is close by and easily accessible, it is not unworthy of your time! It is even more worthy, even more to be appreciated than a short trip to a destination far, far away that you will, perhaps, end up having to pay off for a very long time.
Mark Twain said: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.”
But he was probably talking about slow, prolonged travel that would have been the only type possible in his days.
Today’s habit of rushing through trips and experiences often does not allow the time to even collect and examine your own views.
Right-click, delete your Bucket List right now. And free yourself from that burden. Doing that will help you get to the point of deep contentedness. You would feel complete even if you never traveled or experienced anything exciting or unusual (or popular!) again.
And if in doubt about your why for anything that you want, remember these questions:
- Will any of it bring value to my or anyone else’s life?
- Will it make any difference to anyone (including myself) whether I do this or not?
Interesting viewpoint. I don’t know if I agree but it was nice to see a different angle
Yyyeeeaaahhhhh….asking yourself the “why” is always a great place to start!! Often in time, you realise, you don’t even have a concrete reason for wanting to do this.
Regarding travel bucket lists, your reference of Cappadocia and analyzing the “why” it’s a bucket item (beyond an IG perfect photo) is right on the mark. Granted, I have no qualms with a sprinkle of the more superficial elements once our main motivation to do something or be somewhere is meaningful and feeds a genuine interest.
What interesting topic and thought provoking as well. Having a bucket list is totally fine but doing that only to cross off some is sometimes not fulfilling at all. Enjoying the moment and having an unplanned vacation is great as well.
Funny, I was actually thinking about deleting a bucket list or at not making a list anymore. I am the type of person that changes my mind every time. However, I feel I need a bucket list to help me stay focus on the things that I want to do.
Wow, this makes so much sense. I think sometimes we make so many goals and lists but not really analyze if these things are necessary. Time to rethink my goals too!
It’s very interesting how we sometimes have an idea that seems important int he moment, but later on, it fades and is no longer relevant. I feel the same with some of my goals and dreams. One day, someone in a movie said ‘every girl should have an expensive pair of shoes’ and suddenly, I really wanted one. I’d never even thought of it before and it wasn’t something I truly wanted, just something I thought I ‘should have’. Luckily, I have also grown out of these types of wishes.
I’ve always viewed a bucket list as more of a list of things I’ll never actually accomplish. It’s along the same lines as New Years resolutions, which I’ve never seen the point of. It’s all stuff we feel we “should” do, but along with it comes unrealistic expectations and we never make any of it happen. I’m with you on being an opportunist. If I’m there and it is important, I’ll do it and create great memories.
Yeah, I remember reading loads of bucket list and posted mine as well. Very well said, but I don’t want to delete mine just want to ignore it and forget that i wrote it. 😌
This is such a great post, however, in this house we do love a good bucket list!
I think bucket list should be meaningful and aligned with your current goals. It shouldn’t be just random things you want to do. It’s all about getting that results that will elevate you.
I don’t really worry about a bucket list myself. Sure, I have major travel destinations I’ve achieved going to but I find it to be too much expectation and somewhat of a rush like you mentioned.
I think lists are not for everyone. I feel happy when I write my own dreams and goal and love seeing ti completed. There is no negativity for me in it, it is not really pushing me to do what I don’t want to do
Hi, i have never ever a bucket list to travel or visit any views or site.Cause i’m believing in present.Past already gives a lesson to move on so please enjoy your present and remove your bucket list.
I don’t really have a bucket. Just some random things I’d like to do at some point in my life. Honestly it’s not very long either. I want to open a bookstore eventually and I want to go to Ireland, Finland, and Germany. It’s not very big and things I think could eventually be a reality. I think it’s important to have goals to work towards but to have them be goals that are attainable. I think you’re right. Looking over the bucket lists and really trying to narrow it down and find out the WHYs to help you simplify is a good thing.
I think it is good to have a list, as some people need them for organization. But, trying not to stress out over completing it is the key.
I always wanted to make a bucket list, but I felt that it was too much pressure that if I didn’t do something on the list I was a failure. So I never made one.
I love your perspective. I have been reexamining my bucket list and asking myself why I really want to tick something off the list.
What an interesting perspective on deleting our bucket lists! Our dreams should be spontaneous!
I love the idea of a well-examined list. The listicles we find may provide inspiration, but it is really up to us how we want to experience each adventure we want to embark on.
Oh, I so resonate with this! And so agree with you! You didn’t have to be successful in everything to be called happy! You can have happiness with simple things and within your reach. Just like what I always say, dreams come true even if it isn’t going to the farthest places, important is the experience that brings you joy!
I also have so many items in my bucket list that wasn’t realized yet. Still, I enjoy reading them, and maybe one day I will unexpectedly accomplish them 🙂
I have a bucket list and I was thinking about deleting it, too and just live my live the way I like.
Interesting perspective. I never subscribed to the bucket list theory, either, in part because many of the places that get hyped up as must see destinations, didn’t seem feasible or desirable to me. Like, the ballooning example, you gave. I went on one in PA, and the experience was very enjoyable. I don’t need to do it again, anywhere else, I’m good lol.
Oh, I never had a bucket list. I have more of a list of things I like to accomplish every year, and most of them are about growth and learning. What a lovely article!
I’m convinced of having a list. It helps me achieve more of my goals.
I absolutely agree. I still have a list of life goals, but a bucket list is something else. I think we often confuse the two.
I think it needs to be positive. Making things unachievable is what can make it bad in my opinion.
Yes, but it also needs to add value to our life and not be just an experience! In my opinion.
I feel we sometimes complicate things for ourselves by creating what we think is an ideal life for us. All we really need is to take life a step at a time and not pressurise ourselves into fulfilling a bucket list. This is a really inspiring post.
I have to admit it is really smart approach. It changed my way of thinking.
I plan everything but for me, life has a different choice, so I do have a wishlist but it’s in general nothing specific -as vague as travel as many places 🙂
Wow I have never thought about it like that! What an interesting perspective
I love this! I feel like we always have to evaluate what is going on with our lives and our goals can change!
Absolutely! We constantly grow and change whether we like it or not.
I love this! Definitely something that comes with age. I think we all develop a different sort of mindset to live slower and deeper rather than just ticking boxes.
Yes, I am still trying to figure out if it was my relentless work on self-improvement or wisdom of age. Most probably a combination of both.
So meaningful. I love it. This idea of collecting and examining our own lives is, I think, crucial to true appreciation and progression. It sounds like you made the best decision for you.
Thank you, Nkem.
I actually tried making a bucket list but since I’m a professional procrastinator, I didn’t finish anything, even at least one. And I thank God for reading this haha!
This made me LOL! Maybe your inner procrastinator only wants to work on things that add the actual value to you?
I just have just one bucket list, that is of traveling and I achieve them actually, but I do agree with you too!
That’s absolutely fine, it looks like your list adds value to you!
At least you completed bucket lists. I evenly haven’t finished mine to think of deleting it.
Anyways, now I think of a more unplanned things than something that already there to go for. Particularly in traveling, it’s more excited.
I actually love my bucket list. But then I realized it really isn’t like most others. It simply consists of places in the world I would like to see. It only has 6 items, so very different than the type of list you keep adding to through the years. And it was fun to dream about visiting those places with my kids. The dreaming alone was worth it. But experiencing it with them will be icing on the cake!
Yes, I absolutely think it is great to have a list, but an examined list. Dreaming and imagining is a healthy activity after all!
I don’t really have a bucket list more of just things I’d like to do and want to work towards! This was a lovely article.
Yes, and I still do have one of those, too!
What a great perspective. It’s nice to have goals and dreams. But it’s also nice to be happy now.
Thank you so much.
Instagram these days definitely adds to the whole bucket list wishlist.
As my friend mentioned yesterday “I never know I want to/need to go somewhere until my wife shows me a picture from her Instagram feed” 🙂
Oh, wow. I’ve never thought of a bucket list like this before. It makes a lot of sense, though! We don’t need what’s on our bucket list to be happy, and in a way, it keeps us from being in the present.
We are in agreement. Truly living in the now is what we have to consciously choose nowadays.
What a great post! I honestly just want to live my best life. After my father passed away, I just really wanted to live more! Be in simple moments more, love more, experience life more! I want to travel with my family, and I want to just be happy in these moments. You provided some great tips. Thank you. 🙂
Thank you so much for your comment! Yes, I agree, those are my life/happiness goals, too!
I think bucket lists are great for ‘the hightlights’ as you say, but I don’t want to be doing things just for the sake of ticking them off a list. I want to enjoy the experience and take the experiences even further. Nice tips!
Thank you so much!
I agree, most things I see on Bucket lists can be quite unattainable to the average person. I had lots of things that made me feel like I was failing in life and not accomplishing things… it had to go!
I think that is one of the main reasons – the pressure to accomplish, tick off, do, see…Kudos to you for getting rid of it!
This is an interesting read for sure. I do agree on the reasons behind deleting a bucket list. I think living life to the best that one can is enough!
cute & little
I actually never believe in bucket list because I like to be more expontaneus in terms of Life Experiences