Recommitting & Taking Action to Change Your Life, Part 3: Time to Make a Bucket List

Do you have a bucket list? If you’re not sure what that is, I’ll tell you all about it in today’s blog post. Basically, it’s a list you create of all the things you’d like to do in your lifetime. It can include hopes, dreams, goals and wishes. The purpose is to inspire and challenge you to do the things that bring joy to your life. Keep reading to discover more about what a bucket list is, its benefits and how to get started creating on your own.   

About Bucket Lists

The term “bucket list” is related to the phrase “kick the bucket,” slang for a person dying or passing away.  While there were a few examples of the term being used in years prior to this, the idea of a “bucket list” exploded into popular culture and American vocabulary thanks to the 2007 movie of the same name, in which Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson play two men who meet by chance in the hospital after both being diagnosed with terminal cancer and then embark on an epic adventure to cross items off their “bucket list” in the last months of their lives. 

Many people associate bucket lists with over-the-top kinds of wishes–things like climbing a mountain, meeting a favorite celebrity, vacationing in a dream once-in-a-lifetime destination, running a marathon, or going skydiving. However, everyone’s bucket list is unique and personal and should be meaningful to them. Your bucket list items don’t need to be extravagant or over-the-top if those kinds of dreams or activities don’t speak to you. And you definitely don’t need to be an adrenaline junkie to have a bucket list. (I’m not one–believe me, you will never find something like bungee jumping on my personal bucket list!)

Why Have One

There are lots of benefits to having a bucket list. This activity can truly be a catalyst for helping you to live a more purposeful life. Writing out your fondest desires gives your clear perspective on what’s important to you and what types of things might be worth sacrificing for. It also makes fun a priority and helps you to enjoy your life more, reminding you to move out of your comfort zone and the day-to-day grind.

One of the items that I recently checked off my bucket list–starting a business–was an idea that was 100% out of my comfort zone when I first added it after a conversation I had with an executive coach that I was working with back in 2016.  I was working full-time at one of Chicago’s leading community economic development nonprofits, growing in my career, putting some of my coaching and facilitation training into practice, and also making sure I was carving out time to spend with my family.  I had a full plate already, yet I knew that I had a passion for entrepreneurship that I wanted to nurture–sooner rather than later. 

While Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson’s characters in “The Bucket List” resolved to pursue their bucket list items after receiving devastating terminal diagnoses, in real life, we don’t have to wait until the end of our lives or until a health crisis hits to get our bucket lists down on paper, and start tackling those items–and we shouldn’t wait!  A bucket list can act as a guide or framework, as well, keeping you on track toward reaching some of your bigger goals and dreams. Checking things off your list can be satisfying and create a log of some of your most amazing life experiences.

How to Start

Starting a bucket list can seem overwhelming. It’s daunting to sit down and consider the kinds of things you’ve always wanted to do. The choices are seemingly endless! This calls for some good old-fashioned brainstorming. Ask yourself some questions to get the ideas flowing and to clarify things. Consider things you’ve always wanted to do, where you’d like to go or what you want to see. Learning and education can be bucket list inspiration. Think about things that appeal to your senses like food you’d most want to taste, types of scenic locations that appeal to you or music you’d love to hear. Use these prompts to brainstorm and keep on going until you’ve got a substantial list started. You can always add to it as new ideas come to mind.

In fact, after I checked the big “start a business” item off my bucket list, I added new items to take that one’s place. (Of course, in one sense, my business is never entirely “off” my bucket list–more like a standing item, maybe–since I have dreams and visions for how to grow it now that I’ve launched.)  At a business retreat I attended in December, one of our exercises was to make a list of 23 “Dream Big Statements,” which gave me lots of ideas for additional bucket list items I can take on over the next few years or decades.  The next thing that I want to tackle on my “personal” bucket list is to travel internationally–hopefully in the near future! This other item may take a bit longer, but one big thing on my “professional” bucket list is to publish a best-selling book.  I got a chance to dip my toe into writing and publishing recently when I was invited to write a chapter for a book called The Entrepreneurs’ Toolkit for Success (Volume 1).  Getting published for the first time was a fun experience (I like to think of it as a “mini-item” on my bucket list) and made me even more excited to author a whole book of my own someday!    

A bucket list can be inspirational. It can provide motivation for living your best life. Go ahead and get started on yours today.