Bucket List - by Donald Giannatti @ Unsplash

A Bucket List or a To-Do List

There was a time everybody talked about bucket lists. Top things to do before you die. Top places to visit in your life. The lists were endless. However, I don’t seem to hear about those as much anymore. Have they gone out of fashion? Are people done with bucket lists? Or did they give up?

Your bucket list is more important than your to do list

Khe Hy

What is a bucket list?

I am guessing each person has their own definition, but the original concept was pretty much a list of dreams to be done through life. You just have to go on google to find all sorts of search results around:

– Places to visit, liked the Great Wall of China, or the pyramids;

– Activities to do, like skydiving or scuba-diving;

– Experiences to have, like living in a specific country or culture.

Funny enough, most of the ideas on the list are to-dos. We like to think of things to-do as they have a beginning and an end and, with the appropriate time they are relatively easy to cross-off. A tick on our to-do list. An achievement. On the other hand, they are also easy to justify why they can’t be done – “ a place is too far “, “I don’t have the money “.

Are they truly ours?

A question I have, and that I would encourage you to ask if you have your own bucket list, is to challenge whether the list is truly yours. A good way to do this is to think of the why.

Why do you want to go to the pyramids in Egypt?

Option A: because all my friends have been and say it is great.

Option B: because I have always have loved Egyptian history and the more I read about it the more I want to go.

You can guess which one is more valid reason, even if I don’t always like to call out a right or wrong.

Does it matter? I think it does, for 2 reasons:

  • When you have in your list a real desire, you are more likely to pursue it, and to make it happen. The drive to get there will just be stronger;
  • When you have done it, a mimetic desire won’t give you that much satisfaction. You don’t even remember why you wanted to go in the first place. All this anticipation, and it is kind of almost disappointing.

Getting nowhere

This could be the real problem with the bucket lists. Do they really deliver what they promise? Are they worth all the sacrifices and the effort we have to go through? It is funny, because I remember doing a personal bucket list a few years back, but I have no more recollection of what was in it… As a wild guess, it might not have meant very much, but one of these days I may look for it. I may have followed it for a few months and then forgotten all about it.

When things are too long-term, which bucket lists tend to be, they don’t really work for me. Because they are somewhere in the future, without a defined timeline, they are quite prone to succumb to procrastination. even if they are important. You keep on feeling you were getting nowhere and eventually scrap bucket lists all together.

Short-term bucket list

I have, however, tried a different approach to a bucket list during lockdown and then later in the summer of 2021. I had taken an extended time off (because of the big move) and I knew I wanted to make the best of it. So, together with the kids, we went around the table and said 2 or 3 things each that we really wanted to do that summer. We did a big poster, added some drawings to it and put it on the wall. I can probably report that we did more than 50% of the list. We made sure that, each time we had a free day, we made a choice between just hanging out or doing one of her items. It worked wonders. A bit like the bullet journal, it has allowed us to be intentional about our time.

I must also report that the next year we tried again and it was a total flop. I am not sure we got a single item done. Partly, because I did not have as much time off, but partly also because we assumed it would be easy like the year before. So we were less committed and I think we wrote it and put it in a drawer. Baby S still asks if we can do one for the summer of 2023, so I need to see how that will go.

To do or to be

The interesting reflection I read recently about bucket lists is that they tend to be more about things to do rather than to be. Do we ask ourselves that question often enough? Our bucket list may look very different if we ask the question that way. In fact, I do have somewhat of a bucket list for the year. My goals. I write each goal focused on what I want to be and feel, and then I am regimental about defining the actions that come with it. Some of them are mundane, some are bucket list type of to-dos. But they come from a key driver or value that will continue to hold true throughout the year. A life goal of what I want to be.

I want to be healthy. I want to be a loving parent. I want to be in my zone of genius. With that, I am constantly striving towards the most important pillars in my life and what I do along the way will be fulfilling because of that.

As an example, in December, myself and 4 friends that studied together 20 years ago, went to Vienna for a little reunion. The focus was on being (and reliving) memories, while making new ones. Going to different places, visiting special spots, that came with the experience, but was not the main driver. Bucket list item done. Progress in my goal – I want to be a present friend.

Hopes and dreams

I am still a fan of hopes and dreams. Do not get confused! What I found is that if these don’t come with a WHY, HOW and WHEN, they never make it to real life. And they are just there hanging out in a list, with the danger of causing frustration for a hope that never is. And if furthermore, the why is driven by mimetic desire, or the need for status or admiration, you can feel quite bitter when you get there, for no real reason at all.

Now, will you curate your life? What do you want to be?

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

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