This week on the show, I’m talking about the phenomenon of the Bucket List and how to create a joy filled bucket list based on what you want to do with your life. If you have tried a Bucket List and it just felt like a huge list of things hanging over your head that never got done, there’s a reason! I’m also sharing my favorite way to bring a few of your bucket list items to life, and make a plan to bring more of them to your life in the future.
I can see why the idea of having a bucket list is appealing. It’s nice to keep a running list of the things that enchant you, and you want to do during your life. When it’s a personalized list, it can be a touchstone for the things you want to make sure you do, the dreams you want to realize, and the plans you want to be sure and make. If you’re using your bucket list to inspire you, or if you’re doing it to help keep your life on track in the face of a horrible diagnosis, I think it’s lovely. Working towards something and knowing what you want in your life is admirable.
What I don’t like about Bucket Lists is that they have become long, impersonal, running lists that hang over your head of things you haven’t done, might not do, and were possibly put there because someone on Instagram did them once, and you want to keep up with them. One of my concerns is that the Bucket List trend has changed the original intent of these lists, and instead adds overwhelm to our lives, plays on our fear of missing out, and can be lacking in items that have meaning and feel personal, impactful, and purpose driven.
So let’s look at how we can make a joy filled bucket list that can guide your adventures and point your heart towards the things you really want to do.
A Joy Filled Bucket List
Set Your Intention
What’s the point of the list?
I think the heart and point of this kind of a list is that it needs to be intentional, it needs to reflect who you are, and it needs to resonate with your soul. And, ideally, it should bring you joy. The main way to combat the problem of a Bucket List not being something meaningful to YOU is to be clear on your intentions about it.
This is one of those questions I ask in my “Jump Start Your Podcast” class is – why do you want to do this?
What’s your motivation for creating a Bucket List?
And really sit with it – it’s like any resolution – is this thing in support of who you want to be and what you aim to do with your life?
Is it answering the question that seems to hit each of us at the core, and that Mary Oliver so lovingly penned as “What is that you want to do with your one wild and precious life?”
If so, go forward. Start a Bucket List.
If you are in this space of truly digging in and looking for your purpose, and the things that will get you to that purpose, it’s time to set an intention for what you want to do with this list.
Balancing Aspirational against Overwhelm or “All the Things”
What Makes the List?
To avoid overwhelm and create a curated list for yourself, limit your list to things that are meaningful. If you’re going to spend the time, money, effort, and your wild and precious life pursuing these things, it’s important that everything on the list be special and important to you in some way. For the Bucket List to continue to be meaningful to you, it needs to have things on it that are mindfully curated.
If you already have a bucket list, but have ignored it or aren’t inspired by it and what to keep it, get it out. Look it over.
What really rings true on there, for YOU?
And this is where I want you to be really honest with yourself – what got put on there because it seemed cool, or someone you admire mentioned it once? But it doesn’t feel especially inspirational to you?
How have you been adding the items that are on your list?
For a Bucket List to be really meaningful to YOU, make sure the ideas and the things on that list are from your heart. The point here is not to pack a list of things that sound nice, but never get done. The point is to build a list of things that inspire, delight, and fascinate you.
Try this instead: A while ago, Andrea Scher led a class called Mondo Beyondo. The first activity in this course was that you took 10 minutes, and you wrote down all of your wildest dreams. And it could be ANYTHING you wanted, not limited by your current situation or life. You wrote it all down. And this list is the representation of your authentic, true, self, and the person you desire to be. So, if you’re looking to start a Bucket List, or you’re looking to add things to your list, why not start with a Mondo Beyondo type brainstorm for yourself? Pick those things that truly resonate.
Another way of getting to the real heart of what you want on your Life List, if you’re struggling,by doing a forward-thinking version of the Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. If you’re not familiar, the premise of his book and lecture of the same name is that he was a favorite lecturer at Carnegie Mellon, and he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. They had a real lecture series they called “The Last Lecture” where people would get up and give a talk AS IF it was their last. In the spirit of the series, Randy asked to give a Last Lecture, which was in fact, his Last Lecture.
How does this fit in, you might ask? He didn’t list off 10,000 things he did, one by one. He did list some amazing accomplishments, and nearly all of those were focused around the dreams he had for his life, and the family that he lived it with.
If you were looking back on a life well lived, does each thing on your list feel like the kind of thing that you want to have spent your time doing? What would get included? What wisdom of your one life was important enough to weave into the last things you’d talk about in a public way?
Try this instead: In the spirit of the movie “The Bucket List,” sit with the question of what your heart and soul wants for your life. If you were giving a last lecture, what would you include? If you read your own obituary, what would you really want it to say? How do those things give you inspiration on what to add to your Bucket List? What would you add, and what might you remove?
Bring it into Action with “Ten in Three”
Many people have a very large list, but don’t act on it. Or maybe don’t even keep track of it. So what’s my suggestion around the Bucket List? It’s simple – make the things on that list actionable, and if they are not immediately easy to do, plan them out so you can do them.
Starting about four years ago, I started making a list that I call my “10 in 3.” The idea is simple. You take a look at that long list of things that you want to do with your life, or the goals you have for the next five years, and you pick just ten things you want to do.
You list them out, 3 to do this year, 3 the following year, and 3 in the third year. The 10th item is the “floater” and you can make it something big that stretches across all 3 years or, it can be something you put in just one of the years if the other 3 things you’ve selected are a bit light.
The idea is that each of the 3 things in the year are biggish. They will take some effort. You’ll need to plan them out, lay some groundwork. In my past examples, I’ve had things like “get certified as a life coach,” “start a podcast,” “start my business” as 3 of my 10 items.
Once you’ve culled this list down, post it somewhere. Make sure that each week you take a baby step to getting the thing done. Keep working on the goal, breaking the big thing down into smaller sub steps, and you’ve got a year to do it. When you focus your year into 3 big goals, you get them done. As Greg McKeown talks about in Essentialism, you have to limit your priorities.
Each time I’ve done this, it’s been successful. And, here’s the tie in with the Bucket List or Life List – it’s a way to pull three of those things you know you want to do with your life, and start working on them now.
Instead of those things sitting out there, lingering, it gives you the focus and the space to start working on bringing your dreams into action, now.
And, the other amazing part about narrowing down your list to three things for this year is that you can begin to tailor your to do list for the week to highlight a baby step towards one of the big three goals, each week. Remember that the steps don’t have to be big to make progress. One phone call could get you more info on something you’re curious about. Reading one book could fill the gap in your information and amplify your ability to take the next step, too.
So, by breaking up your big three goals for the year, and adding a small to do for them to your day over each week, you’re going to see growth and development across the year. The other benefit in breaking up your big three goals for the year is that you avoid the overwhelm that comes with planning or doing big things. So, if you’re wanting to start a podcast, your first steps, across several weeks would be:
- Research shows similar to what you think you might want to do
- Narrow down a topic
- Email two hosts to ask how they got their start
- Research microphones
- Order a microphone
Notice that these are not all lumped together into a single week, even though I know many of us do end up lumping together many steps at once, which leads to our overwhelm on topics. Instead, take the time as you look at doing each big goal, and list out the steps you think you need to take, project manager style, and then start chopping away at doing those little steps over the course of the year.
The other thing I like to point out as someone starts using the Ten in Three method to bring goals to life is that you’ll want to revisit your list regularly.
Here’s the TLDR of what’s included in How to Create A Joy Filled Bucket List:
- How Bucket Lists got their start
- What the term “Bucket List” means, and where the saying came from
- Why I like “Life List” better as a term
- Why your list might not be working as well as you’d like, and how to change that
- How to set an intention for your Bucket List (what the point of the list?)
- How to leverage mindfulness in determining what goes on your list
- What to do if you begin to feel overwhelmed by the amount of things on your list (and question where half of them came from)
- How to begin living your Bucket List, and seeing the goals you’ve put into play come to life.
Ten in Three Worksheet
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (on Amazon)
The Bucket List (movie) from 2007 (on Amazon)
Atlantis The Palm (The Dubai Underwater Hotel)
The Dubai Palm Islands
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