So there’s a bit of debate about bucket lists. You know, those lists of all the things you want to do before you kick the bucket. Some experts say they’re essential because they help you to focus on the things that make you happy. A great form of stress relief. And we all know how good that is for you. Giving you something to look forward to and getting the happy juices flowing. It’s about focussing on the things you want to do, rather than letting the things you feel you should do take over. It stimulates creativity, helps you dream bigger and opens possibilities you might never have discovered otherwise.
And of course the fantastic thing about actually writing your bucket list down, is how much easier it becomes to make these things happen. In writing them down those goals actually become tangible. That’s one big step closer to making them real. It’s amazing how things can just take on a life of their own when you set your intention.
And how good do you feel when you actually get to tick them off? I’m all for good feelings. Keeps you healthier. Did I mention that learning new things actually wards off dementia? That’s another big tick for the bucket list.
But then there are other experts who are nothing short of critical of the bucket list. Labelling it as yet another list in a life already dominated by ‘to dos’. A superficial list devoid of true meaning and purpose. Hedonistic, competitive, trite. Striving for happiness outside of ourselves, rather than finding true happiness within. Living for future goals rather than living in the now.
You know, they might have a point.
But I reckon there’s a middle ground.
Because just like with any goal setting, a bucket list is your opportunity to get in touch with your values. Those things that are important to you. And while swimming with dolphins may be something you’d like to do at least once in your life, it may be that saving the reef is also important to you. And while the thrill of skydiving may be your thing, perhaps donating blood once a month is also something you value. Or maybe it’s to start a business that puts shoes on kids feet for free in the parts of the world you’ve discovered on your travels.
Rather than being purely hedonistic, a meaningful bucket list can actually be the means by which to connect with another human being at an even deeper level.
For some people their bucket list is about leaving a legacy.
Take this guy Patrick Soon-Shiong. Ever heard of him? Well just in case you haven’t he’s the world’s richest doctor. Doing all this fancy stuff with the human genome in an effort to eradicate the world of diseases like cancer. But on the side he shoots hoops at home and is a part owner in the Lakers. I often wonder if a bucket list with this sort of balance – passion, purpose and an outlet for just enjoying yourself – is actually the fuel by which you can create the very legacy you want to leave behind. Because when we take time out to just enjoy ourselves we refuel for the longer journey.
The thing is when we are living a life aligned with our true values we can reach a depth of feeling much greater than happiness. It’s called fulfilment. And while you might not achieve everything on your list I reckon you’re guaranteed to get more out of life than if you never did the list in the first place. And leave more behind.
So what’s on your bucket list?
What legacy will you leave behind?
Life is not a dress rehearsal – Paul Blackburn