Sleep in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora, swim with whale sharks in Mexico, or drink beer at Oktoberfest in Germany—what’s on your bucket list?
For too many people it takes a terrifying illness, hitting retirement age, or some other life altering event to honestly begin thinking about all the things to do before you die.
In many of these cases, it will then be too late to turn these dreams into a reality. Life is uncertain, and you will undoubtedly be thrown curve-balls throughout. You cannot be sure that in ten or twenty years you will be physically, emotionally, or financially able to do all of the things that you desire, like climbing the twelve hundred steps of Sigiriya Rock in Sri Lanka or hiking between the cities of Italy’s Cinque Terre.
Don’t wait for that “perfect time” to begin—make your bucket list not because you are dying but because you want to live!
How to Make a Bucket List: Steps to Create the Ultimate One
Step 1. Name Your Bucket List
Due to the bucket list meaning and definition, some people have some strong emotions about the term, mostly because it is a reminder of their own mortality. But, making a bucket list is really about living life to the fullest with all the hours you have left on Earth. With that said, you don’t have to feel obligated to name your list a “bucket list” you can call it anything that makes you feel the warm fuzzies inside. Here are just a few ideas:
- Life List
- Dream List
- Life’s Aspiration List
- My Lifetime Goals
- Things to Achieve in My Lifetime
- My Life’s To Do
- Meaningful Life Goals
- Things to Conquer
- Amazing Experiences To Be Had
- The Life Plan
- My Life’s Must Dos
Step 2. Find a Place to Store Your Bucket List
One of the most important steps in creating a bucket list is recording it somewhere. Sounds simple, right? But even so, most people miss this critical step. Recording your list represents a sincere commitment, turning them into tangible goals—doable aspirations to work toward instead of wishful thinking.
Studies have shown that people are 33 percent more successful with achieving their goals when they write them down, share them with the world, and are held accountable with weekly updates.
In the beginning I used a small, green bucket list notebook, and then upgraded to a simple Word document. Afterward, it graduated to a multi-tabbed Excel file. Now my over 1,000 goal list is located solely online on my blog, which has been the easiest for me. Not only is it conveniently accessible, but it also holds me accountable by being visible to the universe. There are also many phone apps and online bucket list websites where you can record your list and share it with others. Here’s a couple apps & communities:
The most popular bucket list community, a place where you can record your life’s ambitions, chronicle your accomplishments, get inspired by other member’s goals, and encourage people to accomplish theirs.
Another community to help make your bucket list, where the ideas seem endless. What I like about this one is the “swap” tab where you can ask others for help in achieving a goal.
- BuckitDream App
This downloadable app helps you build your own bucket list, plus share your dreams to inspire others.
- iWish App
The iWish app helps you discover your dreams with over twelve hun- dred bucket list ideas, then assists you in achieving them. You can create reminders, prioritize goals, and even make your own vision board.
3. Pick the Length of Your List
The length that you create your list is also ultimately up to you; there is no magic number of goals that should be on it. You cannot put limitations on something that is meant to unravel your dreams. With that said, I do recommend having at least twenty-five objectives to start, with varying levels of difficulty. They can be as small as hiking a new trail at a local park or as big as running a marathon—some will be checked off in a weekend, while others may be lifelong journeys.
Including short-term goals that can easily be completed will give you a sense of accomplishment and help to keep you motivated for the ones that may take years. By continuously working toward (and checking off) your goals, you will turn the sense of achieving into a good habit.
If your list gets too long (like mine that has over 1,000 goals on it!) then you can break it up into smaller bite-sized chunks with deadlines.
Keep in mind that if you are putting a deadline to your entire bucket list, then it’s not really a bucket list by definition, because your lifetime is the deadline.
Setting deadlines for a select group of goals can help escape the “someday” syndrome, a common excuse for why you won’t begin today because you will get to it someday. The goals you choose to currently work on should have a deadline different than “in your lifetime,” as it will create a sense of urgency to propel you forward.
Push yourself, but also be realistic with your deadlines.
If you have just accepted a demanding new job that will require six months of training, then your dream of going to a month-long silent retreat in Bali may have to have a longer deadline than a year. Spend some time calculating what is practical: if you are committed to a half year of training for your position, then allow yourself three months for full transition into the new position after the training period. Then assess how long it will take you to complete the goal from this point, and that’s what your deadline should be, keeping in mind that you will be able to complete little steps along the way.
I recommend creating mini-lists within your main list, for example:
- Seasonal Bucket List – Some items will only be able to be done in certain seasons, like seeing the tulip fields in Holland or dogsledding in Greenland. Each year create a winter, spring, fall or summer bucket list.
- This Year’s Bucket List – Instead of making a New Year’s resolution, on the first of the year break your list down to the items you want to complete in the next twelve months.
- 30 Before 30, 40 before 40, or 50 before 50 – Choose goals that you want to do before reaching a certain age.
4. Find Ideas
Once you have made the decision to make a bucket list, you need to start cultivating ideas. You’re bound to have a few items that you have always wanted to do in the forefront of you mind, and immediately write those down. But, how do you come up with other incredible ideas? How do you know what’s out there in the world to choose from? The following are different methods to stimulate ideas for your list.
✦ WRITE YOUR EULOGY
At a time when I was suffering from a serious case of the blahs, a close friend challenged me to write my own eulogy.
What? Why would anyone want to think about his or her own death?
The answer is that by doing so you can learn a valuable lesson about what you want your life to look like when you are alive. What legacy do you want to leave? What do you want to achieve? What would you want your friends to say about you and your life after you are gone? What does your ideal life look like?
I took his challenge, without realizing the impact it would have. My eulogy read something like this:
Annette was a devoted daughter, wife and friend. She was always the first to laugh at herself and the last to judge others. She was a true lover of life — her biggest passion was trying something for the first time and sharing her adventures in order to inspire others to step out of their comfort zone. Her curious nature and eagerness to learn led her around the world collecting thousands of memorable experiences and making friends of all nationalities, creeds, ethnicities and race. These first hand experiences and the people she met were her best teachers in life. She designed an unconventional lifestyle that she was excited to wake up to every morning. It was filled with travel, adventure, giving back and lots of laughter. She touched the hearts of people from all walks of life, though she would say that it was her heart that was touched by them.
I took these words and translated them into goals for my list; travels that would immerse me with the locals, ways to inspire others to live a life beyond fear and adventures that would leave lasting memories. My bucket list and this eulogy became my life’s mission statement.
✦ CREATE CATEGORIES
Breaking up your life list into different categories can make the brainstorming process much easier. This is also a great way to organize it once it starts growing. Divide a page into your selected categories and list at least five entries for each one. You will find that some goals fit into two different sections, that is no problem just record it in one, the most important part is that it’s on there somewhere.
Following are only examples of categories, if you find many of your entries fall into a category not shown here simply create it —this is your list.
- Career + Finances
- Entertainment & Events
- Family + Kids
- Food + Drink
- Just for Fun
- Local Experiences
- Personal Growth
- Nature + Wildlife
- Sports + Activities
✦ ASK YOURSELF 20 QUESTIONS
Play a game of 20 questions with yourself to find what adventures you would be most passionate about.
If you get stumped, just skip to the next one and come back later.
Don’t let your answers be controlled by fear or self-doubt, this is the place to dream bigger than you ever thought possible.
- Where in the world would you like to visit?
- If you had one month to live, what would you do?
- What types of new foods do you want to try?
- What cultural traditions are you interested in?
- Are there any activities or sports that you want to try?
- What events do you want to attend?
- What has always been your biggest dream in life?
- What classes have you always thought about taking?
- If money and fear were not an issue what would you do?
- Who have you always wanted to meet in person?
- What would you like to do with family and friends?
- In what ways do you want to do improve yourself physically, mentally or spiritually?
- What skills have you wanted to learn?
- Is there a charity you have always wanted to support?
- What was your childhood dream — is it still relevant today?
- If you won a multi-million dollar lottery today, what would you do?
- If you were on your deathbed, what would be your regrets?
- What travel stories would you want to share with your grandchildren?
- If you had three wishes what would they be?
- Is there someplace you have always wanted to take your spouse, best friend and parent?
✦ USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM
Sometimes you can be gung ho about goal setting on your own and the ideas will flow easily, while other times you need a little help from your friends. Not only will they bring new ideas to the table, but also together you will be providing accountability and encouragement to each other. Connecting with likeminded people, especially if they share the same goal, can be a great support system to keep you motivated.
There are plenty of options when it comes to making and tackling your bucket list with others:
- Set up a girl’s night at a wine bar, a special date night with your significant other or get the entire family together to throw ideas around.
- Think about trading in your book club for a bucket list club, a group that can meet once or twice a month to create your lists, get motivation and even accomplish goals together.
- One of my favorite ideas is to throw a bucket list party. You can supply decorative paper, sparkly pens and the margaritas, then your best friends can hang out and conjure up ideas.
✦ GET OUTSIDE INSPIRATION
You have ventured deep inside yourself to find experiences for your list, now it’s time to get some outside inspiration. In this modern day of television, Internet search engines and social media, inspiration is all around you; you just have to be in the bucket list mindset to see it.
Once you start cultivating ideas your instinct will automatically be on high alert whenever anybody mentions something worthy of a spot on your list. It is similar to when you’ve finally determined your dream destination is Italy and everywhere you look you notice either people going there, mentioning it in conversation or it being written about in magazines. This is because your subconscious mind is already thinking about it.
Until this mentality kicks in, you can get inspiration from browsing Pinterest boards, watching travel shows, subscribing to adventure magazines, reading blogs (like this one, Bucket List Journey — shameless plug), searching specific hashtags on Twitter, etc.
The inspiration possibilities are almost endless.
If that’s not enough to get your brain juices flowing, you can also watch the movie “The Bucket List” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. Though it did not start the bucket list phenomenon, it did bring the term to the forefront.
Still stumped? Get some ideas from my bucket list.
5. Make Your Bucket List!
You’ve now got a bunch of great ideas for your list, so it’s time to start creating it.
There is no right or wrong way of designing the actual bucket list, no one specific prescription. It is a personal journey between you and your aspirations. Each one should be different because it is meant to reflect what you most desire in your own life. For example, mine includes learning to surf, skydiving, and rappelling down a waterfall to appease my adventurous side.
If you are not a thrill seeker, your list may be entirely different.
The important part is to come up with items that are meaningful to you; ones that will inspire you to wake up each morning with a fire in your belly.
Retiling the bathroom floor has no place on this list, nor does cleaning the cobwebs out of the garage. Save those for your weekly honey-dos. With that said, don’t worry if you didn’t make each aspiration earth shattering, or even travel related; sometimes the simplest goals are the most rewarding (giving blood took less than an hour commitment, yet is still one of my most gratifying experiences).
Also, don’t exclude anything just because you think it is too difficult or frightening; it is meant to stretch your comfort zone. Do the same for the things you think are too simple. As long as it has meaning to you it should be on your list, because even the smallest achievement can give us the feeling of a great accomplishment.
Don’t pass judgment on your own abilities! You will be surprised at what you can actually accomplish. People put limitations on themselves by thinking that they can’t do incredible things or because the big picture of an aspiration seems so overwhelming.
Making a bucket list is your license to dream big, go beyond the realistic goals, and put down everything that you have ever wanted to see, touch, and experience. Be realistic, but also understand that we are capable of doing so much more than we think we can.
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