There’s a new movie out promoting the idea that we should all be jumping out of airplanes, eating caviar and visiting the Wonders of the World before we finally croak. But is preparing a bucket list full of cliché items the right thing to do? Is it productive?
Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman star in The Bucket List. It’s a hilarious flick about two terminally ill men who escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die. The movie is generating all sorts of interest among the millions of people who have dream lists. Bucket List items include all the usual things that one would expect to find in a Hollywood dream list: skydiving, driving fast cars, indulging expensive tastes. It includes visiting the usually considered ultimate travel destinations like the Great Wall, Great Pyramids, Taj Mahal, etc.
The movie’s premise may resonate with many, but it is a flawed one unless the “bucket list” is created and managed in a way that reflects our individual true passions, interests and desires.
If you are going after the bucket list items, but going through long arduous processes to get to the items, than what the heck are you doing? What’s the point? Isn’t that like playing golf in the rain where you are walking around 99% of the time getting soaked and only 1% of the time swinging at the ball? Wouldn’t it be better to golf on sunny days and find other things to do on rainy days? Wouldn’t that make the whole golfing experience a better one? This is similar to people who hate their jobs but continue in them anyway, while always looking forward to weekends and the occasional holiday. How do they justify it? Are you among them?
A bucket should not be full of impulsive stuff that we pick up as we go along through life. It shouldn’t be like grabbing a chocolate bar off the display rack. Nor should it be filled with stuff that other people talk and dream about unless it truly resonates with your aspirations. Chasing other people’s dreams would be like having a hole in your bucket.
The most satisfying things to go into the bucket for most of us are those that are part of a larger context. For example, visiting the Great Wall as part of supporting a family member or friend competing in this upcoming summer Olympics in Beijing would likely be a more meaningful experience than buying a package Great Wall tour from a travel agent. Developing that larger context or framework is something that can and should take careful and thoughtful consideration. It often takes hard thought and hard work to develop.
Here are our suggestions for creating and managing your Bucket List:
1. Make sure you get satisfaction and joy from your day to day stuff. Don’t suffer the 99% to get to the 1% you enjoy. Make the whole experience an enjoyable one.
2. Don’t buy into your ideas and turn them into goals right away. Mull them over. If you weigh them carefully, you’ll probably find you can improve, replace or cancel them while enhancing your overall life experience.
3. Make a plan and enjoy the process. Planning is not optional. It is a generally accepted as being a requirement by most of the experts in the field of setting and achieving goals.
4. Review list items often to make sure you still want to do it. The bucket list should be open ended. Maintain enough flexibility that you don’t become a slave to your own list. Make sure you keep working on adding new items while completing others.
5. Find ways to make each goal more meaningful. Include dimensions of quality within the items on your list. If you involve like minded people in group activities, you’ll likely get much more from the experience than if you don’t. For solitary pursuits, take steps to ensure you get the most from the experience.
6. Document and share your goals for added enjoyment. If life is worth living, it ought to be worth writing about so commit some of these planning steps to writing. Writing the stuff down is a proven technique for turning goals into reality. Sharing them with others helps to cement your commitment to the goals and to bring others into the process. Don’t involve pessimists or nay-sayers in the process.
7. Don’t get obsessed with big “retail” goals. You are not required to share your secret fetish goals, or any goals for that matter, with others if you don’t want to. One strategy is to identify public and private goals and only share the public ones. Keep quiet about the private ones. Financial goals are often ones that are wise to keep private. But do celebrate your private accomplishments as you would your public ones. Don’t worry about it if they aren’t big or flashy.
8. Ensure your goals are consistent with who you are. Or reshape them to suit your style and preferences. For example, introverts and extroverts alike can enjoy a certain travel destination like say the Eiffel Tower, yet experience it quite differently.
The bottom line here is that you should find meaning and happiness in everything you do. Don’t get hung up on trying to compete with Nicholson and Freeman to get through their Hollywood list before the bucket tips.