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At some point, I had a hot, clammy feeling that my youth was slipping by. As a 30ish year old, this was expected but what made my breath shallow and hands clammy was when I realized that if I wanted to do things while I am young, agile, and foolish enough to agree – I need to start figuring what exactly I want to experience.

From this awkward uncomfortableness, a life list was born!

Kicking the Bucket

A bucket list comes from the morbid phrase, “kicking the bucket.” Though it’s far from definitive, the interweb suggests that the saying, kicking the bucket, came from when a prisoner hanged. They would stand on a bucket with a noose around their neck until somebody kicked the bucket out from underneath them.

Ick. That is why I don’t like the term “bucket list”. What a gruesome saying to hitch to my dreams.

Plus, the idea that I have to do all these things before I die makes me feel panicky. I have enough anxiety between bare grocery shelves and, now, buckets tipping over.

Life List Lean

Being alive is great! It was way more fun before Coronavirus but it’s still a good time. I choose to shift my dream list towards something more positive and call it a life list. I am a big believer that words have power.

Many cultures believe that words have a deep power. I believe it because what I say tends to shape my reality. I am sure a counselor and I agree on this. We may not agree on handing Valium out like candy (I am in on Pro Valium camp because when you feel less stabby, so do I) but, the power of words part, we are on the same page.

Dream Dump

As with most stories, they have to begin somewhere. I started with a trip to my dream dump. I took all my dreams and put them on a piece of paper. It wasn’t much of a list, more a vague cloud of traveling and adventures. Though it felt uncomfortable, I dreamed big; going to space, visiting Antarctica, and a cruise around-the-world. All were welcome on this scrappy piece of paper.

When I felt stuck, I looked at other life lists. It helped me to develop my own. I found out pretty quickly what I didn’t want to do, which is useful too.

This was a great source of inspiration…

I’m not crying. You are! 😭

Gettin’ After It

With all my dreams dumped out, I circled everything I could achieve in a year. I made sure to think about my money and time. Of those circled dreams, I picked the ones that excited me the most.

My goal was to find an easy win. Typically, the hardest part of anything, learning how to juggle; traveling to South Africa; learning how to turn a shirt into a facemask, is getting started. I started small and built on tiny wins. It’s kind of like when I learned to drive. Did I first experience driving a vehicle by jumping into a car and taking off on an epic road trip? All. Of. No. My mom would have killed me.

I started small. I took a class and read all about driving before I got behind the wheel. Then I was yelled at taught by a trained professional, next the learners permit, and eventually a test! It took quite a bit of training to build up to that. I wanted to emulate that but with less yelling little wins to build up confidence and skill.

Smart Is Sexy

Next, it was time to make my dream into a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. I will be certified as a master naturalist by the end of June sounds way better than I want to become a master naturalist soon. It’s all in the words, I was just talking about this! Words have power! I swear this stuff writes itself.

I started specific. What do I specifically want to do? What is the result I am hoping for? I try to make make it simple. Next, it has to be measurable. What is the minimum I need to accomplish for me to say that I successfully achieved your dream? Attainable is tricky because what is attainable can vary. It may not be possible, at the moment, for me to blow $250,000 for a ticket to space, but it could be in the future! Fun Fact: $250,000 is on the low end like the Southwest of space travel.

Next, ensuring my goal is relevant. Hopefully goes without saying but I try to ensure a goal is relevant to me and what I want to accomplish with my life. Timely is the wild card. I could make this as aggressive or as loose as I want but I give myself extra time with my first life list items.

Starting new endeavors always takes more time than anticipated.

Bits & Bytes

The last step was to think about small weekly tasks that aren’t intimidating but easy to accomplish. Small. Wins. Like beginning with exposure therapy. For example, I would look at websites for pricing. I would even put events on my phone calendar to make sure I was staying on course. Each week I would keep my goal in mind and slowly build up my knowledge and skill.

I was learning and building skills slowly which translated to sustainable growth. I didn’t want to press the gas instead of the break and run over a post with a golf cart.


If I don’t plan for my dreams, they won’t happen. Of all that I have achieved, none of them would have happened without taking the effort, time, money to force them into reality.

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6 thoughts on “Why a Life List Is Better Than a Bucket List

  1. I love the idea of a life list. With all the extra time on our hands right now it is a great time to reflect on what is important to us and what we want to spend our time (and money) doing after this is all over.

    1. Absolutely, Maria! This mandatory staycation has definitely been my kick-in-the-pants to start planning future endeavors before the next pandemic/climate disaster/human malady.

  2. It’s kind of interesting now. There is a lot of traveling in my ‘life list’, but right now everything is on hold. On the other hand, we are doing more things at home that are satisfying from a different perspective.

    1. Sounds like you are making lemonade out of those lemons, Dividend Power! What are some of the things that are providing you more satisfaction? I am always looking for new life list ideas. 🙂

  3. thedragonsonfire says:

    That is a great inspiring video. Balances out well with the morbid thought of how “kicking the bucket” came to be 🙂

    I love making lists and usually have lots of them for daily tasks and projects. Over the years I have jotted down longer term goals, usually related to travel. Now is a good time to revisit those goals and add more to them.

    I think by also not calling it a bucket list, there can be less pressure on feeling the need to complete it all. With a life list of dreams, it’s more understandable that some dreams come true and some don’t. And that is ok.

  4. I am a list-generator/Type-A person too but I am cringing at that title. Apparently I am a closet Type A!

    Thanks for the philosophical insight, Dragons Fire!

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