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Lists. There are to-do lists, grocery lists, shopping lists, honey-do lists, coffee lists, and so many more! It makes sense that there is a list of all things we want to accomplish. We are trying to live our best life, aren’t we? Well, the only way to track that awesomeness is with a life list. Spoiler Alert: It is way better than a bucket list.

Grab your vision board, we are going to get personal!

Danger Up Ahead: Kicking the Bucket

A bucket list comes from the morbid phrase, “kicking the bucket”. It’s about to get dark in here so if you are uninterested in learning about the disturbing history behind this phrase – skip to the next paragraph. Though it’s far from definitive, the interweb suggests that kicking the bucket came from when a prisoner was hung as punishment. 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”. It has this negative connotation of death and the excessively painful kind of demise. I am not interested in adding my precious dreams to that ugly death cloud. Knowledge is power but I have yet to hear, knowledge is easy.

Plus, the idea that I have to do all these things before I die makes me feel panicky and full of anxiety. I have enough anxiety between bare grocery shelves and, now, buckets tipping over. But if you are a hardier human and the title doesn’t bother you, first of all – dang, baller! Second, you do you.

Lean into a Life List

Being alive is great! I mean, it was way more fun before Coronavirus but it’s still a good time. Let’s shift this dream list of ours towards something more positive and call it a life list. Why all this focus on words? Because words have power. Many cultures still believe that words have a visceral power. Why not? What you say shapes your reality. I am sure your 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. Let’s begin your life list here and begin with a trip to your dream dump. Take all your dreams and put them on a piece of paper. It doesn’t have to be a list, it can be anything at this point. Feel free to dream big too. Want to go to space? So do I! Put it on the list. Drooling over the thought of traveling to all seven continents? Definitely get that one on paper. Itching to become the next Joe Exotic? Ooookaaay, put that on your dream dump and get that carnival-train-wreck out of your head. All are welcome on this scrappy piece of paper.

If you are still looking at a blank piece of paper, that is understandable. Sometimes we need to look at other people’s dreams to find our own. As a bonus, you’ll find out pretty quick what you don’t want to do, which is useful too. Here is my list, if you need a little inspiration. If you need a lot of inspiration, please enjoy the following…

After that adrenalin jolt, how about we take one of our dreams and turn it into reality.

Gettin’ After It

Now, you have all your dreams dumped out. Great. Circle all the dreams that can be achieved in a year. Think about your money and time. Of those circled dreams, which one excites you the most? Pick that one.

The goal of this is 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. Let’s start small and build on those small wins. It’s kind of like when we learned to drive. Did your first experience of driving a vehicle include jumping into a car and taking an epic road trip? All. Of. No. If you did, let’s be friends.

Remember, you started small. You took a class and read all about driving before you got behind the wheel. Then you were 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. We want to emulate that but with less yelling little wins to build up your confidence and skill.

Test & Scale

Take your dream for a test drive. Find a video about it. Use google maps to explore the area. Just do a little bit of research to see if you are ready to go all in. Even small dreams take time, energy, and money which are finite human resources. Spend them wisely.

SMART is the New Sexy

Now, it’s time to make this dream sexy. It’s time to make your dream into a SMART goal: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Timely. I am going to 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.

Start specific. What is it you specifically want to do? If you can, make it simple. Next, it has to be measurable. What is the minimum you need to accomplish for you to say that you successfully achieved your dream? Attainable is a bit tricky, what is attainable for everyone varies. Realize your time, finances, and energy of what is attainable for you. It may be attainable for you to save $250,000 for a ticket to space in a year. Fun/Tragic Fact: $250,000 is on the low end like the Southwest of space travel.

Next, it’s ensuring your goal is relevant. This hopefully goes without saying but make sure this goal is relevant to you and what you want to accomplish with your life. Timely is the wild card. You can make this as aggressive or as loose as you want. My recommendation is to give yourself extra time with your first life list item. Starting new endeavors always takes more time than anticipated.

Bits & Bites

Look at you, crushing it with a dream turned into a goal! Let’s think about small weekly tasks that aren’t intimidating but easy to accomplish. Small. Wins. Let’s begin this journey with exposure therapy. For example, look at a site to get an idea for pricing. Perhaps saving money on groceries and using that towards your SMART goal. Use social media to reach out to someone who has insert SMART goal here. Ensure you put a reminder on your phone. This way each week you will keep your goal in mind and slowly build up your knowledge and skill. Remember, the uncomfortable learning-to-drive example? We are learning and building skills slowly which translates to sustainable growth. We don’t want to press the gas instead of the break and run over a post with a golf cart. Ah, the joys of driving.

Truth Bomb

I have bad news. If you don’t make a plan for your dreams, they won’t happen. I know, adulting sucks! Of all your accomplishments to date, how many have happened without you (or paying someone else, is always a viable option) taking the effort, time, money to make it happen?

Deep breath. Remember, the hardest part is the start. How are you going to start your life list?

Keep exploring!

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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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