Budget Life List

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At some point, I had a hot, sweaty 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.

Not a fan of bucket lists. 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 called a life list. I’m a believer that words have power.

Many cultures support words having a deep power. There was a recent study where a person’s happiness was accurately predicted by the words they used on social media.

Words shape reality.

I’m sure a therapist would agree, not that I know any. 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. My life list story, 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 weird, I dreamed big, going to space, visiting Antarctica, and a cruise around-the-world big. All were welcome on this scrappy piece of paper.

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

When it all felt too big like my thoughts were constricting the air from my lungs, I watched this …

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 money and time. Of those circled dreams, I picked adventures that were exciting.

My goal was to find an easy win.

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 had to start small and build a castle of tiny wins.

It’s 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 many hours of training, and fretting, to pass.

I wanted to emulate that but with less yelling little wins. Confidence can cut or clean!

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.

I started specific. What do I specifically want to do? What is the result I’m hoping for? I try to make it simple because I can do simple. Next, it has to be measurable. What is the minimum I need to accomplish for me to say that I successfully achieved the dream? Then, attainable which 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!

Next, ensuring my goal was relevant. I try to guarantee a goal was relevant to me and what I want to accomplish with my life, not what society or any digital overlord is commanding. The last piece was timely which is the wild card. I could have made it as aggressive or as loose as I want but I gave extra time because starting anything takes more time than expected.

Bits & Bytes

The last step was to think about weekly tasks that weren’t intimidating but easy to accomplish.

Small. Wins.

Like exposure therapy. For example, I would look at websites for pricing. Then put events on my phone to make sure I was staying on course. Each week I would keep my goal in mind and slowly build up knowledge and skill.

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


Jim Wang from Best Wallet Hacks sums it up crisply, “When you stop growing, you start dying.”

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 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!

  2. 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. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

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