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Kick Your Bucket List

Should you kick your bucket list, or become more zealous about it? 

In the aftermath of an impromptu day of cliff jumping, it was hard not to notice that my new friend (whom I had convinced to jump off said cliff with me) used the phrase ‘Bucket List’ passionately. He dropped the term at least 3 times, within a few interactions. 

30 ft. Cliff Jump. Check. 

I could tell that when the words exited his lips, it sparked an excitement within him about some a desire he had not yet fulfilled in his life. 

Bucket List. Noun. Defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary: A list of things that one has not done before, but wants to do before dying. 

Yet, all that it inspired in me was a greater question that I later proposed to him: Why do you think that people have bucket lists?

“Lists give me a release to the things that I have/want to do - the are a way for me to cope with them. When I had projects at work I had a list and a sub-list. When it comes to my Bucket List, I am not hard and fast to it, it is more like a list of desires. It’s merely data that is organized.”  

Most people’s version was developed solely by the sensationalized 2007 film ‘The Bucket List,’ where two terminally ill men on a road trip have a list of things to do before they pass. Google Trends show a significant peak in this search term starting in Dec 2007, with the US being ranked #5 for search interest on this topic.   

Is the term bucket list a ‘concept’ word that our culture has now trained our brains to reference any sort of desires out of our life? 
Do you have one?
If so, where is your list? 

Years ago I met The Buried Life, a group of 4 guys that coined the question: “What do you want to do before you die?” 
Those inspirational, big dreaming guys are shifting worlds all over the globe, bringing their own dreams and others to fruition. 

But, what motivates most people to move from the bucket list itself into making it happen?
Is your must-do-before-I-croak list in a drawer under piles of papers?
How do you reach towards what is on that list on a daily basis? 
Are you using self-defeating patterns and vocabulary to never amass that list to reality? 
Is your list flexible?

I had so many questions. 

Why, why, why this need for a  bucket list? 

My theory is that as we grow, learn and experience; our thoughts, ideas and preferences on what we want will change. If we are clinging to a list that defines our experience, I think we could possibly cheat ourselves out of an even better time. 

What if at some point you decided you didn’t want to Ski in the Alps, or have 4 kids and settle in a house in suburbia...would you still do it because it was what you had been essentially living and planning for? 

As my passion for the subject grew, I began interviewing others on my dire hard question. 

Subject #1 - Mike, A friend of 7 years            
Me: Do you have a 'bucket list?' 
Mike: No, I don't
Me: Do you believe they are essential in helping people achieve certain experiences or that they can limit experience?
Mike: Neither. I think as you experience things in your life you should put them on the list, and the end list is the end of your life
Me: An interesting point I have not heard yet. 
Mike: I don't keep a bucket list because I believe life is a series of experiences that you must go through to appreciate. Having a list of things to do isn't how I want to live… Do you have one?
Me: No. I had a chat with someone who was into them and it spawned an interest in me to get others thoughts. I believe they can be limiting in the sense that as our experiences change us, so do our desires and preferences.
Mike: True that

Subject #2 - Kelli, friend of 5 years
With a glass of our favorite red wine, hanging on the couch during one of my yearly visits, I asked: Do you have a bucket list?

Kelli:I have a mental rolling list. Things come and go off the list. It is far more important what is on it, not the number of things. And the items on it don’t have to be ‘reasonable’ per say. 

Me: If you are on your deathbed and had not ‘crossed off’ these items on your list, how would you feel? 

Kelli: After a day like today, no, I would not regret it. *Our day had consisted of picking fresh fruits out of the garden whilst drinking tea,  a yoga session next to said garden, breakfast looking out at the ocean, a 6-mile challenging hike that screamed accomplishment when we reached the top, then cocktails and dinner. It was quite epic! 

Me: But as far as your list goes, what would you have wanted out of life?

Kelli: I would regret never feeling completely, truly, trusting, in love with someone. The one relationship where I said it verbally, it was not in its full capable expression. Next, I would regret not visiting other countries/cultures more. I have travelled, but not as much as I would like. It’s in progress. 

Live on an island, teach yoga, and surf. Check. 

Subject #3 - A, a fellow traveller whom I met in a hostel in Nicaragua who has been to every continent.  

Me:  Do you have a 'bucket list?' 

A: Not a written down one, nope
Me: Do you believe the written version withholds people or enables them to reach what they want?
A: I believe in goal setting, but bucket lists? It's just a list of shit people don't do. It's not a plan to do them or a achieve them. My two cents. 

Subject #4 - Julia, friend of 4 years, former Co-worker

Me: Do you have a bucket list?

Julia: Yes I do, although it changes and is written down in lots of places. And each time I write it, it's always a little different

Me: Do you think it is empowering or limiting?

Julia: Empowering! I don't have it as a road map. I have it more like a Things to See Here list. Like hey, if I'm in this situation, do this, this, and this and don't let it pass you by! If I died today without reaching all of them, I'd be pretty bummed. It'd make me feel like I didn't get out of Kansas quick enough to see Oz.

Dive in Thailand (with a pair of sunnies on!) Check. 

Subject #5 - Dustin, Afghan war veteran, friend of 14 years

Me: Do you have a bucket list?
D: No, if I died today, I would say I had a pretty fulfilling life. I would die Happy. 

Subject #6 - Willow, fellow traveller turned friend in Eleuthera, Bahamas. 

Me: Do you have a bucket list? If so/not why? Do you believe they can hinder or enhance your experience?
Willow: Hmmm...interesting question. I've had many "bucket lists", though I haven't called them such. I used to write in the back of each journal, a list of things that I wanted to do or to accomplish in life. I'm a fan of lists. They allow your mind to wander and yet you can stay on track, so to speak. By the age of 26, I'd finished so many of those lists that I suddenly realized that if I died, I was okay. I had accomplished, seen and done so much in life that death was no longer feared. Furthermore, everything else in life was just icing on my proverbial cake!

(She went on to list literally some of the most amazing things if you are an adventurer of sorts. From dancing the tango on stage in Buenos Aires, climbing most of the world’s famous mountain ranges to flying a plane...I came to admire her and her spirit greatly.)

Willow: At 37, I've lost count of how many bucket lists I've completed or adventures that I've experienced. I think that it's very important, at least for me, to put fantastic dreams out there, or I don't think that I'd make the time and effort to embrace the opportunities that present themselves. Life is good.


Subject #7 - Ed, 72 years old, stranger at my local wine bar

Me: I have to know, at your age, do you have a bucket list? 
Ed: Yes
Ed: Absolutely important. But I am a results-oriented person, so I believe in setting a goal and obtaining results. 
Me: Okay, so what is important to you then? 
Ed: But, I don’t take them that seriously, I only had 2 things on my list…
Me: <anticipation now coming over me>....tell me!
Ed: 1) was to buy a pair of shoes that cost over $100. I now have 3 that cost nearly $300 and they were the worst shoes I ever bought. They are so uncomfortable. I only wore them a few times and they just sit in my closet. 
2) To get a manicure. I did, and thank God I never have to do that again!
Me: <Laughing> Has your life been fun though?
Ed: Oh, absolutely. I thought of those two items about 10 years ago, but now you got me thinking. Maybe it is time to come up with some other things. 
Me: <Smiling> Thank you.


Subject #8 - Sheri, neighborhood local turned friend

Me: Do you have a bucket list? If so, have you crossed any items off of it? What value does it hold to you? If you are opposed to it, why? 

Sheri: "I used to have a bucket list, but my items have changed. They used to be actions like learn Spanish, live in another country, run a marathon, buy a house, live in lots of places, ride in a rodeo. It's changed over the years especially after traveling a bunch and living out of my car.

I've done lots of amazing things that I didn't know existed. My bucket list has become more short term than long term goals. Two years ago, my list was things like spin fire in the great circle at burning man, learn partner poi, sign a year lease (that was the biggest one because I had spent years traveling) 

I've crossed off the items on my list that have seemed truer to what I want. Sometimes I've had things on the list that just sounded good instead of things I've really wanted to do. 

The list doesn't hold a ton of value to me anymore because it changes. Most things I want to do or places I want to go are not far out of my grasp so maybe there's less of a need for a list for me. When I was younger I didn't know how easy it was to put one foot in front of the other and head in the direction of what I wanted to do. Now, if I really want to do something, I figure out how I can move towards it today and start heading in that direction."

The varying degrees of answers opened a space for deep contemplation. Where was I at after hearing the meaningful responses of others on the concept? 

Hiking a mountain over 14,000 ft. Check.

Looking back, maybe once there was a list. 
Have I ‘crossed’ some things off? More than I could have ever imagined. 
At 34 I feel so fulfilled like I have lived several lifetimes. 
Are there still things I want? Indeed. 
Are they defined? I’d like to say they are more actionable goals that I can break down and put into play. They are constantly growing and shifting, year after year. 10 years ago my priority was to ride a camel to a surf break in Morocco. When I think about that, I still think it would be exhilarating, but I’m not longer actively seeking it out. I also wouldn’t say no if the opportunity presented itself!  

Whether you decide to kick your bucket list or get to writing your first one, the real question is, what are you doing today to create your tomorrow? 
Are you caught up in your worry, doubt and day to day routine while that bucket list is tucked neatly away in an excel spreadsheet file?
Are you mentally creating the steps to reach all that you desire? 
Did you buy that plane ticket, try something new today, reach out to someone you missed? Will you take that one simple step? 

Post Script Food For Thought:
“Whether or not you complete a list is irrelevant. What's important is that by making it, you acknowledge your desires and dreams. That acknowledgment leads to decisions to embrace life that you might not otherwise make. Even if you only check off one thing every year or two, when you look back over your life from your deathbed, you'll have that many more smiles, that many fewer regrets.” - Willow