This guide will give you the inspiration, the tools and know-how for you to make your own bucket list and live a life filled with meaning and unforgettable memories.
- What is a Bucket List?
- Why Have a Bucket List?
- How to Make a Bucket List
- Take Opportunities for New Experiences
What is a Bucket List?
We all have unique goals and aspirations in life, whether they be related towards family, career, travelling a cause or something else. As such, most of us already have a mental bucket list, just without the formal label.
Shortly put, a bucket list (also known as life list or life goals) is simply a collection of all the things you want to try, goals you want to achieve and life experiences you want to accomplish within your lifetime.
Why have a Bucket List?
The basic idea of a bucket list is to keep track of your goals and to take steps to achieve these goals in order to maximize the memorable experiences in your life.
A bucket list is not just an idle collection of your goals and dreams, it is so much more. My HUGE bucket list has been an inspiration to help overcome many of my fears, given me an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, made me feel incredibly “alive” and changed the monotony of everyday life.
Sometimes the responsibilities of daily life gets in the way of experiencing new things or even thinking about what we really want to do in life. Creating a bucket list will focus your interests, provide structure and motivate you to step out of the box. It can expand your mind to new possibilities and make your dreams become a reality. Who wouldn’t want that?
And when we have our wishes written down, to refer to regularly, those dreams become more tangible. Sometimes, when goals are not recorded and easily accessible we tend to forget about them and in turn we are not proactive.
There are tons of reasons to why everyone should have a bucket list. Here's a few:
- Bucket lists make you stop and think what you actually want to experience in your life.
- They motivate you and remind you that life is short and we should live it to its fullest.
- They improve self-esteem and increase our happiness because they give us both hope and curiosity (2 essential ingredients for happiness), as well as pride and confidence once we complete goals.
- They make life more exciting.
- They give you so much to talk about when meeting and interacting with people.
- They help you grow and challenge yourself.
Why You Should Make a Bucket List | CBS News
5 Reasons You Should Start Your Bucket List Today | Huffington Post
How Creating a Bucket List Becomes a Blueprint for Living Your Best Life | FastCompany
How to Make a Bucket List
There really is no right or wrong way of creating a bucket list. The items on the list can be as small as taking a new route to work or as big as climbing Mount Everest. Why not try milking a cow, rappelling into a cave, reading a classic novel or standing under a waterfall?
Many of these items can be done in a weekend, but some will be lifelong journeys. Don’t worry about making each aspiration earth-shattering; sometimes the simplest goals are the most rewarding. Hehe, for me running into a cab a and yelling "Follow that car" was just as a great experience as skydiving in a tuxedo suit (James Bond style).
A huge aspect of a goal is the journey to its achievement and the feeling of accomplishment. Sometimes starting your list is the hardest part. So, let’s begin right now.
Here is a step-by-step guide to help you along your way.
First, find a place where you can be creative. Once you do, begin dreamstorming (dreaming and brainstorming) and take out a piece of paper or open a new document and get list making! Remember, initially, nothing is too crazy!
This first step is all about putting down every single idea that you come up with. You should not edit for feasibility or possibility at this stage. Let your brain and mind completely free, and don't exclude anything just because you think it is too difficult, too expensive or too easy.
Write a list of everything that you potentially would like to do. Try the world’s spiciest pepper, swim with a stingray, visit all seven continents. If it is interesting to you, add it to your list! However, don’t just add bungee jumping or skydiving just because it is a popular item on everyone else’s list, make sure to only include items meaningful to you.
My bucket list includes both long term goals as well as easier up-lifters. The list is all about having new experiences, getting the most out of life and living it to the fullest. Sometimes it has been as easy as trying a new dish in a local restaurant and other times it has taken years for something like graduating with a stellar academic record or creating my own successful business.
With that said, this list is not your daily to do list, it is meant for new, memorable experiences and the steps it takes to achieve them. “Get milk” should not be on it.
Also, it is impossible to write everything in one-go. This isn’t an easy list to write. You may get to 20 or 30 things, and start drawing a blank. Don’t get discouraged, just take some time off before you come back to it. This is an evolving process. It may take you weeks or months to actually finish a complete list. Many people will never have a completed list, because it will constantly be added to. So just think of it as a working document. Whenever you think of something, write it down and add it.
Some of the most interesting things on your list are going to end up being some of the most random. The ones that set you apart from everyone else. For me personally, I love making a fool of myself and dressing up on funny occasions, such as bungee jumping in a superman costume or driving go-kart as Mario Kart characters. What would add an extra personal touch to your goals?
Target different areas of your life. Usually when people start their lists, the vast majority of the first things they write down are things related to travel. I want to go here, and here etc. That's great, I know a very large portion of my list is devoted to this as well. But try and expand in to other aspects of your life, such as:
Also, to spice it up, rather than "I want to go to Havanna", break it into several items. I want to learn Salsa, and Salsa dance in Cuba. Having a purpose for the locations you want to travel to can make your trip that much more fulfilling when you actually accomplish it.
To help you dreamstorm, ask yourself these questions:
- What have I always wanted to do but have not done yet?
- What are are my biggest goals and dreams?
- Where in the world would I like to visit?
- What types of new foods do I want to try?
- What are my career goals?
- What sports would I like to try?
- What events do I want to attend?
- What classes have I always thought about taking?
- What ways have I wanted to give back?
- Who have I always wanted to meet?
- What would I do if you had unlimited time, money and resources?
- If fear was no deterrent, what would I do?
- What achievements do I want to have?
- What experiences do I want to have/feel?
- Are there any special moments I want to witness?
- What activities or skills do I want to learn or try out?
- What are the most important things I can ever do?
- What would I like to say/do together with other people? People I love? Family? Friends?
- What do I want to achieve in the different areas, such as social, love, family, career, finance, health, spiritual etc.
- Movie scenes I would like to experience in real life
- Think about beautiful beaches, delicious meals, lavish vacations, crazy adventures and anything else that interests me.
Still need help with ideas? Check out my personal 1000+ bucket list or subscribe to receive my upcoming handpicked 5000+ bucket list — free of charge.
Make some easier to achieve than others. If all of your goals are difficult to accomplish (i.e. expensive, time consuming or un-realistic) then your list isn’t going to be very effective. You will quickly get discouraged and not make the progress you should be. So make some easy! As you start checking things of your list, you will be surprised how much momentum you can gain, making it easier to accomplish some of the ones that require more effort.
Include something you can do TODAY. In order for you to be successful you have to get rid of the “someday” mindset. Where it is always “Someday I am going to do ________” or “Someday I am going to go _________”. Life is short, better get started. So pick something easy. Maybe it is taking a dance class, maybe it is writing a letter to someone you admire. There are plenty of things you can do right now that you have always said you wanted to do, but just never made the time to start. Well now is that time.
Use both broad and targeted goals. So you want to see the Eiffel Tower, go to NYC etc.? Great, add them to the list. Those are very targeted items. However, also include some things that aren’t as well defined. For instance you could put “Do something newsworthy”. You might not have any idea what that will be, or what qualifies. But at some point you're going to be able to check that one off. This leaves the door open for the unexpected and adventure. You could wake up one morning having no idea that you are going to be able to cross something off the list that day. And when you do, its a pretty cool feeling.
Make Your Bucket List | WikiHow
Brainstorming Your Bucket List | TravelType
3 Brainstorming Strategies to Build Your Travel Bucket List | Bucket Buddies
After your great initial dreamstorming session, take a rest and return to your draft a while later with a fresh pair of eyes. Then ask yourself the questions again and add any goals you may be missing and delete the ones that you simply added because you thought it should be on the list — and not because you wanted it. Be honest.
Go through your list and remove or cross out any items that are completely, completely, impossible. I mean, let's face it, I will never ever become an Olympic gold medalist nor will I grow a third arm..
However, just because something is incredibly expensive, doesn’t mean it is unachievable. I started out with little money, but have been able to quite a few expensive bucket list items adventures.
In general you ought to believe in your abilities, but refrain from setting up items that are completely in the hands of other people. That way you avoid setting yourself up for potential failure.
Lastly, keep in mind that your bucket list should be ever-evolving just like your life. Over time your life changes and so will your dreams, goals and aspirations. As I am exposed to more of the world and connect with new people, enticing new ideas are continuously being added to my bucket list.
3. Pick a Place to Store Your List
After awhile, dozens of tiny pieces of scratch paper laying around the house will just not do for a bucket list. Your life goals at least deserve a really pretty journal. I started by recording mine in a simple Microsoft Word document, then graduated to a multi-tabbed Microsoft Excel file. But, now my list is located solely on my blog. Anyways, because a bucket list is constantly evolving, it is advised to keep it in a electronic document where you can easily edit, add and remove items.
There are also several online Bucket List community websites where you can keep your list and engage with other bucket-listers, such as:
4. Share Your List
Now you should have a pretty good bucket list going. The next step is to share and compare your bucket list with the important people in your life. You can and should share your bucket list(s) with your spouse, partner, parent, best friend, roommate, siblings, — anyone who might be able to help or join you on your quests. Why do you need to share it, you might say?
- Teamwork: There is nothing better than being able to check-off bucket list items together with a friend or partner! It makes it so much easier and fun to have a someone to share the experience and joy with.
- Buy-In: Your partner or spouse needs to support and possibly join you as you complete your bucket list. Sharing it and comparing notes is a great way to do your bucket lists as a team.
- Accountability: Sometimes happiness and fun things get pushed aside when stress and work come up. When you share your list with people in your life, they ask you about it, they ask to hear updates and they give you accountability. The more people you tell the more likely it is to get done.
- Interesting: I believe that having and working on your bucket list is one of the most interesting things to talk about with new acquaintances. Use your bucket list as the ultimate conversation starter to build fast relationships!
Be sure to get your friends and family involved. When I went through this process, I learned a lot about my friends and heard completely new stories about my family members. Specifically, ask your friends and family the following two questions:
- "What is the coolest, bucket list-like item, that you have done in your life?"
- "What bucket list-like item have you always wanted to try?"
5. Put a Deadline to Your Goals
A bucket list is not helpful at all if it just stays a list forever. Therefore, a key step to transform your list from a dream to reality is to give yourself a deadline.
So, pick at least 5 things from your list and put a deadline of no longer than one year to them. This will reduce procrastination and give you motivation by knowing that there is a time limit.
I often pick 5-10 items and put deadlines of one week, one month or one year to each.
What you also may do is to go through your list and identify items as either short-term, long-term, or some other kind of special term. Here are some examples;
- Summer Bucket List: Are there items you think you can get done this summer or next?
- 20s / 30s /40s Bucket List: What do you want to achieve before you hit your next birthday milestone?
- City Bucket List: Are you living in a city temporarily or new to a place? What do you want to achieve in your location?
- College / High School / Job / Certification Bucket List: What do you want to get done before you are done with school? Perhaps you are in a temporary job or certification program? What do you want to achieve?
- 2015 / 2016 / 2017 Bucket List: You can also break your bucket list into years. This is great to think about along with resolutions and goals. However, don't wait until the end of the year to do this! For big bucket list items like travel or learning, you often have to save up money, book flights or coordinate plans more than a year in advance. So, think about your next year bucket list right now to start to prepare.
Scan your list and take note of the items that give you a little rush or when you think of them your blood starts to pump. What has a time limit? Is there anything that you need to do soon because of a time limit?
Basically you need to start planning, and you may do so by answering these:
- Who: Are you flying solo or do you need a partner in joy to join?
- When: When does this need to happen? What time of day? Weekend or weekday? Get specific!
- Where: Where do you need to go and how do you get there? Do you need to book transport ahead of time like a ticket or car?
- How: How do you complete this item? How much money do you need to save up?
- What: What do you need to do to make this happen? What is your very first step? Now do it.
I suggest you select one goal with a deadline and, within the next 24 hours, take a step towards achieving it. It could be the tiniest of steps, as long as you are moving forward.
An easy way to do this is after you select your goal to work on, break it into several smaller goals. Sometimes when you are looking at just the big picture of a dream it seems impossible. But, when you break it into fifteen mini-steps, each one on their own appears more doable.
For example, a goal of kissing on top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris could be broken down into the following steps:
- Research best time for Paris travel
- Find a hotel in Paris
- Research flights to Paris
- Request time off from work
- Renew passport
- Order outlet adapters
- Research transportation methods to the Eiffel Tower
- Call credit card companies to make aware of out of country travel
- Exchange currency
- Print all traveling documents
- Assign each of these mini-goals a deadline of a day, a week, a month or year.
7. Stay Motivated
It is completely natural for your ambition to be at different stages during the lifetime of your goal. It is important to dig deep and press on, especially when the outcome is not initially what you expect. Try to think positive, reward yourself for little triumphs, get support from friends with the same goal and be persistent.
Tips to staying motivated:
- Think positive. Challenge all your negative thoughts, replace them with positive ones. Try to stay away from dream squashers.
- Journal. Stay motivated by keeping a daily journal of the progress you have made and the thoughts related to that progress.
- Be clear. Define your goals so they are not “fuzzy”. Make your direction clear and concise.
- Go public. Make you commitment public so there is some accountability involved. You can do this by telling your friends & family or announcing it on a social website, such as Facebook.
- Commit. Stay motivated by making a commitment to do one step a day towards achieving your goal, no matter how big or small.
- Get support. Connect with someone who has your same goal or is a support system for you and share your experiences.
- Reward. Give yourself kudos for even the slightest progress.
- Persistence. Realize that hard work is the way to achieve goals. Be persistent in your efforts.
- Find inspiration. Stay motivated by reading about others who have achieved what you are trying to do.
- Share progress. Choose a forum to share your progress.
- Mini-goals. Break your one big goal into several little goals.
- Dream. Keep dreaming and visualize what your goal will look like when it becomes a reality.
- Be proactive. Don’t wait for the goal to magically happen, make it happen.
- Escape. Take a break from your goal every now and then.
- Have consequences. Decide what they will be for not moving forward towards your goal.
- Stick with it. Even when your motivation is lacking, pull through it. The motivation will eventually come back.
10 Ways To Stay Motivated When Negativity Seems To Be All Around | Huffington Post
How to Stay Motivated and Accomplish Anything | Forbes
5 Simple Ways To Stay Motivated | Addicted2Success
8. Celebrate Completion
Once you have completed a bucket list item the joy is not complete! The happiness and pride that comes from completing a massive bucket list item keeps giving and giving — if you honor it. Don't let finished bucket list items dance off into the sunset or slip into the corners of your memory. Here are some ideas about how to honor your completed items:
- Create a completed bucket list journal or list. This is great for memories and helps you catalogue the good feelings that came from each experience.
- Start a blog, Instagram or Pinterest with pictures and videos of your completed bucket list items. Great to inspire your kids one day!
- Build a board, wall or photo album in your home that you can see and share with people about your bucket list items.
- Collect items or keepsakes from each experience and display them on a shelf in your house or office-talk about great conversation starters.
Every time you see the document, blog, wall or shelf it will remind you of all the happy memories.
Travel Journals — The Ultimate Souvenir | Globejotting
Take Opportunities for New Experiences
Lastly, just because you now have a bucket list does not mean you shouldn’t take advantage of new opportunities that randomly present themselves.
I am absolutely an avid bucket lister, but even more so, I am a passionate new experience collector. Just because something is not on my list, does not mean I shouldn’t do it.
It is important to say yes to unplanned opportunities when they present themselves.
When opportunity knocks, open the door. At least take a peak through the peephole to find out what’s behind there before flat-out saying “no”.
And always ask yourself this one question before passing up on an opportunity:
“Am I saying no to this opportunity because of fear?” "Is there a chance that I might regret saying no this several years down the road?"
How to Become More Spontaneous or Stop Being Boring | Life Hack
How Introverts Can Be More Spontaneous | Psychology Today
Extra. Another cool thing I have come across a friend of mine doing is to have a list of 100 things to accomplish in his lifetime. When he accomplishes one of the things, he put it on another list, so when he is having a bad day he can look at the list and see all that he has accomplished, The list always has to be 100 long, so when he finishes one he has to add another. Pretty cool.
I hope you enjoyed this guide and found it helpful!