Aug 172014
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rusty bucket

Pros and cons of bucket lists: remember to appreciate the here and now

I have mixed feelings about bucket lists, those lists of things people want to see or do before they “kick the bucket”.

On the plus side, bucket lists help us become aware of what is important to us and can be used to live life to the fullest. On the down side, they can be pretentious and competitive. In the race to tick off accomplishments, we forget to enjoy the moments. The list can become an accusatory reminder of what we haven’t accomplished. 

Items on bucket lists are often big and bold: world travel, extreme adventures, record-setting feats. Focusing on these things may distract us from the small things around us that give us joy: a baby’s laugh, the sand in our toes, the sun on our faces, a good book, birds singing, the ripples on a lake, listening to music.

A few years ago I created a list of 101 things to do before I die. It was purely a fun exercise. The list included some of the “big” things, a number of smaller things, and some frivolous, half-joking items. I no longer have the list and don’t remember everything on it. I know it contained a few items I’d be able to cross off now as having done that. I suspect there are a lot of other items I’d cross off now, wondering “What was I thinking?” We change. Priorities change.

There are many places in the world I’d like to see and many things I’d like to do. If circumstances only allow me to experience a fraction, that is fine. Imagine how empty life would be if there was nothing left to see or do. What I can do in this moment is appreciate what I am experiencing now, work for what matters to me, and cherish and nurture the important things and people in my life. And be open to those wonderful experiences the universe brings my way that I never thought to include on any bucket list.

Do you have a bucket list? What do you think about bucket lists?

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  50 Responses to “Bucket Lists”

  1. Have to admit I have never heard the expression bucket list before:-) Having said that I have already done a lot of the main points you list i.e. world travel, extreme adventures, record-setting feats. Because of how I have led my life I don’t have the feeling that there are things I have to do. Things I want to do is another matter. And I do as much as I can on a daily basis.

  2. I like the idea of a “bucket list” – if only to remind us of how great life can be if we embrace it. In addition to world travel and learning to ride a motorcycle, my bucket list includes stained glass projects, volunteering, improving my pie crust and shooting a better golf game. I like the idea of revisiting your bucket list every few years. People and priorities change. That is great too.

  3. I have always thought that it would be so disappointing to be so wealthy that I could afford to do anything I wanted whenever I wanted because after awhile the thrill of anticipation would disappear and eventually there would be nothing to look forward to. That said, I’d like to be able to afford to do more, of course.

  4. Brava for saying what I have been thinking for some time myself. There is so much to be said for living in the moment. Don’t we do enough rushing around to get the things dome we feel we need to? Seems like extra pressure to add what you want to do to a list that you check off.

    • Thanks Jacquie. I’m a bit driven and a list maker. I like the satisfaction of checking things off the list. I am still learning to live in the moment and I think that is why I have mixed feelings about bucket lists. They could make me too focused on things other than the here and now.

  5. I do not have a bucket list. Sure, there are some places I would like to go, things I would like to experience, etc. But, having two daughters, ages 16 and almost 20, my life is full. Between getting the older one settled into “adulthood” and paying attention to my youngest who has some emotional disabilities, plus my business, I have a full life. I take time for me and enjoy every day.

  6. I’ve never had a bucket list. It may not be the most mature of attitudes but I don’t often think of things beyond what I’m going to do in the near future or where I’m going to go on my next vacation. You mentioned that you can’t remember a single thing on the list you created. I think it is probably a healthy thing that the places you want to go and things you want to do change over time.

  7. Hi Donna,

    I have never had a bucket list either like many others have said. Having said that, I do have what I call dreams and goals for long-term and short-term which I believe that it is necessary to keep moving forward.

    I don’t know about bucket list but I know one thing – to be able to achieve something of significance in our lives we must have a burning desire to achieve it. It might require to sacrifice a few small little pleasures of today. While both small little pleasures are important, I would not sacrifice my dreams and goals for those pleasures.

    Just the way I think about life 🙂


    • A dream or goal one dedicates oneself to working for is not quite the same in my mind as an item on a bucket list, but that might just be my way of looking at it, It is important to believe in and work for one’s dreams.

  8. I don’t have a bucket list, per se. But I do have a lot of things in life that I’d like to accomplish in the future. I think our lists should never be completed because as you say, where do we go from there? Perhaps it should just be a guide of things you’d MAYBE like to do in the future. Great topic. I enjoyed reading this.

  9. Donna, I love your list of the small things to appreciate and I’m right with you on those. I don’t have a bucket list, I just know that I need tolive another 50 years to accomplish all the small things I want to do, much of which involves learning. Wonderful post, one I enjoyed very much.

    • Thanks Lenie. There are so many little things that give us great joy in life it would be a shame not to fully appreciate them because we are busy chasing the big things on our bucket lists.

  10. We all should have a bucket list, but we should not take it seriously.
    Have a list of things we want to do, and put them in importance and feasibility. If we can do it, then do it, and look at the list every day, not when we have limited days.

  11. I have a bucket list. I look at it every so often and I am thrilled when I can cross something off. I use it for fun more than anything else.

  12. I have never had a bucket list and am surprised how many people have cottoned onto the idea and created this list, then published it in a blog post. This kind of thing has always been fluid and what might seem of huge importance today may not be so important a year from now. Bucket lists for fun and disposal, sure why not. As a list to live by…seems a bit limiting.

    • Bucket lists can be fun if we don’t let them confine or define us. But if we become too attached to them they can be limiting, as you say. Life has a way of putting some great experiences in front of us that we couldn’t have anticipated.

  13. I totally agree with your bucket list philosophy—that it can get in the way of happiness~

  14. I don’t have an official bucket list, but I do strive to achieve certain things. I should probably write them all down one of these days. Much of that list includes travel, but a big portion also revolves around learning how to do new things. It can be so easy to talk one’s self out of trying something now, but having goals or a bucket list in mind can go a long way.

  15. I have never made a bucket list, but I do have some things in the back of my mind that I know are on my bucket list. I think if I were to sit down and write a list I would be overwhelmed, as there is so much I want to see and do that I could end up feeling down that I can’t achieve them all!

    • You’re right – writing it down can be overwhelming. Especially if there is a lot of things you;d like to see and do and realize there will never be enough time and money. But then life would be boring if we didn’t have new things we wanted to see and do.

  16. I have an informal bucket list – mostly of travel – but there are some personal goals as well. I do feel like writing things down helps you focus on meeting your goals – and I think you can still very much enjoy the experience if you don’t get caught up in just checking the list off.

  17. As a certified procrastinator, a bucket list for me is simply a gentle nudge of persuasion that gets a few things done. I’ve never written one out, but it does exist somewhere in my sub-consciousness and there is a happy mental check mark applied whenever something from it is accomplished. I think if it lives more as a casual wish list rather than a life obsession, there is still lots of room to ‘smell the roses’ and enjoy the gifts found in the day-to-day. Now, off for that bungee jump!

  18. Bucket lists can be good but should never be at the expense of living in the moment. We do enough planning and rushing around as it is. Adding the pressure of a self-imposed list of must do things only adds to the pressure of our daily lives. So, I see the buck list as a something to think about but not take to seriously.

  19. I wrote a post recently about my bucket list. Many people have them. I don’t like the fact that a bucket list is technically a list before you “kick the bucket”. I decided to use the bucket to hold the list of things I want to do in the future! By writing about it, I think you just made us think a little more! thanks!

  20. I don’t have a bucket list Donna. But I do have a wishing pig jar. It’s where I write stuff down that I want to do and then stuff it inside him. Like go on a week long kayaking camping trip. Or visit Paris. The idea is to simply draw out an activity, put it on the fridge and save my pennies till I get to do it. It’s by no means an obligation to do whatever is in the jar, just simply a way to randomize my adventures. Plus it’s so exciting when I get to pull out a new strip and see what my next adventure will be!

  21. I’m with you, Donna. I have mixed feelings too. I want to live in the moment, and not be overly concerned about whether I’m accomplishing everything I set out to in life. I think there are so many things beyond our control that as soon as you make a list, it may be outdated. On the other hand, I tend to lack direction sometimes, and have a sense of wandering aimlessly. Maybe I need a bucket after all!

  22. Hello; I have never really thought about bucket lists. I can see the good and bad in them after reading your post. I think its better to be in the moment as much as we possibly can be, so i doubt I will be creating my own bucket list any time soon. take care, max

  23. I love the points you make Donna! Although there are many places I would love to visit I agree that life is about enjoying the moment at hand, living it fully, savoring it… When we are so busy chasing the big thrill every precious, simple moment can easily get overlooked. I don’t know when my time will be up but I do not that I don’t want to ever look back wishing I’d taken the time to enjoy a smile or give a smile for that matter, or sit contently holding one of my daughters on my hand… giving her my full attention as she shares her day with me… roll in the grass… chase a butterfly… I’m the happiest when I allow myself to simply cherish the moment at hand.

  24. This made me chuckle Donna! I don’t have a bucket list but I have friends who have them. And I TOTALLY agree that sometimes it seems like said lists become competitions. Feeling ever so thankful that I am exactly where I am in my life, I really take great pride in enjoying these moments. While I wholeheartedly believe that setting goals is important – how we do them or share them is a personal choice. At the beginning of this year, I asked my husband to think about ten things he’d like to accomplish this year and write them each on a post-it note. I wrote mine, he wrote his and then we shared. Interestingly, we had more than a few in common! I stuck these notes up where we could see them daily. And just yesterday I was re-reading them all and was pleased to realize just how many goals we had already met!

    • It’s so great that you and your husband had goals in common and that there are many you’ve realized already this year. It says something about being on a common path, having realistic aspirations, and being willing to work for them.

  25. I have a bucket list. For me it only has pros. No cons at all. I’m not in rush to get things done. It motivates me to do something every year.

  26. I haven’t made a bucket list, although I do have in the back of my mind a few places I’d like to travel to. But now you have me thinking more about it.

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