Do You Have a Bucket List? – Here’s Why I Don’t

It’s the time of year for Resolutions and new starts, a clean, fresh brand new shiny year to do with what you like. Do you have a dreams or goals that you’d like to make reality? A Bucket List – a list of things to do before you die? Have you written it down, or is it just floating about in your head? Are you thinking about the things you want to do ‘one day’ or are you actively planning to do these things, making them happen? I’m a big fan of the Bucket List concept. After all, you’ve got to have a dream to make it a reality.

Why should you have a Bucket List?

For me, working with death on a day to day basis makes it even more important to have a Bucket List; a list of all the things I want to see and do in my lifetime. I am more aware than most that tomorrow is promised to none of us. In my working life I hear so many stories of lives cut tragically short, people gone too soon, those who died before they had the chance to experience all that life has to offer. Relatives regret the lost time, the missing out, the occasions that person won’t get to share. It certainly makes me acutely aware that I should get on and do things rather than wait until I retire/can afford it/change jobs or whatever other excuse I’m using to procrastinate. Because I know my life could change at any moment I treat my dreams as goals – something to actively work towards. I take steps to make them happen.

When people say to me “when I retire I’m going to…” I want to scream, “No, do it NOW!” For one thing, will you still be healthy when you retire? For another, do you want to gamble that you’ll even make retirement? None of us want to think about our own demise but it is going to happen to us all, and none of us know when that will be.

Bucket List ideas

Why I don’t have a Bucket List

So, back to my determination to dream and to achieve those dreams. Yes, I do have a Bucket List… but I don’t call it a Bucket List. For one very important reason: if I’m thinking in terms of ‘before I die’ that equates to a vague ‘one day’ at some undetermined date in the future. It’s basically an open ended wish list. I may never actually get around to doing anything on an open ended list. If, however, I attach an end date to that goal, an ‘achieve by’ date, it suddenly becomes more real and I’m more likely to get on and do it. So, I don’t have a Bucket List, instead I currently have a 50 before 50 list. It was created shortly after I successfully completed my 40 before 40 list.

How can you improve on a Bucket List?

Here’s why I think a time limited list is more effective than a traditional Bucket List:
• Being realistic – Putting an end date on the list makes me be more realistic about what I will have time to do
• Affordability – I have to be realistic about how much I can spend, or plan how I can save what I need to be able to afford to do the things I want to do
• Accountability – sharing my list makes me accountable to myself, or even to friends and family. I published my list on a blog and shared progress updates with friends via Facebook
• Focus – I have to identify on what I REALLY want to do. After all, if I can’t be bothered to put the effort into planning it I can’t really want to actually do it all that much, can I?

How to build a Bucket List

How did I build the list? I love travel, so it was tempting to fill the list with exotic destinations. But hang on, could I realistically afford that? No. So, whilst there were some big trips on the list, I also had to find things closer to home or at least less expensive. In trying to be be ambitious but ultimately realistic, I was careful about how I wrote my goals. I desperately wanted to visit Japan, but I wasn’t certain I could afford it. Instead I wrote on my list ‘Watch a Japanese tea ceremony being performed’. That way, I could either do it in Japan or find somewhere in London. This form of goal setting is, admittedly, a bit corporate. It’s those SMART objectives that rear their heads when it’s performance review time. You know – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Result-Orientated and Timebound. But it works. With a second job and some targeted saving I did afford that trip to Japan.

Inspiring others

Other items on my 40 before 40 list were much less ‘big ticket’. I challenged myself to read books I’d been saying I’d read for ages, I spent a day spoiling my Mum, I put a bet on in a betting shop (it was an experience I’d never had before). But the best thing about sharing my list was inspiring others to think about theirs. I had an email from a friend to say that she’d shared my idea with her Mum. She had gone on to create her own 60 before 60 list and, within just a couple of weeks, had visited local places she’d been meaning to get to for years. Other friends have also created their own lists; not necessarily 40 before 40, or 50 before 50, but maybe 4 before 40. I love seeing that they’ve ticked something off, and I sometimes pinch items from their lists to populate mine!

Inspiring others to achieve their dreams, as well as making sure I’m making progress on my own is one of the more positive side effects of working with death. Confronting mortality on an almost daily basis certainly makes me keen to appreciate as much of life as I can, whilst I can.

What’s on your Bucket List? What will you be ticking off in 2020?

For inspiration, to read about my 40 before 40, check out my blog here:

And, although it might not be a ‘Bucket List’ item exactly, if you’re thinking about things to do before you die, why not also give some thought to your funeral? Contact me for a free Funeral Wishes document with advice on what to think about, or read my article on why you should be thinking about this.