Before we get started, go get your bucket list. No, not the one in your head—the one you have written down. Oh, you don’t have one? Then let’s start in a different place. Why would you want a bucket list and why should it be written down?
Most people are familiar with the concept of bucket list, and much of that understanding comes from the movie by the same name with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. The premise—I only have a short time to live—what are those special things I want to do in the time I have left.
That’s one way to think about a bucket list and why you should have one, but there is another way that is much more energizing. Regardless of how old you are and of your medical condition, ask yourself these questions. What am I excited about looking forward to doing? What would I be excited about planning for? What would I be excited about actually doing? What would I be excited about telling others that I’ve done? What would excite me to reminisce about afterwards?
The answer to those questions are the things that should be on your list. The items can be big things, like traveling to Australia and New Zealand, writing and publishing your first novel, visiting every National Park or every State in the country and province in Canada, going skydiving (that one’s for my friend Keith and maybe for you—not for me). The items can be mid-sized things, like take a hike in every state park within 50 miles of home, read all of Ayn Rand’s books (I count 32; eight of them fiction), visit the Newseum in Washington DC, attend the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, run a 5K race. The items can be smaller things, like go to that new Thai restaurant downtown, see a live and local performance of Porgy and Bess, visit the Dale Chihuly installation that is coming to a neighboring town, hold a plank for two minutes.
A bucket list is energizing and fun, both creating it and doing it. But why should it be written. Just like any plan, if you write it, you are five times more likely to do what’s on it. There is more than one way to write your list. I met a woman who told me she had “bucket jars.”
“OK,” I said, “I’ll bite. What are bucket jars?”
She had three jars on her kitchen counter, one labeled “Travel,” one labeled “Entertainment,” and the other labeled “Friends/Family.” Whenever she gets a bucket list idea, she takes a small piece of paper, writes her idea, and puts it in the appropriate jar. She frequently dumps out one of the jars on the counter, checks the paper notes, and picks something to begin planning to do. A list? Not exactly. Written? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.
The other thing her jars do for her is keep her bucket list close at hand, both to simply add items and to remind her to use the list. Don’t spend the time to create your list, then put it in a drawer to gather dust.
If you have a spouse or partner, or if you frequently plan activities with a close friend, consider this. You should have a written bucket list for you; your activities partner should have a written bucket list of his or her own; and the two of you should have a common list for things you want to do together. Not everything your partner or you will be excited about having on your list and doing will excite the other partner. No worries. That is why three lists are better than one.
Having a bucket list is an integral part of planning the non-financial aspects of your retirement. Whether you are already retired or looking forward to it at some point, the best time to start is now. It will provide you with a list of activities that you look forward to doing, excite you to plan for and actually do, share with others, and reminisce about. You can take on the challenge to both do your bucket list items but also add items to your list faster than you are doing them. If you get stuck on what should be on your list, just ask friends and family to tell you what is on their list. There is no doubt it will prompt ideas for you.
So, is a bucket list things to do in the short time you have before you die? Hopefully not. Is is a list of things you look forward to doing regardless of your age and medical conditions? Yes. That being said, there is something to Tim McGraw’s guidance, “I hope you get the chance to live like you were dyin’.”