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Monday, July 1, 2013

Throwing Away My Bucket List

A few months ago, I came up with this idea called The Reverse Bucket List.

I had been trying to create my own bucket list and get inspiration, but as I browsed other people's, I started realizing that there were some things I'd seen on their lists that I had already done.

So, as I made my own, I started making a list of things that I had already accomplished that would read like a finished bucket list. I actually had a really good time with it and when I completed it, I looked back and thought, "Did I really do this? ME???"

It was a moment of awe and gratitude. And it serves as a confidence-boost whenever I look at it again. (If you haven't done one, I'd urge you to! It's fun!)

That said, The Reverse Bucket List was only supposed to be a detour on the way to The Bucket List. I still wanted to write about all the things I had yet to see and do. I was even thinking of posting a version of it on this blog sometime this week.

And then this weekend, I got a comment from Sian on my reverse bucket list that made me examine it all differently:
Reading your list is like reading an AMAZING bucket list, there are some really great things on there and if [it] was someone's "right way round" bucket list, I'd think to myself "okay, you're being a bit ambitious here, don't have too high expectations!" but you've done it and all those things are amazing.
It made me think: if I had written all of this down beforehand as some sort of "to-do" list, would I have accomplished it?

And I'm thinking: probably not.

You see, I'm not a planner. I'm not someone who has everything (or anything??) planned out or someone who gets pleasure from crossing things off of to-do lists. If I'm being quite honest, I oftentimes lose my to-do list (and that's if I even make one). It's just not my thing.

When I think about most of the things that are on that Reverse Bucket List, they just happened. I didn't do them with the intention of getting them done, but I was in the right place at the right time AND I was open to that opportunity. 

There are so many things I would have never put on that list as things I initially wanted to do, but I ended up doing them and LOVING them. One example? ATVing! I didn't even know what that was until about a week or so before I did it, but I went riding and absolutely fell in love with it! Another one? White water rafting! I never would have imagined that I would even try something like that and if not put in a situation where I had to, I would have never seen that I loved it. (And I've been about four times since!)

I can look back on some of the things I've done in retrospect and think, "Whoa, awesome," but it just doesn't work out for me to plan amazing things if my only motivation to do them is that they are "amazing" things.

Take this weekend, for example. I was all set to go and celebrate in San Francisco for Pride. I had never been to the parade before and I'll be honest: I don't like crowds. I wasn't really looking forward to squeezing in like a sardine on public transportation and walking around in the hot sun with nearly two million people in attendance. But I kept saying in my head: "It'll look so cool! And this is such a historic moment! And I can write a blog post about it! And it will be EPIC!" And even though I knew that it could be a great experience, I honestly was feeling low energy that day. I woke up with sore feet, I wanted to take it easy, and honestly, my only motivation for going was being able to tick something off of a list to say that I had done it. Not because I really wanted to be there in the crowds, not because I was excited -- only because I thought it might look like something really cool through an instagram lens.

It suddenly became an existential crisis. I had this tough inner debate about getting out of my comfort zone (even though I've recently discovered that it takes a willing step and not necessarily a bulldozer). When it got down to it, I had to think about my reasons outside of the "coolness" factor of it. And when I realized that I did not want to go for any reasons other than that, I opted to stay at home.

In my time at home away from the crowds and the burning sun, I began thinking more and more about the overall concept behind a bucket list. And that's when I realized: I really don't want a bucket list.

A bucket list for someone like me is more likely to sabotage my intentions rather than support them. What I mean by this is that my whole reason for making a bucket list was about opening myself up to experiences beyond my wildest imagination. It was not about sticking narrowly to some arbitrary list of things that sound fun to accomplish. It was about not getting stuck, about making sure that I made the most of my life. And while a bucket list is about doing things that are out of the ordinary, it's DEFINITELY not about doing them for the sake of looking a certain way to my peers or whomever.

I'm not knocking bucket lists for anyone who has them -- because I think that they can be a source of positive inspiration for people. It's a way of thinking outside of the box and desiring more -- and that's a beautiful thing. But knowing how I am, I really think that writing out a list of all the things I want to do with my life would restrict me more than free me. Knowing how I am, it would become more about the "how" and the specifics of it and about forcing things to happen rather than going with the flow of my life. 

All of us have different qualities and strengths that we bring to the table. Some of us are more results-driven, are all about those lists, and are about having a vision in our minds and making it into reality. But there are others of us who are more intuitive, who can't know the end before we get there (and if we do, we lose interest).

There are some of us who kind of happen into our own lives, who can only connect the dots when it's all said and done. And you know what? That's okay!

So, I'm throwing out my bucket list! Yes, I still want to meet Oprah someday and visit all 7 continents and publish a book (can we put best-seller on that wish list, too?), but I'm prioritizing the specific items less than the general objective -- and that's to have wonderful, life-affirming experiences that nourish my soul at the end of the day. And if these things happen naturally as a result,  then: oooh, what a lovely bonus! (And I can always just add them to my reverse bucket list, which I plan on updating from time-to-time).

Now, with all that said, it doesn't mean I'm against goals. Actually, letting go of all of those long-range desires helps me to focus on some of the smaller goals, the ones that are the building blocks of a beautiful, fulfilling life. After all, "one of the secrets of a happy life is continuous small treats." And it's definitely a treat to be able to participate in Weekly Wishes, a project by Melyssa at The Nectar Collective.

Weekly Wishes is all about setting a small goal once a week with the thought that all of the small changes will add up to something big -- not to mention give a certain amount of pleasure and positivity in the here-and-now.

Last week was my first week participating and I set the goal of doing yoga every single day. I ended up missing one day, but the goal of getting started again and getting it incorporated into my life is what I was going for. I hope to keep it up as something I do regularly as I move forward with a different goal this week.

This week, my goal is less glamorous but will help me make space for new transitions that are happening. It is, quite simply, to get more organized digitally. This means cleaning out my horrendously cluttered e-mail inboxes (it makes my more organized friends want to vomit), unsubscribing from mailing lists I never open or read, and doing some long-overdue backups and updates on my devices. I admit it: I'm a digital hoarder & procrastinator -- and now it's time for a bit of an intervention.

What about you? Do you have a bucket list? A reverse bucket list? Do you think a bucket list would help you accomplish your goals or do you think it would become more of a chore? Let me know in the comments! And to join in with Weekly Wishes, visit The Nectar Collective.


  1. www.nowherelife.comJuly 1, 2013 at 7:41 PM

    I think your "reverse bucket list" post may have been the first one of yours that I read! And I feel like I know you so much better now.

    I'm totally a planner (I think that's why I'm so "good" at my eating disorder - so much planning all the time!) - I'm working on just letting life happen without all the rules and rigid planning which is not easy for me. Though, like you, there have been many things in my life that just happened that are so wonderful in retrospect... teaching English in Taiwan, spontaneous road trips, even simply learning to meditate... and so many other things that I didn't plan on doing but happened anyway that I loved.

    As I write I realize that I'm big into the planning of the little details of every day, but rarely look big picture. I think, until recently, I've always been trying to fit into someone else's bigger picture so it didn't occur to me to create my own. It's kind of scary to do so.

    I think you are right, bucket lists work for some people and not for others. I have played with the idea of one, but never committed to it. I'm not sure why. I'll have to ponder that :)

  2. As always, thank you CJ for your comments... ah, they always lift me up! :)

    And yes, planning can be all about control. Sometimes I "rebel" against control to the point where I go too far in the other direction -- I say I don't like ANY structure. But that's not good either and can create a different kind of chaos in my life. But it is amazing the things that life has planned for us that are more beautiful than we could have ever planned ourselves... and sometimes our big plans get in the way of those things happening.

    I love this quote: "I think, until recently, I've always been trying to fit into someone else's bigger picture so it didn't occur to me to create my own." Yes! I think I've been struggling with that for the past couple of years... of trying to make my life look like someone else's on paper or something... and being distrustful that everything that was happening was a part of something bigger.

    I think as an idea, bucket lists are cool and that's why I wanted one for so long. And I still find smaller ones, like 101 Things in 1001 Days, to be really cool and a motivational tool for trying something new.

    But, I'm learning, that my life unfolds best when I stop forcing it and just let it happen. The best things have come when I wasn't rigid or super set on one outcome. If I had followed my detailed lists, I would have never went to my undergraduate college -- and I had the time of my LIFE there!!! I think lists are great as guidelines and move us in the right direction, but sometimes we have to throw the rules outside the window in favor for just simply living. :)

  3. I feel like you put my feelings about bucket lists into words in a way that I couldn't. You are so right! xx

    Allie @

  4. I love this! I've always considered myself as more of a dreamer than a goal-setter, so this really resonates with me. I think you're right- some people put things on the list just so they can seem interesting at dinner parties (do people even have those anymore?). I'm proud of you for not doing something that sounded cool, and realizing that you just did not want to go. It's a good reminder to be picky with your time- you only have so much, so it's best to be true to yourself and spend it on things that fill you up.

    I haven't read your reverse bucket list, so I'm gonna go do that now. And then it will be bed time, because that is on my daily non-bucket list.

  5. I am a planner myself, but there is something about planning the things I really want to do in life that scares me. So I don't. I will just see where life takes me, so far that has been amazing.
    Cleaning up you digital space will def. help you clear out your mind aswell, so good luck! My computer is freakishly organized, except for my e-mails... I am sure clearing it out will help on other fronts too.
    Good luck!


  6. Thanks Allie! Glad someone else feels the same way! :)

  7. Thanks Rachel! I hoped I wasn't coming off too "DOWN WITH BUCKET LISTS" or anything, but I just started to realize how they weren't really for someone like me. I love how you said it: "I've always considered myself as more of a dreamer than a goal-setter." YES! I think that's the realm where I operate. I tend to feel too much pressure if I set concrete goals, then I start feeling bad because I'm not working on them. At the end of the day, I'm not sure it matters so much that I do specific things from a list... but more that I remain open to awesome opportunities that really resonate with who I am. :)

  8. Thanks Susanne! And yeah, some things you just have to go with the flow...

    I'm also looking forward to the... clarity and ease of mind a digitally organized space will give me. Thanks for the well-wishes! :)

  9. First of all, YAY! for mentioning my comment, (thank you!) I'm glad it helped you see a different perspective. I started writing my own reverse bucket list this morning, it's no-where near as impressive as yours just yet but I'll get there. In thinking about bucket lists, long long lists of things that you would like to do could be a little daunting. Certainly my 25 at 25 is a very daunting list that I look at it and wonder how I'll do it all. Setting the weekly wishes is a great idea and I set just 3 monthly goals for myself (cut down from a huge mental list!)

  10. Thanks Sian for this comment and for that one! I can't wait to read your reverse bucket list, too! :)

    Yes, I think that... the sort of thing that's implied with a bucket list is having all of these experiences that are waiting to get done in order to make your life meaningful. Like, will you feel like a failure if you never publish a book or go to all 7 continents? Or will you only feel like a failure if you didn't try? And does the procrastinating just get easier the more years that pass because it feels like you have a lot of time anyway? Or is a bucket list just a wish list, where you're playing "life lottery" and if you get to cross some things off, it's more because of chance than copious planning?

    Anyway, yes, I think shorter range goals are better for me. I like how you said you do 3 month goals... it's still short enough where you better get going, but long enough that you can accomplish something really worthwhile. I still have my 101 in 1001 Days list and I do want to focus more on getting some of those things done, but at least that list covers a little less than 3 years (and I'm not all torn up if I don't accomplish everything).

  11. This post really resonates with me. I'm not much of a long-term planner, as that sets me up for procrastination or just never doing what I set out to do, so the whole bucket list does nothing but stress me out. Instead, lately, as I experience new things, I'll realize it was something I always wanted to do and be like, "I think I just checked something off my bucket list!" lol Like going to Charleston this week. I didn't even know that would be going on my bucket list even as short as a couple of years ago, but it definitely is now.
    I like your reverse bucket list. It's amazing for one. But also I love the idea of trying not to plan so much and put so much pressure on myself to do so many things that in five years (or less), I may care nothing about or that I just never do the things I said I wanted to do in that list.
    To me, life is too fluid for bucket lists. I like putting things in my bucket as they happen. Reverse list. Now list. Either way. Even though I am an anxious person about the future at times and all the unknown, I kinda like thinking that anything can happen and I'm just here for the ride. :)

  12. I don't make any lists and I would not like to lead my life according to a list with things to be ticked off.

    Instead of making lists, I recommend to just go out and do something: Start today!

  13. I've been putting off the digital clean up for so long its unreal. Thing is the longer I leave it the worse it gets.
    Reading this post is pretty relevant at the moment. I've been trying to plan a "30 before 30" list which sounded like a good idea at the time, but I felt like I wasn't being ambitious enough. I've read others folks saying things like "travel the world" or "visit xx before I'm xx" and I know that these things are just not going to be all that possible for me. Thats not thinking negatively, thats being realistic about money situations and life at the moment where we live.
    Like you say, I'm also not that much of a planner, I do love list making and crossing things off, but thats just to get my day organised, not my life. Sure there are things I'd love to do and I will still probably make a list of them, but for me they are pretty simple, yet fun things I'd love to do. I know myself and I think If I do make a bucket list I'll obsess over it and some how feel like I failed if I dont cross everything off. Knowing that is why I love your idea of a reverse bucket list, it seems more positive and you can add to it all the time. You'll feel like you've accomplished more and reflect back on it.
    Yup, I'm changing my 30 before 30 - to all the things I've accomplished in my 28 years. Thanks for the great post!

  14. "I'm not much of a long-term planner, as that sets me up for procrastination or just never doing what I set out to do, so the whole bucket list does nothing but stress me out." YESSSSSS!!!! This sums it up perfectly... it was becoming a list of things I should do but I wasn't and so I was failing at humanity, haha. As opposed to it being inspirational and encouraging.

    "To me, life is too fluid for bucket lists. I like putting things in my bucket as they happen." YESSSSSSSS... so feeling this comment.... THANK YOU AMY!!! Once again, YOU GET ME! You understannnnnd!

  15. Haha, I love that: Instead of making lists, just go out and do something.

    So novel to this overthinker! I live a lot in my mind but find I rarely venture out into the world... at least not lately. Throw the list out and just do it! So simple, yet effective! :)

  16. Thanks Daisy for sharing this... and yeah, digital mess can be stressful (and much easier to avoid than, say, clothing on the floor! Which makes it more dangerous!)

    You said this: "I know myself and I think If I do make a bucket list I'll obsess over it and some how feel like I failed if I dont cross everything off." And yes, that's what I feel like, too! It starts to be about what you haven't done, rather than what you really want to do or would like to do. Like you said, your 30 before 30 list now turned into: "Wait, is this good enough?" instead of being about what you really want to accomplish.

    I'm really looking forward to reading your 30 accomplished things before 30! What a great way to put a positive spin on it and to reflect on your life with gratitude for what you've already done!! :)

  17. This post SCREAMS ENFP hahaha! I am not a fan of making lists but I did make a bucket list once. Looking at the stuff I could potentially do made me feel excited but it never really meant much again. It was almost like Pinterest for me; you know, you like a certain project and you're like, "I'm so making this...eventually" (that's actually the name of one of my boards btw) but you can't even remember 10 solid pins that caught your eye and the thrill really isn't there. That's what it feels like for me. And I totally get you on the organizing thing. That's so me! We're so alike! Bet you haven't heard that one before. ;)

  18. I love the idea of a reverse bucket list. Sometimes it's discouraging looking at your own bucket list that still has tons of items that haven't been checked off... I think it can be a dangerous thing at times. That bucket list just might trigger some negative thoughts about all we haven't done, when in all honesty, we've probably done tons of fun and exciting things. I just might sit down and write out my reverse bucket list. I think we'd all be surprised to see how many things we have accomplished. :)

  19. I read this when you first posted it (through Twitter) and thought that I wanted to wait until I could sit down and fully formulate a response that wasn't limited to 140 here it goes! I thought this was totally awesome and something that I think about often! Although I am a different kind of person, I am QUITE the list maker and have no problem adding something to my bucket list that I've already done (that I thought worthy, of course!) and then crossing it right off. It's really just the fact that it's in list form that I love...and if it wasn't all in one place (my mind or on paper) I'd probably get a little OCD. Now that I've made myself a little neurotic, I will say that I agree that people need to take a harder look at what they've done and feel PROUD of it. Looking at your Reverse Bucket List, I think, "Wow! She has done so much!" As if it's someone's completed bucket list (like you mentioned)! Good for you for doing what you feel best and keep on living a life you're proud of- whether it's in list form, or not!

  20. Hahah, thank you Mary!!! :)

    THIS: "Looking at the stuff I could potentially do made me feel excited but it never really meant much again." is so me hahaha! ENFPS!!!!

  21. Ashley, I agree completely agree with this comment... yes, for me, it seemed to be a little discouraging... it did " trigger some negative thoughts about all we haven't done..." And like you said, that might lead us to focus more on what we haven't accomplished or don't have rather than what we have.

    I'd love to see your reverse bucket list if you ever write it! Please be sure to let me know!!! :)

  22. Thank you Kayli!!! :)

    And yes, I do like the idea of lists... lists are fun! And I do think that they can be very inspirational and some of my friends are exactly the type of people who need to see something written, then they go out and do it! And I think that is so awesome! But for me, writing down my goals and accomplishing them like that isn't fun and for something like this, it becomes a procrastination thing and a putting it off and then all the fun is out of it!

    But I like what you said: "[I] have no problem adding something to my bucket list that I've already done (that I thought worthy, of course!) and then crossing it right off. " Hahaha! That's another way of doing it too! I like that! :)

  23. Tatiana Warkentin-HammellJuly 8, 2013 at 4:46 AM

    I really really really like this! Like a lot! A few years ago I tried to do the 101 things in 1001 days things. The shine wore off pretty quickly because I wasn't focusing on what I had done but what I needed to get done. You miss out on so much when you do that. I have a 30 before 30 list but I constructed it in such a way that it would allow me to experience things without missing out because of an obsession with a "to do" list.

  24. Thanks Tatiana! :) Yes, I've attempted the 101 in 1001 days thing a couple of times and like you said, the focus becomes crossing off things from the list rather than the joy of doing those items (at least of me). I'm glad that you were able to find a way to do a 30 before 30 list that eliminated that problem for you... you should share it!!! Is it online?

  25. Tatiana Warkentin-HammellJuly 10, 2013 at 5:13 AM

    Yeah it's totally online. You can see if here there are also various updates scattered throughout my blog.

  26. AH!! Yes! I *have* seen it!!! I've now put two and two together, haha! I love your blog!!!

  27. Super captivant ce post. Est-ce que vous avez un compte Twitter ?
    Je voudrais vous suivre pour ne pas rater les prochains.

    Feel free to surf to my blog :: ()


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