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What's on your list? Making a bucket list that works.

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People have been making lists since the first cave man discovered he could write with a charred stick but the 2007 Jack Nicolson film the “Bucket List” gave us a name for a list of things to do before we die.

What most people don’t do is actually write the list. But it is the New Year, so here’s your opportunity to get started. If you’re like most people, the problem isn’t that there aren’t things you want to do, it’s that when you start the list you feel obligated to put giant, important things on it and then find excuses for why you haven’t checked any of them off. Why not take a cue from this AARP article and commit to a list of imminently doable things. Mary-Ellen Banashek wrote about things she’s embraced about herself. You can find her list here.

To make a bucket list you must actually…make a bucket list. Write it down. People who write their goals down are more successful than those who do not. If the goal is large, such as travel Europe, you may have to break your goal into steps and write those steps down so that you don’t get disheartened and you can see how close you are to achieving your goal. Successful goal achievers write specific goals. That means you may have to spend some time really considering what it is you want to do. That’s okay though because it means when you get to cross an item off your list, it really was something you wanted to achieve.

Determine some sort of time frame. A bucket list by its very nature has a drop dead date. But that date is iffy for most of us. We don’t know when that date is so it’s possible to postpone something until later. Instead, take the time to put a realist time frame on your goal. If you want to bicycle through Belgium for instance, make a list of things you’ll need to do before going such as buying a bicycle, getting a passport, finding places to camp etc and create a time frame for each aspect of the trip. That way you’ll know when you have to step it up in order to accomplish your goal.

Make sure your goal is attainable. That relates to the above step. If you’ve had a chance to break a goal into steps you have a realistic look at what you need to do to accomplish the goal. If you want to ride through Belgium it would be helpful to have a bike, the physical capability of riding a bike and the gear needed to make that ride comfortable. If you aren’t normally a bike rider, those items may make a biking trip through Belgium by next month a bit difficult to accomplish. Since everyone is different and you may in fact have a passport, proper gear and be in great shape, that same goal may be quite attainable for you.

Talk to others. The web makes it easy to contact people who have actually achieved your goal. Think you’re the only 70 something out there who wants to join the Peace Corp?  Probably not. Talking to people who have already lived your dream will give you a good idea if it’s really what you want to do and if it is, they’ll help to increase your desire to achieve the goal. Plus, they’ll have realistic suggestions on how to improve your chances of enjoying yourself.

Consider smaller goals as part of your list as well. They’ll help you check off a few items so that you’ll feel successful and they may help you better define your larger goals. In addition, no one says that your bucket list has to be a certain number of items or that it’s written in stone. It’s very doable to go to your first musical or to learn a new cooking skill.  Achieving small goals will help you define what you really want so that your list will truly be a list of things you want to do before you die.

What are you waiting for? What’s on your list?


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