Friday, January 27, 2012


One year ago this month, I wrote about vision boards and how the new moon can be the inspiration for their creation. Never could I have imagined that that single post would get more hits than all the other 170 posts in this blog altogether. And the popularity of the vision board post continues in 2012 without showing any signs of slowing down. So, being impressed by this level of readership, I decided to write a sequel to that post. The idea behind the vision board is the creation of a means to focus on our goals and, in the process, find many unsuspected ways to achieve our objectives. Last year’s post apparently motivated a lot of people, and I’d like to celebrate by offering this post about another way to reach our most precious goals. It’s about making a life list, also called a bucket list, a sort of inventory of what each of us hold as priorities for our very existence.

The term, bucket list, signifies a series of things that someone wants to do on a most personal level. The principle of the life/bucket list is simple. You list all the important things you want to do in life and try to do each and every one of them before you die. And that was also the theme of a movie (2007) with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, who portrayed two terminally ill men, who set out together to make happen what was on their bucket lists and the humorous and dramatic escapades that resulted.

It’s about making a list that guides us to make step-by-step progress toward achieving our most intimate goals. For all ages, both young and old, it’s good to be thinking positively about our purposes in life and about how we can push ourselves toward their accomplishment. It’s all too easy to power down, forgetting that there’s a lot of personal work left to be done. And, deep down, we know that we can do a lot more to push ourselves forward to where we want to be in the future. Life changes happen to us for sure, and those unknown events can influence or change our direction. And unwanted changes are especially likely to occur if we’re not ready and willing to use our energy to be where we want to be with the results we aim for.

Some of the items that people often have on their life lists are: travel to a highly desirable, far-off place to live or vacation, establish a successful small business, gain fluency in a foreign language, become skilled as an artist or play a musical instrument. Most of us spend our lives repeating three verbs: to want, to have, and to do. The life list is not so much about wanting or having and certainly not about being a consumer or buying any particular thing. It's about what’s yet to be done in the realm of experiences, and about the corresponding process, where: “Getting there is half the fun.”

What’s on your list?
Your life/bucket list is whatever you want, and it’s completely up to you. What’s important is that each item has real, personal significance and is measurable. Make sure all the items are unmistakable events that can be checked off. You should be able to recognize a triumph and say “YES! I did it!” You’ll do better if you don’t link your goals with actions that are pegged too closely to the decisions of other people. And that goes even for your spouse and the same for your children, although you need to take them into consideration, of course, in as much as their needs should be considered in your timetable. For each accomplishment, ask yourself “Can I make this happen – almost entirely - on my own?” The more people it depends on, the less likely it is to come about.

Make a plan for success and enjoy the process of setting up and completing your objectives. Think big and write it all down. Don’t worry about including something that appears to be unattainable in this moment. Being a dreamer is good. Important things don’t happen without dreams. Embrace the two sides of yourself - the dreamer that can outline the future you want and the rational one who can make things happen, even those that are seemingly out of reach. Just be sure that the “dreams” are things you have every intention of doing and are willing to hard work for. One long lifetime consists of 80 years or more, and each decade should have new things to accomplish – whether you’re getting to be forty or seventy.

Remember you don’t have to share every one of your secret goals with other people. They may not agree with your vision or think that you’re incapable of obtaining those goals. Their opinions should not dampen your enthusiasm. It’s your life and finding meaning in what you do is the route to happiness. But don’t overdo it by thinking up too many life purposes. The smaller your list, the more likely you will respect it. You’ll need to consider the time and money required for each of your goals.

Let your dreams be a little bit bigger than life. The life list is a work in progress, and you won’t be a failure if you never reach one or more of your goals. It’s the effort and joy along the way that’s worth it - not the smug announcement that you’ve done it all. Hey, completing even a good number of items on your list would count for a satisfying and respectable life, assuring yourself with a wealth of fascinating stories.

But don’t let the list deteriorate into a quest for reasons to be admired. Rememberthat your list stands for how you’re going to spend a good part of your life. If you treat your list as things you hope to do to impress certain people, it probably won’t be worth the trouble.

What’s really valuable is the process of investing a good part of your time and money progressing toward one or more of your most intimate objectives - and that’s not for next year but for right now and tomorrow and the day after. You’ll have to make some adjustments in your career, family life, and lifestyle in order for these things to happen. Promise yourself to always be working on at least one item at any given time, and it’s even better if you can manage several at a time. Many failures come from the habit of making excuses. And don’t concentrate too much on completing your bucket list, only on doing the tasks that make it up.

Gearing up for bucket list action.
Find five or more good size buckets. Really, they can be any kind of open containers. The exact number of buckets depends on how many lifetime goals you can think up. The buckets can be round, rectangle or square containers and any colors or material you like – tin, plastic, wood, etc. Label each one according to your most important visions for the future. Be as specific about your goals as you can. (Remember these shouldn’t be consumer wish lists for those who have the $ - or hope to make the $ - to buy expensive things.) For example, my five buckets have these categories.

Relationships (family, friends, community) – objective(s)
Lifestyle and skills – objective(s)
Travel – objective(s)
Finances – objective(s)
Faith – objective(s)

Put 5 large envelopes in each bucket. Four envelopes are for activities or to-do lists. The fifth is a kind of journal for recording progress toward a goal. Write yourself notes and cut-out short texts and images – a running brainstorm collection - and stuff them in the appropriate envelopes. (You'll be making a different sort of clippings journal.)

Envelope 1: This month
Envelope 2: This year
Envelope 3: Within five years
Envelope 4: The indefinite future or “once in a lifetime”
Envelope 5: Notes along the way. A collection of brainstorms, comments, and grumbles about what it all means and why certain things are working out and others are not.

Keep your buckets on a shelf where you can see them everyday - nice, tidy looking containers are better because you'll be pleased to see them on display. When you accomplish a goal, you don’t necessarily remove the bucket. Date your success and put it in Envelope 5. The bucket list is not only about future goals, but also can be a reminder of the impressive things you’ve done, along with motivation to keep on track and do even more amazing things. And there’s no end of follow-up activities that can be done to record and enhance your accomplishments.

Every time you have an idea or a clipping related to one of your goals, be sure it gets to the proper envelope. Each month review the contents of the envelopes and make yourself a summary report of successes and setbacks. Do a more thorough evaluation every six months or yearly.

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