Last weekend I watched the film The Bucket List and it reminded me of the whole goal setting process and why it matters to us all. If you haven’t seen the film it stars Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman.
Without spoiling the plot, two terminally ill cancer patients decide to leave hospital, go on a round the world trip and live their last days to the full. They’re intent on experiencing as many things on their ‘wish list’ as possible before they ‘kick the bucket’. They called this their ‘bucket list’. (It’s not as depressing as it sounds – I recommend it.)
Now at the moment, I’m fit, healthy and planning to stay that way and hope you are too, but none of us knows what life has in store and there are experiences I don’t want to regret missing because I left it too late.
So, I’ve been updating my own list of dreams this week. I first did this about 15 years ago and have been adding to it ever since. As I experience the dream, I cross it off so there’s always room for more.
If you haven’t ever made such a list, I recommend that you do – it’s very powerful. What you call your list is up to you – maybe it’s a ‘bucket list’ or ‘fifty things I want to do before I’m fifty’ – call it whatever is meaningful for you. I’ve always simply called mine my ‘dream list’.
But make it – it doesn’t need to take long. Maybe you’ll make your list on the train going home this evening or take 30 minutes on a quiet Sunday morning while enjoying a cup of good coffee.
What might be on your list?
Your list will be unique to you. It reflects who you are, your interests, your values and what you’ve experienced to date. There is no ‘perfect’ or ‘right’ list. It will not be the same as mine or your best friend’s, although there may be similarities.
Maybe you want to watch the sun rise while sitting at the top of a mountain, learn to play the saxophone or improve your golf handicap. Just capture those things you would absolutely love to do and would regret if you didn’t.
• What have you always wanted to do and haven’t yet?
• Are there any special events you want to attend?
• If time, money or resources were unlimited – what would you do?
• Who would you like to meet?
• Who would you like to have a better relationship with? Family? Friends?
• Where in the world might you want to visit?
• What hobbies, skills, sports would you like to learn or try out?
• What would mean a great deal to you?
• If you knew you would die tomorrow, what would you regret not having experienced?
Write down as many ideas as you can. Keep adding to it.
There’s no pressure to do everything this year. Your list will always be a ‘work in progress’ as
you cross through items achieved and think of more.
Most of the things on my own list wouldn’t necessarily take much money or even time. But all would give me tremendous pleasure. Here’s a small selection to give you some ideas:
• Ride a horse through the waves along a sandy beach.
• See the northern lights.
• Visit the pyramids.
• Learn pilates.
• Listen to the absolute natural silence found in a really wild place – perhaps the Sahara or Antarctica?
• Pass on a skill I enjoy to a child.
• Plant an orchard and one day enjoy the fruits.
• Revisit some of the European cities I visited on a tight budget years ago.
• Learn more about astronomy.
What difference will your list make to you?
By giving yourself time and space to think about the experiences you want to enjoy, you’ve already increased the chance of making those good things happen.
By capturing these thoughts you’ll be more likely to remember, see opportunities and act on them. I believe many people (including myself) limit the scale of our achievements by aiming low, playing it safe. We set goals according to a ‘world view’ of what seems possible for us, what we can afford or have time to do.
Writing a ‘bucket list’ begins to turn the process around and leads to living life at its fullest. We’re asking what highlights we want to experience in our lives and then work out ‘how’ to make that happen.
I know from my experience that this results in setting very different goals. Goals and actions are aligned with what is needed to achieve these important experiences. Typically, I’m much more motivated because completing the actions leads to something I really care about. I’ve been surprised and delighted by how many things I’ve experienced and crossed off my list. As you read this you might be thinking: “And when and how am I going to do all this, Rosie? I have no time.”
Well, the first thing is to decide that you want to and to start capturing those ideas. You’ll be surprised by the momentum and motivation it will create. When you know why you’re doing it (for example saving the money for your big trip) even the dullest tasks become more tolerable.
So what will be on your list? I would love you to share your exciting dreams — you just might remind me of something else to add to my list!”