Tidying Up Your Bucket List
Many people have a bucket list, a list of things they want to make sure they experience in this life. Is it possible that it’s time to tidy up your bucket list because it no longer reflects your values and deepest desires?
When you read your bucket list, you might feel inadequate or embarrassed because you haven’t accomplished your goals. Rewriting it might help you let go of those feelings. Maybe the thought of having a particular experience no longer excites you as it once did. Your guilt, frustration, or embarrassment at seeing what’s been lingering on your list for years might be telling you that it’s time to dream different dreams.
Maybe you’ve realized you no longer have to prove yourself to anyone, and doing something that impresses other people doesn’t appeal to you as it once did. It’s okay to not travel to the land of your ancestors just because your family always felt that’s an important thing to do if you don’t feel the same way. Perhaps you aspire instead to travel someplace where you can swim with dolphins or meet people from a completely different culture from your own.
Maybe your bucket list doesn’t have any big, dramatic experiences on it. It could consist only of activities you already do and enjoy: Maybe what you most desire is to continue spending time with family and friends, volunteering in your community, doing creative writing, and so on.
Release the weight of having your bucket list heavy with other people’s expectations of you and notice how much lighter you feel.
Keep in mind, too, that the form of the experience you swore you ought to have someday doesn’t have to stay the same. You might decide to cross off “write a novel” and instead choose “write my life story and turn it into a book.” Maybe you no longer want “I will marry again” on your list and will replace that with “I will enjoy life with my new romantic partner regardless of whether we decide to marry someday.” As you go down your list reading each item, listen to your heart. What still inspires you? What makes you feel dispirited at the thought of what you “ought” to have made happen by now? Explore whether you want to let go of that goal or change it to be more inspiring for you.
Tidying up your bucket list can be a good exercise in becoming more conscious of what you want to experience and why—and what dreams you are ready to release because you have new aspirations now. If you’re spending your time doing what makes you feel a sense of vitality, happiness, and well-being, is there really anything you haven’t yet done that generates a feeling of joy and anticipation when you think about it? If there is, that’s what you should place it at the top of your bucket list. And don’t just leave it there: Find a way today to start making it happen.
A version of this article appeared in Natural Awakenings.
Carl Greer, PhD, PsyD, is a retired clinical psychologist and Jungian analyst, a businessman, and a shamanic practitioner, author, and philanthropist funding over 60 charities and more than 850 past and current Greer Scholars. He has taught at the C.G. Jung Institute of Chicago and been on staff at the Replogle Center for Counseling and Well-Being.
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