Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Have You Made Your Bucket List Yet?

What makes the middle-aged teacher pant his way to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, 61 year old Sheila suddenly go Bungee jumping and the portly granddad practise fencing? They are all crossing out items off their bucket list.

A bucket list – What on earth is that? Bucket list comes from the English expression kick the bucket, meaning to die. A bucket list is simply a list of all you want to see, do and experience before you die.

Different Kinds of Bucket Lists

As there are many kinds of people on the planet, there will of course be many kinds of bucket lists. Would it be natural to assume that action oriented people would like to go for adrenaline rushes like bungee jumping or climb Kilimanjaro while travel oriented people would have visiting places like Lhasa, Tibet or Lake Titicaca, Bolivia on top of their list?

No, not necessarily. A bucket list is not a continuation of activities a person habitually pursues. When one starts seriously thinking about a bucket list, it is an attempt to fathom unexpressed desires, hopes and dreams. A bucket list helps us do what we have always secretly wanted but never dared to.

The different kinds of bucket lists are:

1. Going somewhere:

  • Going places list – Lake Titicaca, Machu Pichu or Barcelona
  • Visiting places at certain times – Visiting Paris to experience the blue moment of a late summer evening, attending Hanami or cherry blossom viewing in Japan in May
  • Visiting places or venues for a sole purpose – Visiting Louvre to stand before the Oedipus and the Sphinx by Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique, being in Valencian town of Buñol to throw tomatoes at other people.

2. Learning something new:
  • Learning new skills – Learn a new language like Portuguese or Swahili or join an evening class to learn digital photography.
  • Change your attitude – Start meditating or do Tai-chi daily or pay attention to how your words or actions affects other people’s moods

3. Doing something:
  • Doing something you’ve never done – Start making new friends or go and talk with three new strangers every day, or riding a bicycle rather than drive

  • Finish something left undone – Take that manuscript out of the drawer and finish your first novel or start writing your life story or forgive your ex.

Can a Bucket list Grow?

Once you have created a bucket list and start checking items off one by one, a strange thing can happen to you – you meet similar people with their own bucket lists and you may be tempted to add items to your list or revise the list. This is perfectly natural.

There are Internet sites such as where you can register, make your list, read other people’s lists and keep track of how you are completing the goals on your list. Copycats are copycats. Don’t give in to the temptation to live other people’s dreams. Remember, your bucket list is only about your unfulfilled hopes, desires and dreams.

What to put on your Bucket List?

This is entirely up to you. The most important thing is that the idea should have some meaning for you and come from within. You can ask some questions to help you test the ideas.
  • Where did I originally get the idea for this?
  • Where can I get more information about this?
  • Who will help me realise this dream?
  • How can I get in touch with a person who has really done this before?

Notice, there is no question ”Can I do it?” If you are wondering why not, think why haven’t you done any of the things on your list till date. Because you never could imagine yourself doing it. We think of ourselves as too old or too young, too poor or too plump to do certain things. There are so many filters and brakes on your mind, which clamp down the moment you think of doing something out of the ordinary. Remember the Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman movie The Bucket List
We can learn a lot from a young person’s bucket list. Alice, a very brave15-year old girl with terminal Hodgkin’s Lymphoma has her online bucket list here. 

An older person’s bucket list can also teach us many things about living. 
  • An 82-year-old former Nepalese minister tried to climb Mount Everest (and died) - Embrace death with a smile when it comes.
  • And an intrepid 98 years old doing her Master’s degree - It's never too late for great achievements.
  • Here is an 80-year-old celebrating 50 years of marriage by skydiving off a plane - Live in style and not full of regrets.

Here’s a funny example of a bucket list. 

But you need not copy anyone else's bucket list or ideas. The most important thing is that whatever you put on that list has meaning for you. 

For as long as I could remember, item number one on my list had been to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Now that I have done it (wasn’t easy but worth every gasp and drop of perspiration!), my list number one becomes ”Learn to limit in myself fear and hate,  the most destructive of all human emotions.

There is a saying among the Igbo people in Nigeria: 
Onye ji onye n’ani ji onwe ya: “He who will hold another person down in the mud must remain in the mud to keep him down.”
So, get out of the mud, stop limiting others and yourself. Start now! 

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