A Better Alternative to a Bucket List

Do you have a bucket list? It’s usually a highly aspirational collection of accomplishments and adventures you want to complete before you, well, kick the bucket. The idea was popularized in the 2007 movie “The Bucket List” and has since spawned many websites, books, blogs, and artistically filtered pictures on Pinterest. That’s how you live life to the fullest, right? Set audacious goals?

The Problem with Bucket Lists

The truth is, though, bucket lists aren’t really lists of “goals,” or at least, not in any helpful sense. They tend to be vague, at least in a plan of execution, and don’t have a deadline. In my experience, deadlines are one of the most helpful motivators in the world. Without a deadline, your bucket list ends up being a “someday” list — full of things that would be nice to do, but that you probably won’t fight too hard to accomplish. At least not until, well, someday.

The good side of this is that bucket lists enable you to dream really big — there’s nothing holding you back from listing climbing Mt. Everest, winning a Tony, doing a triathlon, or walking on the moon. I am a huge proponent of dreaming big, and I think this is why bucket lists have such wide appeal.

But if a bucket list doesn’t really encourage you to DO the things on your list — just to imagine doing them “someday” — what’s the point?

So, What about New Year’s Resolutions?

Okay, so maybe bucket lists aren’t super practical. But New Year’s resolutions give you a solid deadline, so surely that’s a little better, right?

Well, yes and no. Deadlines can be helpful, but when was the last time you made a resolution on New Year’s that you were really excited about? I don’t know about you, but my resolutions tend to all pretty much be the same — “work out more,” “eat better,” “read more.” Don’t get me wrong, I do the goal-setting thing. I give myself more specific parameters and try to decide how to accomplish them. But it doesn’t really have the same joyful, expansive feeling as writing a bucket list, does it?

Plus, even if you’re trying to create more interesting goals that really light you up, New Year’s resolutions can feel pretty confining. After all, there are some big goals you just can’t accomplish in a year.

The Alternative

My favorite way to beat the bucket list blues is the Day Zero Project’s 101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge. It’s exactly what it sounds like — you make a list of 101 things that you’d like to accomplish in the next 1001 days. That’s just under 2.75 years, if you’re curious.

Two years and nine months is plenty of time to set some crazy goals and dream some crazy dreams. My current list involves everything from writing a fan letter to learning how to cartwheel to going to Asia. You can set small goals, but it gives you enough room to dream big, too. My list is almost a year old, and I’ve only crossed 16 things off my list, so it’s time for me to get moving! But I can honestly say that I probably wouldn’t have done many of those if not for making my list.

The site is a lot of fun — not only can you create your own list(s), but you can also browse the lists of others and find new ideas for items to add to your own. I have a paid subscription because I like the extra features and want to support what they’re doing, but it’s also great without.

When you’re reading this blog, I’ll be on my way to Indiana to see the hundredth running of the Indy 500 (a giant auto race) with my dad and a bunch of his and my friends — that’s a big travel item I can check off after this week!

What Bucket Lists Are Good For

I know I’ve trashed bucket lists, but I think they actually serve a really important purpose: they give you freedom to dream as big as you could possibly want to, even if what you’re dreaming of isn’t feasible in the next three years (though don’t be too quick to jump to that conclusion). Anything can go on a bucket list.

But don’t stop there! If you’re doing the 101 Things in 1001 Days Challenge, pull some items from your bucket list. Once that challenge is over, if you decide to start a new one (like I did), go back through your bucket list and discover what’s possible now that wasn’t the last time. Keep your bucket list from being a “things-I’ll-never-actually-do” list.

What’s Holding You Back?

The best thing about this project for me is it forces me to ask myself, “why not today?” If there’s something on my list I want to accomplish, what’s stopping me from doing it right now? Sometimes, it’s money or timing, but often, it’s just myself.

What about you? What’s holding you back from accomplishing your bucket list (or 101 things list)? Let us know in the comments! You can also post a link to your list. Let us know how we can help you check things off!

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