bucket list

Has Your Bucket List Changed Your Life?

A Bucket List is often thought of as a list of things a person wants to do before they die … before they kick the bucket. Ever since I began blogging, I’ve taken exception to this definition. The idea that a Bucket List is little more than a race against the clock cheapens its value. A Bucket List isn’t just about accomplishing a bunch of selfish goals before you die. It’s so much more than that…

A Bucket List can change your life!

My own List is filled with adventures of all sorts (hunt for the Loch Ness Monster), travels to the most remote corners of the world (stand at the North Pole), and physical challenges (climb Mount Whitney.) And while each of these goals will be an amazing experience, none of them will change my life. Of the nearly two hundred goals on my Bucket List, only a handful will have any direct impact on my life; adopting a child, joining the Peace Corps, and living a debt-free life.

With so few goals that will alter “life as I know it,” how can a Bucket List possibly change my life? Or your life?

Simply creating a Bucket List won’t change your life. But that doesn’t mean a Bucket List can’t change your life. It can … if you’re willing to take action on your goals.

Skydiving, learning a new language, hot air balloon rides, swimming with sharks…

It might not seem like any of these things will change your life, and none of them will. The goals don’t change your life … the process of accomplishing them does. Each goal on your Bucket List will require you to challenge yourself; mentally, emotionally, and physically. You’ll be forced out of your comfort zone, you’ll break old habits, and you’ll learn to adapt to strange situations.

You’ll build confidence, destroy fear, and overcome self-doubt.

If you’re afraid of heights, jumping out of an airplane will force you to face that fear. You might still be afraid of heights after you’re safely back on the ground, but you’ve just proven to yourself that you won’t let fear control your life. Jumping out of an airplane might not change your life, but the confidence and courage you’ll gain by facing your fears will permeate into countless other facets of your life; from your career to your relationships with other people.

Climbing a mountain might have little direct impact on your life, but reaching the summit will show that you have the fortitude and perseverance to push yourself beyond what you thought you were capable of. Climbing a mountain will give you the determination you need to push yourself through other challenging moments in your life. It’s not about climbing a mountain, it’s about what you gain from climbing that mountain.

But you don’t need to jump out of airplanes or climb mountains to change your life.

You can push yourself out of your comfort zone in other ways; by doing stand-up comedy, by shooting a machine gun, or by baring it all at a nude beach. All that matters is that you’re putting yourself in situations that are out of your comfort zone, that you’re facing your fears, and that you’re learning how to function in unfamiliar circumstances.

The value of a Bucket List isn’t in the goals themselves, but in what you gain in the process of achieving those goals; strength, courage, confidence, determination, humility, compassion, understanding, and a sense of adventure.

And, yes, it is gratifying to have done so many things most people will only ever dream of doing…

Steven is the author of the blog Hundred Goals where he writes about following your dreams and accomplishing your goals. Steven recently accepted an offer from the Peace Corps to work as an Environmental Conservation Volunteer in Paraguay, Goal #107 on his List of Goals.

Photo credit: ‘Parachute‘ by Big Stock

  • http://www.lifestyleupdated.com/ Slavko@LifestyleUpdated

    This is exactly what I’ve been thinking couple of days ago Steven.
    The goal itself is never equivalent to the improvement we hope to see, it’s the journey, as you said, instead. 
    We should all learn how to enjoy the ride, since goals are reached all the time, one way or another. It’s the journey that lasts infinitely- therefore learning to enjoy it, we can get the most out of it. It is also our greatest teacher, in context of what you are saying.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      It’s definitely the journey that matters. Yes, it’s exciting to accomplish a goal, and jumping out of an airplane is a huge rush, but if that’s all you gain…you’re not thinking about it hard enough. A Bucket List CAN change your life if you go into it with the right kind of attitude. If you’re just looking to party and have fun, maybe it won’t. But that’s your choice and depends on what goals are on your list.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/neeti.mahajan Neeti Mahajan

    Well said..!  Listing is not enough, ‘taking action’ is the key to a content life.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      Just writing a goal down does absolutely nothing to improve our lives. The goals on the list might be cool to look at, but a list is just a list. Until you start taking action, it has no more value than your grocery list.

  • Erin

    Wonderful article, Steven! About 5 years ago, I meet someone
    who has changed my life. I began traveling, internationally and domestically,
    experiencing different cultures and with this I found a new passion. I have
    tried new things (skydiving, rock climbing, parasailing, and mountain climbing,
    just to name a few) that I normally wouldn’t have without him and pushed myself
    out of my comfort zone. These are the memories that I will cherish forever!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      Sounds like an awesome person! The only way to figure out who YOU are is to put yourself in a vulnerable state of openess and be willing to try things that are out of your comfort zone. It’s how we grow as individuals. I’m glad you found someone who will challenge you to step outside of your daily routine and experience amazing things! As they say, you only live once…

  • http://www.leadershiplime.com/ James

    Thats a really great post, i love the characteristics you mention at the end because its true. Well written!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      Thank you!

  • http://SourcesOfInsight.com/ J.D. Meier


    You’ll build confidence, destroy fear, and overcome self-doubt.
    The power of the list is the power of the challenges we take on.

    I love how life is “stretch to fit” and the more we challenge ourselves, the more we expand what we’re capable of.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      Absolutely! Without challenges, we’ll never grow. Our difficult moments are often what defines us…or, rather, how we respond to them is. Bucket Lists are full of challenges, and it’s this reason that we become better as well cross each goal off the list.

  • Sundance747

    Amazing. I was just about to cross something off of my bucket list when I ran into this post. I fully agree with every point made. Your Bucket list shouldn’t just be a mindless collection of random things to do before you hit 60- though you have every right to make it just that if you want ;) But it should include all of the things you know you want to accomplish in your life regardless of a pending deadline. It’s all about bettering yourself, trying something new, and having fun in the process. Don’t wait til your kids are having kids to live a full life. Start today.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      This is the reason why I’ve created my list without looking at what other people have on theirs. I avoid the books that tell me what I need to see, where I need to visit or what I need to do before I die. If I just add things because that’s what someone else thinks I should do, the value of the list is gone. It’s all about accomplishing things that are meaningful and special to you. If you’re not doing that, you’re not getting the full effect of the Bucket List.

  • http://pristineperception.com/ Suzanne

     Good points. We must look at our bucket list as what we will gain and not so much crossing things off. Once everything is crossed off (unless we continually add to it) this leaves some disappointment. ‘What next’? is the question asked. When we have no purpose we employ sadness and thus a cycle begins.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      Right! It’s not just about crossing things off a list. I’m always adding new things to my own list. Life would be rather depressing if we didn’t learn about new things to experience, see or do as we went. I’m not sure my list will ever be complete, and that’s just fine by me!

  • http://www.eatrightnewsletter.com/salads-dont-have-to-be-boring/ Jcrosskey@Eat Right Newsletter

    Well put! Life is way more than making a list of things that you would like to do. If you don’t think about the activities within your Bucket List, it becomes yet another “to-do” list. However, with much thought about what’s important to you and where your life is headed, your bucket list can become truly meaningful. Thank you for this article!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      Thanks for the comment! If your Bucket List is just a list of things that aren’t really important to you, you’re not going to be driven to accomplish them, and your List will be worthless. It’s all about having meaningful goals that you value and are motivated to achieve. That’s what makes a List powerful (and not just a to-do list.)

  • http://writing-service.co.uk/ essay writer uk

    Pretty good post. I just stumbled upon your blog and wanted to say that I have really enjoyed reading your blog posts.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      Thanks!

  • http://www.motivation.net.au/motivational-speaker Inspirational Speaker

    Thanks for sharing this. Keep up the good work. I really
    appreciate this sharing this. Nice and informative article.
     

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=219704232 Steven Severson

      Thank you.

  • Aolani

    This information actually helped me :) thanks

  • Armyofbobs

    Fantastic. The journey is the reward. I was having trouble thinking of things for my list, but then I got a lot of good ideas when I used http://www.WannaDo.com. Also shows you which friends want to do it, and where to do it, no excuses now!

  • Cheyenne Mallinger

    “Kicking the bucket” (so to speak) is really just a list that some people use to do things that they’re not really tempted to do as a young being. I’m 17 and my bucket list is at #36… so yeah I’m pretty sure I’ll at least have up to #60-#70 by the time I’m 30 years old or so. XD