In the film, The Bucket List, Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman star as terminally ill acquaintances on a quest to complete a wish list of activities before they “kick the bucket.” As a result of the movie, the phrase “bucket list” entered into American vocabulary to describe the things a person dreams of doing sometime during his life. In this article, I’d like to discuss instead a life-list: a personalized list of things you want to do every day in your life. This list is motivated by dreaming about the sort of person you aspire to be rather than the kinds of things you want to do.
Since a life-list is intended to include only what you see yourself doing daily, it should meet the following criteria:
1) Your life-list should consist of just a few things.
2) Your life-list should consist of only the most important things.
3) Your life-list should reflect your values.
4) Your life-list should be your life-list. In other words, it should not be based on considerations of the kind of person others expect you to be, but instead on the person you dream of becoming.
One of the tendencies in creating a life-list is to pile onto it every conceivable idea you have of good things you could do each day. But let’s face it: a long list of anything is discouraging. If you end up with 40 things, it will be intimidating just to read through them each day—and virtually impossible to do them. Instead of lifting you, an overly long life-list becomes a burden and is quickly discarded. To keep the life-list from being overwhelming, pare it down until you have only a handful of items of extreme importance to you. It’s better to make a life-list of only two things you actually review and do each day, than to create a life-list of 40 things that ends up in the trashcan.
Why do I feel so strongly about developing a life-list? If you write down and live out a life-list, it will become your legacy. We are known by what we repeatedly do. How we spend each day, taken in total, determines the mark we make on this world.
When you are eighty years old, sitting on the porch in a rocking chair and looking back on your life, how will you feel? You won’t have to answer to anybody but yourself…not your parents or your spouse or your business associates. What did you do with this gift of living? It will be an important question to you then. Why not make it an important question now?