Bucket list items are things you want to do during your lifetime. How big is yours?
The bucket list is a term that likely originated in 2004 in a book by Patrick M. Carlisle:
“So, anyway, a Great Man, in his querulous twilight years, who doesn’t want to go gently into that blacky black night. He wants to cut loose, dance on the razor’s edge, pry the lid off his bucket list!” ~from Patrick M. Carlisle’s Unfair & Unbalanced: The Lunatic Magniloquence of Henry E. Panky,
The idea: Your bucket list is the list of things you want to do before you kick the bucket.
Bucket list: Big or small?
I’ve been a musician for most of my life. I started piano lessons at the urging of my nursery school teacher. I’d get into trouble on purpose because I knew they’d isolate me in a biggish room that had a piano in it. Even though I didn’t know much how to play at that point, my interest in it was pretty clear.
One of my big contemporary musical influences starting in middle school up was Billy Joel. The first album of his I got was The Bridge, and after that I soaked up everything he had put out.
I had an opportunity or two to see him in concert during college, but never went.
Fast forward to last year. During early summer I find out that Billy Joel is touring again. Off and on I had told my wife (of then thirteen years) about my desire to hear him in concert at some point.
Well, she ran with it and got us a pair of tickets as a surprise. (I’m glad she did, because I likely wouldn’t have spent on myself like that.)
We saw him in December in Charlotte, NC. We sang “Piano Man” with 20,000 of our closest friends, and it was awesome. Bill got us feeling all right.
It was at that point I thought about my bucket list.
Actually, the first thing I thought about was that I didn’t have a bucket list. If you pinned me down and told me to rattle off the things I most want to experience, we’d be a while.
But seeing Billy Joel would have been on my bucket list, had I had one.
Is the size of your bucket list healthy?
After that concert, I’ve seen some other opportunities to see other musical influences. Steely Dan is playing next month just an hour or so away. And a college classmate sent a Facebook update from a Peter Gabriel and Sting concert.
These are all musicians I’ve listened to. A lot. But, if I don’t see them in concert, it will be all right.
I suppose on some level it should concern me that I don’t have much of a bucket list. But on other levels, it doesn’t concern me at all that I’m not seeking fulfillment in things external to where I am right now.
(I should clarify something. In my mind, bucket list items are different than goals. Bucket list items are largely consumer-based things for which the only real prerequisite is time, money, and opportunity. Goals are things to work toward, like writing a book, or running a marathon.)
There seem to be four main sizes of bucket lists:
- Bucketless. That is, no list at all. Either no thought has been given to it, or it’s completely unimportant. If someone doesn’t have any kind of bucket list, it’s probably worth it to at least think about why.
- Bucketitis. A disease caused by inflammation of the bucket list. Running after experiences almost out of fear than they’ll go away. Living beyond one’s means for said experiences. Hedonism on steroids. This can only be kept up for so long, then it’s payback time.
- Buckette. A carefully prepared bucket list, seasoned with time and make with only a few of the finest ingredients. Easily digestible and likely to cause no financial ill effects. This seems to be the best place to be: a modestly-sized “must-do” list.
- Bucketissimo. A supersized list. For people with grand ambitions. It’s best to have a stellar plan to back up these grand ambitions, because the danger with this is that it could morph into Bucketitis.
Bucket list with attitude
All of that said, I think the key is developing your bucket list with the right attitude.
It does not mean shortchanging what you want to do. I wouldn’t want someone telling me that, and I won’t tell you that. In fact, when it comes to what you want to do, go nuts. Sky’s the limit. Envisioning your intentions can be very powerful.
But when it comes to your bucket list, I recommend being choosy. Only allow things on the list that you’d be pretty sure you’d look back with regret not having done.
A manageable bucket list is less of a burden. Each item holds a component of a complete life at some level. Looking at a lot of missing pieces (your uncompleted items) can weigh you down. Also, the shorter the list is, the easier it is to complete.
Does this mean that there’s nothing left to do? Of course not! But all of the other nice-to-do’s are just that: nice to do, but not essential. All of these other experiences can be savored, unhurried and without sense of urgency.
How do you choose what’s on your bucket list?