On Bucket Lists, We’re All Future Millionaires
Today the Daily Post asked bloggers, “What is the 11th item on your bucket list?” This is my reply:
For some reason, everyone has a bucket list. As for me, I have a list of goals with deadlines that have nothing to do with death. Lists are my thing. I make them to relax. I make them for fun. My desk and notebooks are filled with lists. Heck, even my blog is mostly lists. But a bucket list? That’s a list I don’t have.
There are a few problems with a bucket list that I just can’t ignore. The first problem? The name itself. The whole purpose of a bucket list is that the deadline for these activities is death. My list of goals comes with deadlines much closer than death (well, I hope). The whole thing is, why not now? Why not soon? Death is an unknown deadline, one that we all assume is far from now. It doesn’t give our dreams the immediacy they deserve. In fact, when death is the deadline, dreams stay dreams. Give them a real deadline, and magically dreams become goals.
Dreams must be fulfilled by some unknown power. Goals, we fulfill those ourselves.
Now, take a good long look at that bucket list you have. Why are certain activities on there? For too many people, bucket lists are full of things they want other people to know that they accomplished. The lists aren’t about personal fulfillment but about image and bragging rights. If I told you that you couldn’t tell a soul about crossing an item off your bucket list, would that item still be on your list? Think about it. Also, did some of your list’s items comes from other lists you saw online?
Don’t let others tell you what is worthwhile in life. You won’t feel automatically fulfilled once you’ve been to 25 other countries if the only reason it was on your list in the first place was to impress Facebook friends.
Bucket lists were developed for people who can see their death in sight. When young and healthy people make bucket lists, it becomes an exercise in wish fulfillment. They become lists of privilege. We write them as if we all deserve the dozens of extreme luxuries we add to these lists. When it comes down to it, these lists among the young may point to a larger problem in our society: one of demanding privilege.
A meaningful life has nothing to do with a list of accomplishments.
I would argue that the creation of bucket lists has little to do with our desire to lead meaningful lives, but is symptomatic of the great existential hole lying deep in the hearts of so many Americans. After all, how many things on your bucket list cost money? In fact, I’d be willing to bet that money is keeping you from doing those items on your list. We’re searching for fulfillment in things we can buy, and in the end, we’ve got it so very wrong.
For a bucket list to truly fulfill its purpose, no two people’s lists should ever look the same. These lists should be highly individualized, with goals that focus on a person’s development. If you want fulfillment and not just Facebook experiences, think about more than just satisfying the desires of the American future-millionaire. Think about how you connect with people and how you can improve those connections. Think about what has made you the happiest– brought you the most fulfillment. Was it ever something that could be checked off in a box? That’s because in the end bucket lists are about ego, about privilege, and about money. I have a hard time believing that fulfillment can come from any of these things.