A few years ago I volunteered as a guide at a prominent cultural history site in upstate New York. My assignment positioned me at 4 historically significant locations where I shared background information, historical facts and personal implications about each site with visitors from all over the world. I served at these sites for a year and a half and developed a great love, respect and reverence for these places and the events that transpired there.
Far too often I observed "bucket-list visitors," people who would breeze through the tour, take their picture and move on. I could tell the difference between people who really wanted to understand and appreciate the sites and those who were simply there to check their visit off the list. I felt sad for these people-they missed out on so much.
For this reason, I choose not to have a bucket list:
I don't want to live my life as if it's a checklist
I've hiked the Great Wall of China and floated in the Dead Sea. I've gone cliff diving, sailing and camel riding. I learned a second language. I rode in a helicopter. I've met celebrities. And all these things were AWESOME.
But I didn't do these things to check them off a list or to get the perfect Instagram photo. The opportunities arose as I was working hard, chasing dreams and taking advantage of where I was. I believe in goals. I believe in having fun and traveling and trying new things.
A bucket list creates a false motivation for setting goals and produces a false idea of what matters most.
Recently I read a blog stating, "Look at the things you did and the things you're planning to do next - Do they mean anything to you if you are to die today? Having a bucket list reminds you of what's really important so you can act on them." The individual's bucket list then included things like scuba diving, flying in a hot-air balloon and skydiving. Do these things really matter most?! I hope not.
Sure. Traveling the world and running a marathon will teach you valuable life lessons, but at the end of your life the things that matter most will probably not include an epic picture of you jumping out of an airplane. Life isn't all about doing yoga in really cool places. You'll find your greatest fulfillment in life by the people you love and the person you've become. You'll cherish your faith, your knowledge and your relationships.
Instead, set goals based on who you want to become
Do things because you sincerely desire to. Challenge yourself. Live intentionally. Take advantage of opportunities, but also appreciate the ordinary day-to-day experiences of YOUR life. You can live life to the fullest and get out of your comfort zone right where you are.
Be smart. Spend your money wisely, and invest in meaningful experiences that will further your ambitions.
Think about what really matters most to you. At the end of your life, what do you want to look back on?
A great life is not measured by how many items are checked off a bucket list, but by the people you touch and the person you become.