Why you should have a bucket list

November 16, 2009

I’ve long wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail. Walking the 2,178-mile footpath is on my bucket list — my list of things I want to do in my lifetime (before I kick the bucket).

It’s more than a list of my goals — it’s a compilation of my dreams. We often work toward our goals, but leave our dreams to the wayside, hoping they might happen on their own. But you have to work toward your dreams just like you work toward your goals. You have to make those dreams happen.

That’s why it’s so important to have a bucket list. Writing those dreams on paper turns them into goals, makes them attainable, tangible, doable — aspirations to work toward, instead of pipe dreams that might eventually happen.

What does this have to do with writing? Everything. Writing a book, a travel memoir specifically, has been on my bucket list for years. (So was backpacking through Africa.)

My list keeps me moving forward. It’s a reminder of what I have to look forward to, as well as what I’ve accomplished. (The author of a blog I read regularly, Starfish Envy, has a bucket list, too!)

So what’s on my bucket list? Here’s a sampling:

Write a book
Backpack through Africa
Teach a class
Go bungee jumping
Get paid to play piano on a cruise ship
Run a marathon
Coach a softball team
Backpack through Latin America
Learn Spanish
See more of the world (this has its own list)
Earn a master’s degree
Research my family’s genealogy
Lead a Girl Scout troop
Hike the Appalachian Trail
Have kids

What’s on your bucket list? More importantly, what’s keeping you from crossing off those items?

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    22 Replies to “Why you should have a bucket list”

    • Jamie says:

      About the only two things left on my ‘list’ are 1. owning a plane 2. getting my pilots license for said plane 3. having a book published by a traditional publisher. The only thing keeping me from the first two is money and the only thing keeping me from the third is a book good enough to publish, but I am working on that.

      • julielomoe says:

        I wonder if the “book good enough to publish” bit is hanging you up in regard to traditional publishers. Self-published books can be equally good, and traditional publishers are on the endangered species list. I’m writing about self-publishing today over at Morgan Mandel’s blog at http://morganmandel.blogspot.com.

    • Jamie says:

      I know I started that off with 2 things on my list. math was never my strong suite.

    • Ami says:

      I’m always up for making a list. This will be a fun exercise in dreaming big dreams.

      Thanks for sharing your list and reminding us that dreams are worth pursuing!

    • Megan Hill says:

      If I think too much about my bucket list, I get stressed out. On the other hand, it keeps me from giving into the traditional 9-5 lifestyle. And I think my list changes every week or so.

      The AT was on my bucket list until I read A Walk in the Woods…not because they screw so many things up, but because parts of the trail seem crappy. I’d rather do the scenic parts and use the other time hiking other trails 🙂

    • Megan Hill says:

      Also, pretty cool that you’ve crossed out so many things on yours!

    • Karen Walker says:

      Ah, I love this post, Alexis. You’re doing great on your bucket list. I started mine in 1999, when I was 50. I’ve crossed many things off the list in those 10 years. What’s left: 1. Getting published traditionally; 2. More traveling; 3. Keep writing and singing

    • jessiecarty says:

      I did somewhat of a bucket list when I turned 30 but I haven’t done one in a while. Perhaps I shall do another? One of my big ones was yours as well – get a Master’s degree.

      I love that learn Spanish is after travel in Latin American. ha!

    • This is a great idea for a blog post, Alexis. Maybe it’s time I updated my own list. I also wanted to hike the Appalachian Trail, but somewhere along the line that goal lost its appeal. One of the things I do still have on my list is taking a ride in a hot air balloon.

    • My turn to make one…what a good thing to do A

      Love you..you always have something great to write.

    • Kathryn says:

      I’ll hike the trail with you! Just tell me when!

    • The list I made ten years ago was simple. Finish writing a novel. Live overseas (even if just for a little bit). Become a teacher.
      Since then, all three of those goals have been achieved. So I clarified them. Have novel published. Write a second novel. Travel to at least ten countries. Become a better teacher.
      Working on having the first novel published (almost there). Have written three more drafts of novels. Will be travelling and visiting two more countries next year. Always working on becoming a better teacher.
      I honestly believe that you have to have a firm goal to work towards but a list with too many things on it scatters my focus. I have to really nail down exactly what I want if I want to achieve it.
      Thanks for sharing your list with us.

    • julielomoe says:

      Hi Alexis. I don’t have nearly as many items on my bucket list as you – I’m focused on becoming a best-selling author! Whether it will be through a “traditional publisher” remains to be seen.

      Amazing how you mention getting paid to play piano on a cruise ship! One of my dreams used to be to get paid to play piano in a bar, but I’m long over that – Billy Joel describes the ordeal all too well in “Piano Man.” I have actually been well paid to play piano, though. When I worked as an art therapist and Senior Recreation Therapist at a psychiatric hospital, I played for endless sing-alongs and parties, and it was the patients’ favorite thing. And I actually played on a boat – a cruise on the Hudson River playing my Yamaha keyboard with two guys – fellow rec therapists – who played trumpet and guitar.

      Julie Lomoe’s Musings Mysterioso

    • emily says:

      i want to hear more about playing piano on a cruise ship! would you wear sequined dresses too and have a stage name?

    • Jennifer says:

      This is one of those things I’ve done since I was a kid, before I’d ever heard of a bucket list.

      So far, I’ve been to Ireland and India, got married, lived where there were palm trees.

      As to what’s still on it? Oh jeez…how much time do you have? I’d say my first bucket lister would be “ride a camel to the great pyramids”. Yep. I’ve wanted to do that since I was 4. Seriously. That long. What’s keeping me? Oh, you know, that green stuff we have to work jobs we don’g like for…sigh. But one day, the Sphinx shall be mine.

      Thanks for this! I’m going to write my list today!


    • Great list! I might have to steal a few of your great ideas for my list! Thanks!

    • Des says:

      I completely agree. It’s so important to have a list. Otherwise people will strictly focus on their daily lives and how they live instead of why they live.

    • Wes Husted says:

      hello I think the data published on this web site is grand, I have book marked you =D

    • Kham says:

      Good List to start with.

      Here is a great place to create, manage and share your bucket list. You can also get some interesting ideas to put on your bucket list from others.

      Check it out.


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