How To Write The Best Bucket List (And Actually Complete It)

By Juliette Kopp

The masses seem to be divided into two single-minded viewpoints when it comes to Bucket Lists. They’re either inspirational, motivating and uplifting, or morbid, unnecessary and farfetched. However, there are many pros to keeping a life list with you, regardless if it’s formally typed up into an official Word document or scribbled on the back of last Thursday’s bar receipt (no questions asked). The means of which you keep a list are far less vital than the actual items it includes. Maintaining a list of any sort not only narrows your focus and allows you to prioritize your life goals, it also provides you with direction for your (dun dun duunnn) future, that scary thing we try to avoid figuring out at all costs. This outline with ensure that your Bucket List is accessible and attainable. More importantly, you list will not merely be a checklist to complete, but rather a guide to ensure you are, in fact, enriching your wellbeing to all it’s potential.

1. Determine what’s holding you down.

The process of creating a list is personal, a ceremonial of sorts that takes time to clarify what you’d like to achieve. Often times, goals can help us get out of a rut we’ve been too passive to escape from. A dead-end job that does little to fulfill your passion, an unhealthy lifestyle that leads you drained, mentally and physically, which ultimately puts a damper on your spunky personality. Focus on creating goals that support your shift away from current habits and choices that are doing you harm. While quitting your job is not always feasible, look into signing up for that photography class to pursue another outlet. If your long days leave little motivation for activity, join a local running group to increase your accountability and have the social interaction to look forward to (instead of convincing yourself that another episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” on the dreadmill is a good time).

2. Look outside of your comfort zone.

The edge is a scary place to stand, but that’s where you’ll get the best view. While you’ve been pacing back and forth through your daily schedule, break the cycle and challenge yourself to push past your status quo. If you’re used to spending your summer break at the Jersey Shore, start saving your pennies to road trip to the next state over. It’s miraculous how a new view can inspire you, not to mention the new people and unforeseen adventures your will find. And although your weekly three-mile runs are keeping you healthy, the routine does little to increase your ability. Find yourself a suitable training plan and sign up for an exciting half marathon. Having a reward waiting for you will prevent you from feeling like your spinning on the hamster wheel, always moving but not actually propelling forward.

3. Be specific; vagueness is the number one killer of dreams.

You can work toward many objectives and having a sense of wonder and enthusiasm will put the odds in your favor. But ideas such as “meet the love of your life,” “have a healthy marriage,” or even “feel inspired by my career” are not goals to be accomplished, but overlying outlooks on life that you work to strive for. While it’s important to want these things, there’s a difference between wanting something outside of our control, relatively speaking, and taking direct action to ensure the ending outcome is what you so desire. Instead of meeting the love of your life, add a goal to go after your participate in your hobbies where you’re more likely to meet people with similar outlooks. Instead of having a healthy marriage, have a goal to sign up for counseling or therapy sessions to ensure you have the skills to do so. Keep your list item targeted to the outcome, the outcome itself will follow.

4. Make a plan of action.

While backpacking through Europe and quitting your job to open a coffee shop are lovely aspirations, heavy plans are harder to commit because they require you to sacrifice more of your stability in order to accomplish them. You’ll either compromise your well-being to pursue them, or forgo the goal entirely. The point is to spark heartening adventure, not crush your well-being and leave your penniless. Just as one would not sign up for a marathon without having first run a 5K, start small. An excellent way to work towards a career shift is taking additional classes on your passion of choice and looking to volunteer in that particular field. By taking baby steps, you are weaving your own safety net should your interests change or fall through. If hiking the Pacific Coast Trail is number one, start with small local hikes and build your way up to longer stints. Not only will you gain the skills necessary for your ultimate goal, you’ll relish in the time and effort you’ve invested to successfully accomplish it. This “planning of action” is a grace period if you should change your mind (it’s your list, you are allowed to do that).

5. Give a reasonable timeline…

In a world of wanting it all and wanting it at this very moment, it is easy to overlook the progression itself. At a sad attempt to avoid a cliché, the journey should be appreciated as much as the process itself. If you’re dreading the path you have to take, it’s time to reevaluate the overall goal. You must be willing to put in the work.

6. …but also include a deadline.

Procrastination is your worst enemy. Typically, your favorite day to begin a new endeavor is tomorrow. Instead of setting yourself up with excuses, give yourself reasons to start sooner rather than later. Record exact dates of where you’d like your progress to be, such as for that trip to Australia, write down when you will order plane tickets, book hotels and plan your itinerary. It’s a lot harder to break a promise to yourself when you’ve already put in the time to determining the course of development.

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7. Lastly: Skydiving is not necessary.

Let’s repeat it together, skydiving is not necessary. If it’s something you have been dreaming about since you first airplane ride, then by all means, go after it wholeheartedly. But just because something is the buzzword of life lists and everyone around you wants to participate, don’t feel as though you have to want it, too. You can still achieve all your wishes and keep your feet planted firmly on the ground. Promise.

About Juliette

ProfessionalJuliette Kopp is a published illustrator and literacy specialist residing in Washington, D.C. When she’s not encouraging the young minds in her classroom, she can be found reading books before they become movies and finding new uses for Post-it notes. While she has convinced herself that training for another half-marathon is a good idea, she is happiest when she’s anticipating her next spontaneous trip abroad. Follow her daily musings on Twitter and Instagram at @JulietteElise_.


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