By Rick & Sandi Griffin & McKenna, on January 29, 2016

Making a bucket list you’ll actually do

When I was in college, I read an article about world-renowned adventurist John Goddard that inspired me to make a list of things I wanted to accomplish before I die. The term “bucket list” wasn’t in vogue at that time, but that’s essentially what it was.

Over the next 20 years, the only things I actually managed to check off the list were getting married, starting a family, owning my own business, and attending a World Series game. Though I maintained my list, and even added to it, everyday life always seemed to take precedent.

A few years ago, I had a life-threatening illness that really got my attention. Weathering that storm caused me to reevaluate my priorities. With a renewed determination to make the most of every moment, I began actively pursuing the things on my list. As a result, my life has been enriched beyond anything I thought was possible. I even use my bucket list as somewhat of a blueprint for my career as a writer and video producer.

So now, as a passionate, self-proclaimed bucket-list evangelist, I have developed seven strategies for making an attainable bucket list.

1. Dream big with no regrets

Imagine that you knew that you were going to live to be 100 years old, be in great health, and win the Powerball jackpot. Where would you travel? Who would you help? What would you want to experience? Dream big. Now suppose you knew that you were going to die before you went to bed this evening. What would you regret not having done, tried, seen, said, learned, made, or eaten during your life? Your answers to these questions provide the nucleus of your bucket list.

2. Write it down

It is imperative that you physically write or type your bucket list and display it somewhere that you will see it often. Put it on your refrigerator, make it the background image of your cell phone, tape it to your computer monitor, to the dashboard of your car, or even the lid of your toilet. Doing this will keep your list in the forefront of your mind, and if you’re in midlife, it will keep you from forgetting the things you want to do.

3. Share it

Sharing your bucket list or specific items on your list holds you accountable with others and opens opportunities. So tweet what you want to do, pin your list to the top of your Facebook page, or post it on Instagram or Pinterest. Once you put it out there, people will start asking you about it or offer to help you make it happen. A couple of years ago, I tweeted that riding in the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile was on my bucket list. Within a week, the Oscar Mayer PR team contacted me and arranged for it to happen!

4. Divide your list into categories

Dividing your bucket list into categories makes it easier to organize and manage. Our list is divided into four categories. We have an “adventure” list where we include things like skydiving or NASCAR driving. Our “culinary” list includes the likes of eating key lime pie in Key West and drinking port wine in Portugal. Our “travel” list includes visiting the Galápagos Islands and cruising the Danube River. And our “other” list is a catchall category that includes things that don’t fit on any other list, like ringing the closing bell at NASDAQ or attending Fashion Night Out in New York City.

5. Take action on one item from your list now

The moment that you are living right now is the only moment that actually exists. None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow, so the best time to begin checking things off your bucket list is now. Look at your list and find one item that you feel would be the easiest to accomplish. Then take some kind of action on it within the next 24 hours. Enroll in a dance class. Make reservations at a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Book a trip to Memphis to visit Graceland. Whatever it is you choose to do, the act of plunking down some money and scheduling it on your calendar represents a higher level of commitment on your part and increases the likelihood that you’ll actually do it.  

Viewfinder Tip: Need inspiration for your own bucket list? Check out our Midlife Road Trip bucket list and see what interests you.

6. Share your accomplishments

Once you’ve completed something on your list, it’s entirely appropriate to brag on yourself just a bit by sharing your experience with others. Write a recap and share photos from your adventure across all of your social channels. It’s a great way of thanking everyone who encouraged you and thumbing your nose at any detractors. While engaging with your communities, go ahead and share which bucket-list item you intend to tackle next.

7. Add to your list

Think of your bucket list as a living, evolving document. Once you check an item off your list, you should add a new item to your list. That way your list will never be empty, and you’ll always have something to look forward to. Don’t forget to share your own bucket-list ideas and triumphs in the comments below.

What items will you check off your bucket list next?