Bucket List: Why You Should Put Things on it You CAN Check Off

I keep a bucket list sort of either way I got to check a lot of things off it this summer and once again it got me thinking. While I don’t actually write it down I can tell you what’s on it!  What makes a good bucket list, how should you curate it and maybe a couple of things you don’t want on you bucket list. This year I got to check off: photograph wedding, complete olympic half, paddle for groceries on my board. I swear this isn’t a what I did this summer essay but rather a few words on how to set yourself up to accomplish your life goals, the big ones. Though there is a bit of that at the very end.


If you do it right keeping a dream list or a bucket list can bring a lot of meaning, self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment to your life. However I think if you do it wrong it can make you feel depressed and inadequate and perhaps bring out the worst parts of your personality. And that can make you feel pretty crappy! So here’s how I decide what goes on and stays off the bucket list!

Things you can do

If you’re bucket list is full of things you will literally never be able to do then it just serves as a reminder of the things you’re missing from your life. For most of us have a million dollars in the bank, climb Everest and be a size zero is just never going to happen. But things like live debt free, run a marathon and be the healthiest person you can all could! Most if not all of the things on you list should be technically possible for you. Setting unattainable goals just sets you up to keep feeling bad about yourself for years and years to come. That doesn’t mean the things on the list should be easy or regular everyday things either they should be mostly at least probably possible if you take lots of steps starting now sorts of things. Run a half marathon was on mine for ten years before I was like it’s now or potentially never and 10 years after I put it off as too much I finally did it! Since then I’ve run another this year and it looks like I might have another lined up in 2019!

That’s the thing about good bucket list items is they move your life forward when you check them off. I spent ten years going, “now’s not the right time, focus on school now, I’m not even running at the moment and so on and so on.” Now I run a half every year! When you put something on your list and then check it off it becomes a possibility in your life all the time after that. Big things like get a pilot’s licence, skydive, swim the channel and start a successful blog all have a lot of work and long odds against them but technically they are all possible. These are the sorts of things that deserve to be on your list!

Things you can’t do now

If things like build a garbage box, go grocery shopping for free and shovel three truckloads of gravel were on my bucket list well I would have nailed it today alone! Things you’re going to do anyway or all you have to do is leave your house and drive to don’t really deserve to be there do they? You can dream bigger than that! I wanted to try paddle boarding last year but it wasn’t on my bucket list. All I had to do to accomplish that was google ‘paddle board rentals Nova Scotia’ and pay. I got a paddle board for my birthday but that wasn’t exactly an accomplishment either was it? Taking my board out into the open ocean, out of out little cove and over to the next one 6 km away on a four hour tour, even though it scared me, was! I had to learn a new skill well, put some real time in learning and planning, get over my fears and commit so that went on the bucket list.

Most if not all of the things on your bucket list should be things you can’t do right now. For the most part that should be physically or emotionally not financially keep reading for why, possible right now. Bucket lists aren’t supposed to be shopping lists, errands lists or a list of ways to entertain the kids. Done right they’re supposed to drive you to grow as a person and expand the limits of your world. Things you could easily check of later this day, this week or this month well leave that for the errands list or the family calendar. Otherwise you’ll feel more than a little let down when you go to check it off.

Keep adding

Most of us aren’t in the movie scenario that made the term bucket list part of the vernacular in the sense that we’re not dying, thank god! So as you check things off you’ve got to keep adding things on and the cool thing is we get to keep adding to it as we check things off. The really cool thing is that once you check off something it often leads to adding bigger better things, you keep growing and so does your life! Run a 5k is a legit life goal for most people but once you check the 5k a 10k becomes possible and then after that maybe a half! I crossed olympic off my bucket list this summer and I’d be lying if I said half iron isn’t floating into my mind from time to time now.

No matter where you are in your life, sunrise or sunset, there are still lots of things to add to your list. I know of an 80 year old that recently quit drinking how cool is that? If you keep adding to your list it will keep adding to your life. And as you check things off new possibilities open up!

Not all bought stuff of experiences

Travel to Australia, drive a Benz and own a Birkin bag are all just a list of things you want to buy. These are not bucket list items and here’s why. Sure it falls into the things that are technically possible but that you can’t do right now, but they sort of suck too. If you’re bucket list is really just a list of things or experiences you can buy it might be time to take a long hard look in the mirror. Sure we’ll all have a few of these sorts of things on the list though I’m hard pressed at the moment to think of one of mine but… If your list looks like this you might just be a shallow materialistic fool, sorry that came out a bit harsh. The thing is buying things will never, ever make you happier someone will have more and nicer things than you and chances are you’ll be able to see them from your house. This is just going to set you up to want things that aren’t going to make you all that happy when you get them and if that’s all you want most from life you’re missing the best parts. It might be time to think about what’s important in life and take stock. I would even offer that not wanting things for things sake might actually be the true road to happiness but let’s save that for another day.

That’s not to say that things on your bucket list won’t cost money, I’m hard pressed to think of anything on there, or that I’ve checked off that was actually free but the major component in achieving them was not handing someone cash for goods or services. There are lots of cliches and platitudes about this, you can’t take it with you and no one ever wished they worked more and saw their kids less on their deathbed. Think about that while you’re making your list. Although if Kylie is looking to send one of those extra Birkins from her purse closet tour a new home, call me! I promise to only tell it nice things about you and show it a picture of you every week!

Will a big boat really make you happy?

Not things for other’s lives

As much as you would like to marry your long term partner, want a loved one to quit drinking or hurting themselves or your child to attend a certain college that’s for their bucket list not yours. Having things like this on your list is totally understandable and I think we’ve all been there. Your bucket list is for you and it should be things that if you set your mind to it you can do it mostly on your own. These sorts of things belong on your thoughts for sure and if you’re so inclined maybe your prayers but not on your list of biggest dreams. Other people have their own lives and have their own shit and your list is just for you. It can also be a bit emotionally manipulative and it’s true that only that person can make that choice for themselves.

Be proud

So you’ve checked something off your bucket list, yeah that’s amazing! You set a long term goal, worked hard, sacrificed and did something super cool that a previous version of you couldn’t do, you literally rock so hard right now! Be proud of your accomplishment and sing it from the roof tops, bragging and being proud are not the same thing! Bragging is when you want  others to think more highly of you or specifically to make others jealous. You deserve to post about it and to talk about it, maybe even a bit too much for at least a few weeks after. Anyone who knows you or knows what it takes to do what you just did gets it! Even if it’s something that most people will never get to do you still get to be excited about your thing!

On a related note make sure you don’t brush it off either, this actually helps with the boastful element too. If you found out someone did a triathlon and were congratulating them for it and they said. “sure you could do it, if you trained, it’s no big deal really” that’s probably wouldn’t feel awesome would it? If that same person said, “I started training for it 5 months before in February when it was still snowing and parts of training were really, really hard. But it’s been a dream of mine for several years now and I decided this was the year to get really serious and put the work in and I did. Thank you so much, overall it was really fun and if you ever decide you want to do it too I could help you.” wouldn’t that be better? When we minimize our own accomplishments it only serves to make others feel worse and often it comes across as taking a compliment rather rudely.  It makes it seem more like you think the other person should be doing it too in a not so nice way. Saying “thank you and I know right” to “that’s crazy, I could never do that you’re so …. (insert admirable trait) is actually the right and graceful way to accept your compliments in this case, plus you earned it!

I think this is the last tri pic for a while, thanks for indulging me but I feel like it was a big deal, to me at least and I’m proud!

My list is feeling a bit empty right now

It always happens to me, after I check the big thing I’ve been working on or a few little ones off the bucket list and I start to feel antsy about what’s next. This year I checked off at least two big ones and one little one. One big one was the triathlon which took me two years to get to and 5 months of training to check off. The other big one for me was photographing a legit wedding and making my client (and friend and neighbour) over the moon happy with the results. She really was and that one started in 2009. I had to learn a lot of camera skills and confidence plus efficiency to make that possible for me. It took nearly a decade to learn skills like, posing, natural light, flash photography and composition and probably about 3000 hours to make me confident in those skills and to make it look as effortless as it would have to be to shoot someone’s wedding. But this summer the right opportunity presented itself and I was like “you know what yes, I can do that now, let’s go!” Plus I paddled for groceries on my boat and that’s kind of the smaller one for this year.

Also I learned photoshop skills!

And now I know it’s time to add to that bucket list because I want to keep growing as a person. So here are some ideas I’ve had but nothing new has really stuck yet. Or I’m not ready to add it because it might not be for the right reasons.

  • One just like that would be to do and ironman. Isn’t it the next step after an Olympic? See that’s not a good enough reason. Also I want an Ironman tattoo on my foot how cool would that be? Also not a good enough reason.
  • Maybe start working again as a photographer since I’ve had quite a few calls after those wedding photos went up. Plus I’ve always ‘worked’ for new gear in the past and I could use a new body. Also not a great reason to add one more category of things to my life.
  • Marathon, nah, read this post to find out why?
  • I’m pretty sure I’ll do another olympic triathlon where nothing goes off the rails. But since I’ve already done it once it’s just a new thing I do, not a bucket list thing now.
  • Get my mountain biking skills to a point where I can enter a XC or even enduro competition. That one hasn’t stuck yet and it would probably be XC since I’m too old now to get injured and I’ve done that in the distant past. I could see doing an XC competition after 40 as a really cool goal.

There are a few things left on my bucket list, just waiting for that Rum Runners invitation to come in and some other stuff too, but those for now I’m keeping to myself. But so far none of these have made it to the ‘official’ list yet… In the past feeling like I have no or not enough things on the bucket list has sort of freaked me out, #nogoals. I’ve also learned that that that situation resolves itself in time when a new seemingly impossible idea pops into my head and sticks.

What bucket list items have you checked off recently? Are you working on any right now? What makes something list-worthy for you?

13 thoughts on “Bucket List: Why You Should Put Things on it You CAN Check Off

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  1. Thank you for this. You inspired me to make yearly bucket lists instead of long term so that I don’t feel defeated when I don’t reach the goal or get to cross it off my list. Plus with my anxiety having a list and a set time frame will perhaps stave off some panic.


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