Throw away your damn bucket list

I want you to think of the bucket list that you have. Whether it’s triumphantly displayed on your blog, written shyly in your journal or catalogued in the recesses of your brain right after the recipe for spinach dip your mother gave you, I want you to rename that list “Things I Wish To Do Sometime Before I Die”.

Not very powerful is it?

When death is your finish line, you’re running the wrong race.

Considering that you are a perishable item with an expiry date, we could go further and rename your bucket list “Things I Wish To Do Sometime Before I Die, Which Could Be Any Time.”

How does that feel? Uninspired? A tiny bit morbid? Suddenly less than exciting? Good. That means we are doing it right.

We are a society of list makers. We plan, and then act accordingly. We base what we buy, where we eat, how we cook, and where we travel- on the books and blogs and reviews we read before we step foot outside our home. We believe that when it comes to life experiences, research can prepare you. We write lists of what we want to experience in life, proudly display the list for everyone to see then (if you are lucky) dutifully begin to research which item we can cross off first.

Throw out your bucket list and live your life with the urgency it deserves.

A bucket list is a wish list. It’s a scrapbook page, a pinterest board or the declaration you excitedly share with your friends after your fourth martini. While in the process of creating it, you are fueled with excitement and then you forget about it and order another martini and the topic changes from riding elephants to shirtless Ryan Reynolds and your bucket list is forgotten for the moment.

If I had started with a bucket list when they first became popular, I would still be trying to get Joey Lawrence to be my boyfriend. Bucket lists require upkeep and review.  They deprive you of adventure and the thrill you find only when you veer off the beaten path. My greatest adventures were not events I could have listed and planned in the breathtaking and awe-inspiring ways I experienced them.

Backpacking Europe is something lots of people put on their bucket list. I have done that. But more than the backpacking, what I remember most about that trip was stumbling into a hidden Picasso exhibit with a handful of people and being inches away from masterpieces. I got goosebumps realizing I was breathing on Picasso. While others marveled at the color selection and clear lines, I was in awe- counting each paintbrush hair that had fallen out of Picasso’s paintbrush and was painted onto the canvas. I expect no one puts counting paintbrush hairs on their bucket list.

No amount of research can prepare you for life. No list will ensure years full of adventures and excitement. Writing something down doesn’t make it true. Telling someone else won’t ensure it happens. Living an experience is the only way to make it real. The only way to guarantee a life full of exhilarating thrills, joyous accomplishments and memorable experiences is to LIVE that life, not plan it. Throw out your bucket list. Plan less, do more and live a life worthy of envy.

Your time is now.


13 comments to Throw away your damn bucket list

  • Jaxie

    You are awesome. That is all.

  • Two of my favorites in this awesome post are:
    “live your life with the urgency it deserves” and “No amount of research can prepare you for life.”

    Fuck yeah!

    For as many lists as I write, I’ve never done a bucket list. Weird, maybe?

  • Amy

    I like having a bucket list because I think it keeps me focused on the things I want to do. My number one was Paris, and crossing it off made me realize the importance of keeping goals at the front of my mind, because it really does help me look and see what I want to do. I try and make sure I’m actively crossing a few things off—or making plans to do so—all the time.

    In addition, I like to keep a reverse-bucket-list: a list of all the cool shit that happens even if it wasn’t on the list to begin with.

    I do love this idea of living life urgently, of doing more and talking less. Getting healthy has taught me that—it’s better to go for a shitty run than it is to make a running schedule. Every damn time. That’s how life works.

    Love this. And you.

  • Snarky Baker

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Seriously – this is exactly why I don’t have a bucket list. Im not a list maker in general but especially for this. Some of my happiest memories are from things that didn’t go exactly as planned.

  • As much as I love the whole “live now” philosophy, at my core I am a list maker and type A- planner. My bucket list serves as a way to keep my eyes open to the opportunies life presents. Like, I want to take a trapeze class. So, now I scan LivingSocial and Groupon for deals on such. It’s more like an excuse for me to do something a little crazy. I have trouble convincing myself that spending out is worth it. I get caught up in the price of things, but if I know I’d be spending out to cross a goal off my list I react differently. However, I am also completely convinced that once the idea of a goal/bucket list item/resolution stops appealing to me,it’s totally ok to let it go. Like, I probably won’t ever work as a bartender. When I was 18 that was a life goal. I’m ok with letting that one go unachieved. Revision, revision, revision is key. ;)

  • I love this!!!
    And you are so right.

  • [...] While I have (and love) my bucket list, I still loved this post by Brandy about throwing away the bucket list and start living life with urgency. [...]

  • Amy

    The thing with my “bucket list” is that some of the stuff I put on it two years ago no longer seems important. So in addition to feeling like a big fail for not accomplishing these things, I feel like an even bigger tool for wanting to change my bucket list midstream. Throwing it away and just going with the flow seems a lot more appealing now. Loved the Picasso story!

  • [...] and make me feel good that are more spontaneous (if you’re looking for a good read on this, Brandy’s post about this is awesome) than intentionally crossing something off a [...]

  • I agree! When bucket lists and life lists became super popular, I just didn’t understand it. I created a 101 Things in 1,001 Days list. I think the reason why I like making a list, with a manageable end date, because I think it helps me brainstorm what I actually want to get done.

    If I never reflected on my goals, I might never pursue anything new. I would just be living my life by habit, never recognizing what is or isn’t working. You might not need a list, per se, but you have to be aware of what you want. You can’t just plan, but if you don’t think about what you want out of life, you might end up living the life other people are telling you to live. And that’s no good either.

  • Woolly

    Well said….

    I’m sick of hearing people tell me that “one day” I’m going to do something… then one day never comes…. stop talking… start doing!

  • [...] and dreams and then somehow….they get swept away in the wind. This post from Brandy on throwing away your bucket list and just living life is a good one to read next time you think of those ill-fated resolutions. via [...]

  • Holly

    One of the greatest moments of my life was when I got to see Wrigley Stadium for the first time. Seeing the most iconic stadium in baseball history had been on my bucket list for YEARS. Finally experiencing it was…well, it was amazing and indescribable. Bucket lists are not all bad.

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