When’s the last time you felt accomplished about something? I mean, super accomplished — like celebrating with champagne, feeling-a-weight-lifted, euphoric kind of accomplished.
I’ve accomplished many things in my life, as I’m sure you have, too. But there’s a difference between playing it safe and going after those wild dreams we all have. You know the ones: they feel unrealistic, you talk yourself out of them, and they get put on the “someday” list.
But when does someday come?
Recently, I learned something eye-opening about accomplishment: the euphoric feeling is stronger when you must face your fears. Often, those fears relate to our biggest bucket list items.
Prioritizing your bucket list today will nurture your soul more than if you wait until someday, or retirement, or until you achieve x amount of money.
Last month, I stared my fears dead in the eyes and decided I would take control of them. I confronted a lifelong fear, and I had two options: turn back, or step forward despite my fears.
And I’ll share how you can do the same. The best way to overthrow fears is by embracing them.
What was on My Bucket List?
A bucket list is a written or mental record of experiences you wish to have before you die — or “kick the bucket,” as the saying goes. “Experiences” is quite a broad term; many people today see bucket list ideas as grand endeavors like skydiving, climbing a mountain, taking a trip to Paris, and the list goes on.
Stanford University’s researchers found an illuminating connection between bucket lists and mortality. The former reminds us of the latter, but more on that later.
Here’s a personal bucket list example:
For the last few years, I have wanted to take a trip to the Amangiri Resort. The resort is nestled within 600 sprawling acres of untouched Utah wilderness, accentuated by slot canyons, deserts, fauna, and flora. I yearned to see it. To breathe the air, to witness the awe of those flowing canyons and sprawling deserts.
I envisioned myself hiking through the Amangiri mesa’s. But to do that, I’d have to face one of my biggest fears: I’d have to cross a high suspension bridge. I’m terrified of heights, so a bridge suspended 400 feet in the air had my heart racing. Would I be able to take the first step? Or would I turn back, letting my fears and anxieties best me?
These bucket-list items felt like dreams, so many things had to fall into place for the trip to occur, yet I brought them to life after an insightful coaching retreat. But why was it so important to me to cross this item off my bucket list?
Why Bucket Lists Matter
Fulfilling your bucket list is the best way to honor your soul. I can’t think of a better way to prioritize yourself than to achieve your biggest dreams. Bucket lists are designed specifically for crossing off those life goals that entice your thoughts.
Last month, I embarked on a coaching retreat where I took a hard look at everything I valued in life. I found my good friend, stillness, throughout the entire experience. The practice led me to think of my clients; overwhelming gratitude followed, with a consequent question: how can I best help them?
After all, that’s what the training was for – to hone my coaching skills so I can help my clients achieve their goals and dreams.
Bucket lists were a part of the package, and here’s why:
#1: We Don’t Regret the Things We Do
GP Richard Armitage is an immensely introspective doctor. In this study, he discusses a common consensus about regrets in life:
His older patients don’t regret anything they did (at least not on a large scale). Instead, they regret everything they didn’t do.
I know what you might think: there are a hundred things you might regret! A bad meeting at work, a failed exam, a missed romantic opportunity; the list goes on.
But Armitage distinguishes those regrets as common amongst young people. Those regrets don’t matter once you hit a certain age (or once you experience stillness).
Now, I don’t see my failed attempts as regrets. I know they’re necessary to reach my true potential. But a few years back, when I wasn’t true to my desires and goals, I could certainly see myself regretting my stagnancy – and how little I worked toward making a change. And in this one short life we get, there’s no room for stagnancy.
#2: We Can’t Always Complete Them When We’re Older
Life passes us by, and its course can be as swift as an Irish storm. Maybe that’s why so many people neglect their bucket list until they’re older — a sore mistake in GP Armitage’s eyes because, as he says:
“The period of our lives reserved for our bucket list is, in fact, when we’re least able to complete it.”
I thought about this fact during my recent coaching training. My original stance on my bucket list was that it could wait until I accomplished all of my realistic business goals first.
Psychologist Amanda Freund describes Western Society as short on time yet always expecting longevity.
As a result, we create bucket lists with important social and leisure goals and postpone them until we’re often too old to do them. Why? We believe there’s not enough time in the interim – we’re too busy with everything else, and that preoccupation holds us back.
Reminder: leisure and social goals are essential to our daily lives. You’re a human being; you’re more than just business milestones and family obligations.
If I waited until retirement to look at my bucket list, realistically, how many items could I achieve? Don’t get me wrong; I know many seniors who accomplish all of their bucket list items. The point is that we may have more obstacles as we age. And the time to chase those “wild” dreams of yours? It’s now.
#3: Bucket Lists Honor Your Values and Interests
How do you find out what’s important to you? Your bucket list sheds some light because it encourages you to consider your goals and values.
I value self-awareness, honesty, and serving others. And what better way to cultivate the stillness necessary to fulfill these values than to spend hours in pure, untouched nature?
What better way to serve others than to spend ample time understanding yourself?
But there are fears hidden in going inward, too. When I took one look at that suspension bridge, my breath quickened, and I felt my fears bubbling up. I was overwhelmed by limiting thoughts. I encouraged those fears by thinking, “Why am I doing this?” “I can’t do this.” “This is insane.”
How would I quiet those fears? By taking that first step. And then another until I reached the other side. And guess what? I did reach the other side. And something incredible happened: I felt euphoric. I felt free.
We have to step toward our fears in life because they get us closer to achieving our dreams. And that’s a better feeling than being paralyzed by fear.
Ready to Tackle Your Bucket List?
I realize not everyone is afraid of heights. And your bucket list items may differ drastically from my mine. But they share something significant: they represent what we want to achieve in this life. And that’s where the magic is, where our souls speak their truths.
If I could cross that suspension bridge, I promise you can cross whatever is holding you back from achieving your bucket list goals. If my story inspires you to leap into planning one of your bucket list items, I will cross that bridge again in a heartbeat.
Take that first step. Once you do, you’re unstoppable.