Online Exclusive

The Bucket List

Let’s face facts about New Year resolutions.  Everyone has a mental list of things they would like to fix/change.  New Year seems like a perfect time to start.  In fact, over half of our population makes such resolutions every January 1st.  However the statistics after that are pretty bleak.  Only 8% of people who make New Year’s resolutions stick to them.  Most people abandon their resolutions after just one week.  Why?  Resolutions fail for a number of reasons; they are not reasonable, practical or fun, 

But a bucket list is a whole different animal.  Do you remember the guy that led the police on a high-speed race through Butte, Montana in order to fulfill an item on his bucket list?  I can relate to that.  The guy, John Hughes, was fined $1,000.  I am sure it was well worth it to him.  If you can relate as well, it is time for you to start your bucket list. 

The psychology behind a bucket list is pretty straight forward.  It is considered a form of positive goal-setting which promotes both physical and mental health. Bucket lists help emphasize the importance of taking time for things you enjoy in life.  They encourage putting some fun into our lifestyles. They inspire us to do something new and/or exciting that promotes feelings of being energized, relaxation, and help prevent burnout.

The Bucket List:

A bucket list is defined as “a number of experiences or achievements that a person hopes to have or accomplish during their lifetime”.  Each bucket list is unique to the individual who created it.  Your bucket list is yours exclusively; you own it and you nurture it.  You can put anything on the list you want to.  It is a running list that can be modified anytime.  You don’t have to share it with anyone if you don’t want to (sometimes that makes it easier to be honest with yourself).  If you haven’t created one yet, I will give you more specifics after you have a chance to review some ideas and come up with some of your own. 

Most officers I have known have at least a streak of adrenaline junkie in their personalities.  Typically, adrenaline junkies have some pretty exciting bucket lists which often include any activity that involves a larger than normal amount of danger or risk of injury.  So, if that sounds like you, here are five suggestions to add to your list.  Be creative, there are thousands of other daring adventures to consider. 

  1. Dog-sledding
  2. Storm chasing tour
  3. Riding a live bucking bull
  4. “Buildering” (climbing the outside of buildings and other artificial structures)
  5. White water rafting

You get the point – doing something you want to do that contains a challenge and requires a degree of effort.  Remember you can start small, and your bucket list doesn’t have to cost a fortune.  Here is an example of five easy and affordable activities.

  1. Go paintballing
  2. Learn how to play the harmonica
  3. Witness a solar eclipse
  4. Run a marathon
  5. Adopt  shelter pet

Commonly, people include traveling in their bucket lists. There are so many places to go…so many people to meet…so many things to see.  Another 5 examples

  1. Go on Safari in Africa
  2. Turn up at an airport, book a flight and go somewhere random
  3. Go to the Olympics
  4. Take a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque
  5. Go salmon fishing in Alaska

And let’s not forget the things you’ve seen or heard of that you have always had a yen to try...

  1. Try an exotic food (like fried tarantulas)
  2. Earn a pilot license
  3. Go  water skiing
  4. Get a college degree
  5. Go horseback riding
  6. Swim with dolphins
  7. Go meteorite hunting
  8. Go to a live NFL game
  9. Take martial arts lessons
  10. Golf your top ten courses

The Basics of Bucket Lists

  1. The first part of creating a bucket list is deciding how to maintain the list.  It can be something you keep on paper in a journal, maintain digitally on your computer, or even keep as a running list on your smart-phone. It needs to be accessible so that you can easily add to it.  
  2. Really look at your dreams.  For now, don't think about whether or not anything on your list is realistic.  Just write it down for fun, you can decide later.
  3. Next you have to evaluate your goals.  Losing weight is not the type of goal I am talking about.  Fitting into the dress uniform you bought in 2010 and going to Police Memorial Service in Washington D.C. this year is a goal. 
  4. Don’t forget to consider goals you abandoned because you believed you couldn’t achieve them from the past that you would still like to reach. 
  5. Remember goals are something positive; some of your goals may be life-long, whereas other new goals may occur to you at any moment. 
  6. Go back and remember things that you wanted to do when you were a child, teen, or young adult.  Did you want to go to the state fair?  Did you ever daydream about skydiving?   Is there anything you'd always hoped to do that you'd still like to do? Add it to the list.
  7. Think about what you need.  Consider your health, your relationships, your finances, your living situation, etc.  Add these things to your list.
  8. Think about what is missing in your life.  Is there anything you wish you were doing regularly? Did you love to read as a child?  Make it a goal to read a new book every month.  Were you previously artistic?  Consider taking an art class, or showing some of your pieces.  Do you need some regular humor?  Find a buddy to go to a comedy club with you. 

Getting Started on Your Own Bucket List

OK, it is officially time to make your first draft.  There is absolutely no advantage to postponing this endeavor.   All you need is a piece of paper, a pencil and an ounce of creatively. Completely let go of your fears and limits. Write everything that comes into your head, no matter how absurd or far-fetched it may seem.  I’ve listed some important and practical tips:

  • You can start small, for example, make a '2014 Summer Bucket List' or a 'Before I'm 40 Bucket List' if the more comprehensive list seems to daunting at this time.  Just start something!
  • Check out the bucket lists of other people for ideas; there are tons of these lists online for you to review. (I did a Google search for "my bucket list" - there were over 3.5 million hits.)
  • Your bucket list should reflect your own personality, quirks, and interests.  If you don’t have any desire to visit Paris, don’t but it on your list just because it is on everyone else’s list.  Don't censor yourself because you're worried how others would judge you.
  • Surround yourself with other people who actively set goals.
  • Mix big and small goals.
  • Include harder/easier variations on a goal. For example, live in an overseas country / sublet an apartment for a month in Rome.
  • Remember a bucket list is not a list of feats, but a guideline for self-improvement.
  • It doesn't matter if you don't achieve some of the items; a bucket list isn't an exercise in perfectionism.
  • Set some specific time aside each week to work on your bucket list:  planning, pricing, timing, etc. 
  • If you want, work with someone else who may want to indulge with you.
  • Be careful not to turn your Bucket List into a list of materialistic wants.
  • Avoid treating a bucket list as putting the rest of your life on hold; you still have to do what you have to do.  Enjoy your life now.
  • Oh yeah, now the disclaimer….remember that illegal or dangerous activities will have consequences.

The Benefits of a Bucket List

A bucket list is more than simply enumerating things a person wants to do or accomplish before she/he dies aka: “kicks the bucket”. Goals can motivate us to accomplish things both great and small.  However, these goals need to be coupled with practical plans for achieving them. 

A bucket list can also be considered as an attempt to make one’s life meaningful and fulfilled (depending on the specific items that compose the bucket list).  Sometimes we do not know what is worth doing until we actually do it, and then reflect upon it. The truth is that a bucket list is not about dying but about living.  Having worked as a hospice nurse I firmly believe this type of goal setting is extremely important.  You’ve seen it too…life truly is too short.  Happy New Year.