What’s Wrong with Bucket Lists?

3 Jan

Note: If you’re looking for what’s wrong with the Jack Nicholson/Morgan Freeman film The Bucket List, go here.

Bucket Lists are in fashion these days. It seems that since most of us no longer have to hunt and gather our food, we’ve got a lot of extra time for daydreaming about things we want to do before we die. It might also be because we watch a lot of television and are looking for some “real” experiences.

I make a lot of lists, and I’m a pretty goal-oriented person (and I watch a lot of tv), so bucket lists are right up my alley. But so far I’ve avoided creating one. There are a few reasons for this:

  • It strikes me as a kind of morbid concept. Fear of dying before I get to do something isn’t actually motivating to me.
  • It makes you think you still want the things that you used to want. When I was in the 7th grade, I had an assignment to list 50 things I wanted to accomplish in my life. I still have the list, and I can tell you that it is full of stupid. No offense to my 12-year-old self, but what was I thinking? Master the art of tarot? Learn more about vampires? Own 175 hats? If I had spent the last twenty years trying to accomplish the things on that list, I would probably be miserable. I don’t even look that good in hats.
  • Making a list and checking things off of it implies that you can be “done.” This reminds me of my dad’s theory about grades in school. If I would bring home an A, he would say, “That’s ridiculous. Does that mean you couldn’t have done any better?” Good point, dad. There’s no reason to set any arbitrary upper limits for ourselves. In other words, most bucket lists are achievable. Where’s the fun in that?

Having said all that, I really do like lists. So, I’ve decided to make a bucket list, only I’m going to follow this set of rules:

  • For every item, I’ll first think of a reasonable goal. And then I’ll double it. For example, if I think I want to visit 40 countries by the time I’m 40, I’ll double it and shoot for 80.
  • If it ever appears likely I’m going to achieve everything on the list, I’ll add at least a few impossible things.
  • I’ll reserve this list for the really big things that will make me feel wide awake. Smaller things belong on a daily To Do list.
  • I’ll add and remove items at will, so that it’s always an accurate reflection of what I want now.
  • It’s not a Bucket List. It’s a Fail Awesome List. I fully intend to fail, but I expect to fail awesome.

Here are the three items on my list, as of January 2, 2012:

  1. Visit 80 countries by the time I’m 40, including Antarctica
  2. Save somebody’s life
  3. Go into space

If I happen to learn something about vampires along the way, that’d be fine.


4 Responses to “What’s Wrong with Bucket Lists?”

  1. jeremymackechnie January 3, 2012 at 1:41 am #

    I disagree – you look great in hats.

  2. julia s. January 3, 2012 at 4:16 pm #

    I was totally going to say the same thing. With all due respect to your grown-up self, that seventh grader sounds pretty awesome.

    p.s. I loved this even more than the new year’s resolutions post. And I loved that a lot.

    • Hannah Kane January 3, 2012 at 4:26 pm #

      Well, she did read an awful lot of The Babysitters Club and she was on the dance team, so she wasn’t all bad. 🙂 Thanks, Julia.

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