Most people have some sort of bucket list. Sometimes we don’t get it on paper, but we all have goals we want to achieve or amazing feats we want to accomplish before we die. You know the list. Climb Mt. Everest. Fly around the world. Safari in Africa. Get over your fear of public speaking.
My bucket list is probably not unlike yours: Buy an airplane, try out paragliding, fly around Alaska, write a book, learn to fly fish, and many other expensive and time-consuming things. I’m exhausted just looking at it.
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I, like many of you, don’t have enough money to buy an airplane, but from time to time, when I start to get ahead of the game financially, I think, maybe I’ll be able to buy an airplane before long. Inevitably, something obscure happens that sets me back financially and I lose all hope.
Similarly, every time I pass by a shallow river on a windy mountain road, I think about how long fly fishing has been on my bucket list and I sigh. I think about how many great rivers are only a couple of hours by car, and how easy it would be to do it if I could just find the time. And then there’s the Alaska backcountry that calls every now and then. And that book I started writing. And paragliding.
Anyone see what’s happening here? Bucket lists, as fun as they are, often turn out to be a disappointing list of things we wish we could do but just can’t (at least not yet) and it can often lead to frustration. It can be disappointing to see the same things on the list from year to year. Sometimes it leaves us feeling left out or inept. While my friends and family (and complete-stranger Facebook friends) are out flying around the world, skydiving, and otherwise checking things off of their bucket lists, I’m still staring at the same list I made 8 years ago, wondering how I will ever find time or money for all of the things I want to do.
Recently I came across an article that suggested that a “reverse bucket list” can make you happier, so I decided to look into the idea. A reverse bucket list is a list of things you’ve already accomplished. It’s meant to be an exercise in gratitude, and as a bonus, it leaves you with positive memories. And - get this - revisiting positive memories has many benefits, including acting as a motivator for accomplishing future goals. As it turns out, a reverse bucket list can actually inspire you to accomplish that bucket list you just threw out the window!
I set out to make a reverse bucket list of my own, and I was surprised at what I came up with – a list that’s significantly longer than my actual bucket list, and considerably more motivating. Being a skeptic, I wasn’t expecting the exercise to offer any actual positive results in the way of an emotional breakthrough or anything, but I was pleasantly surprised at how good it felt to look at this list of things I’ve accomplished. It’s cause for celebration, really.
In a world where we’re all pushed to be goal-oriented and programmed for success, it’s easy to begin to feel like we’re not doing enough, that we’re not accomplishing our goals quickly enough, that we’ll never have time to do the things we want to do. But if we instead spend our time looking back at what we’ve already accomplished and being grateful for what we’ve already experienced in life, we’re reminded just how far we’ve come. And it’s a really good feeling.