Don MacNaughton Coaching

Bin the Bucket List ?


“Stop dreaming about your bucket list and get out and do it 

We’re all familiar with the idea of creating a bucket list, or a “things to do before I die” list, but are you guilty of adding things to your list and then never actually doing any of them? Planning is good, setting goals is good, and having a dream in life is good, but if you want to turn a dream into reality, it’s going to require action.

Bucket List Planning

There can be no doubt that creating a bucket list is a fun thing to do, and if you’ve already started one, there’s a fair chance you’ve got some “big plans” and wild adventures on there, right? For those who plan and then take action on those plans, a bucket list can be a motivational way to push yourself out of your comfort zone and achieve things in life you perhaps thought you never would, but of course, this can only happen if plans are put into action.

It’s a scientific fact that planning and anticipating a trip or adventure can boost your happiness. The results of a study published in the Applied Research in Quality of Life journal indicated that planning and preparing for a holiday often led to greater levels of happiness in participants than the actual holiday itself, something the researchers believe is the effect of anticipating good times ahead.

Now, herein lies the problem with bucket lists.

If planning is giving your happiness a boost, there’s no need to ever act on any of your plans – you can just keep adding another wild adventure to your list and you’ll feel good about life, right? Well, not necessarily, and probably not for long. Adding is fun, but the longer your list becomes, the more you become aware of what you’re not doing and not achieving in your life.

Add to this the endless exposure we have to what other people are doing in their “exciting” lives via social media, and a bucket list can shift dramatically away from being a motivational tool to being highly demotivational.

Reverse Bucket List

You see, a bucket list can be a useful element of creating plans and setting goals to keep you moving forwards in life, but when the fun of adding items is over, it becomes just a list – and a list that serves to remind you of what you haven’t done. So, should we just bin bucket lists? Not entirely. A way to harness the potentially motivational and feel-good effects of creating a list is to turn it around into a reverse bucket list.

With a reverse bucket list, you write down the positive things you have done in your life. You list every feel-good achievement, no matter how small, and you build a visual reminder of the things you have accomplished in life and the things that have mattered most to you. When you do this, the things you haven’t done have less power to bring you down, and you may discover they seem far less important anyway. For example, a common bucket list item is often to climb a significant mountain in some faraway location, but a reverse bucket list item might be the achievement of climbing to the top of what felt like a big hill in your local area. When you think about it, it’s not the size of the “adventure” that matters, it’s the way that achieving it makes you feel.

Remembering the positivity of those achievements can give you the motivational boost you need to begin putting new plans into action. Every small achievement in your life can be used as a positive stepping-stone towards a bigger achievement – and an achievement that actually matters to you.

Turning a dream into reality requires action, but action requires motivation (the want to)

It’s always going to be easier to do what you want to do, not what you feel you should want to do (according to social media) so take a moment to begin a reverse bucket list and you may just find the motivation you need to achieve a future goal by reflecting on the feel-good accomplishments of your past.

Don MacNaughton is a High-Performance Coach working over the last 17 years with thousands of people to get the best out of their talent .

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