Building a Better Bucket List


I’ve never made a bucket list. Up until now that has been the only thing on my bucket list.

I know lots of people who have them and I marvel at their ability to focus and to plan ahead, but to be honest the things they come up with usually don’t seem all that pressing or critical or urgent to me.

But that’s for them to decide for them.

As for me, I’ve decided to build myself a better bucket list.

Here are some things I really want to do before I die:

I want to stop being afraid—of failure or the future or death or spiders.

I want to make peace with the aging person I see in the mirror.

I want to let myself off the hook for the mistakes I made when I didn’t know what I know now.

I want to drive in traffic and not lose my religion.

I want to stop worrying about whether or not people are talking about me when I’m not around.

I want to stop comparing myself with friends or peers or strangers, but simply to who I was yesterday.

I want to take out the kitchen garbage, instead of cramming another banana peel in and shamefully tiptoeing away.

I want to remember when I feel like a total screw-up in this life, that I’m probably in really good company.

I want to greet my family every day the way I greet my dog.

I want to say no to things that I normally say yes to only to feel important and valuable.

I want to be okay not being right.

I want to trust that the people who say they love and appreciate me, really do mean it.

I want to be better at tolerating small talk, remembering that some people really need it.

I want to feel less compelled to broadcast the good and loving things I do, content just to quietly do them.

I want to believe that my best days are still ahead of me.

I want to stop feeling as though the person in front of me at the checkout line is intentionally trying to ruin my day.

I want to stop making the little sh*t so massive: popularity, material success, rock hard abs, nicer kitchen countertops.

I want to be a spouse still worth choosing.

I want to talk to people in the elevator, looking into their eyes instead of at their feet or the numbers on the wall.

I want to have the person I am at home, and the person I want people outside my home to think I am—to be the same person.

I want one day where I feel I have enough and make enough and am doing enough.

I want to be able to turn off my phone and shut off my computer and stop feeling so darn indispensable.

I want my kids to know that they don’t have to be perfect or even excellent to be loved.

I want to stop thinking I know people because of their politics or religion or the house they live in.

I want to be okay letting someone else control the radio in the car.

I want a faith that is louder than all my words about that faith.

I want to really love my enemies.

I want to see the best in people.

I want to apologize first.

I want to be more in today, than I am in yesterday or tomorrow.

I want the world to be a slightly more loving, compassionate, decent place than when I arrived.

(I want to be totally fine if no one reads or shares this post.)

Yes, skydiving, sitting at the edge of the Grand Canyon, seeing Paris, and having dinner with Bono would all be pretty great, but if those things never happen I can still feel like I’ve really lived before I die.

Here’s hoping that on the day I do finally kick the bucket, I will have become a better version of me than I was the day before.

That will have been a life fully lived.

(I’d love to hear what might be on your list. Drop them in the comments section. – John)


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34 thoughts on “Building a Better Bucket List

  1. I love this post John. At 67 I find that I have been able to do many things that I hoped to accomplish in my life and many that I couldn’t even imagine .. good and bad … but I never am able to check off being the person I want to be … So my list would include trusting that God is able to ….

    • JP… you lost me at ‘build a better…’. [But I think its great that other people have bucket lists!]

    • After reading this article, I was reminded of what my parents used to say. “Be all you can be. Do what you want to do and not what someone wants you to be.” Lastly, ” if some know it all christian tells you, ‘ the Lord told me to tell you’, you tell them to tell the Lord to tell you what He wants.” I don’t do bucket lists, but yours comes close to what I would say if I did one. Thank you for your posts. I really enjoy each and every one.

  2. Sigh…I want to feel like I have fully atoned and been forgiven for all of the crappy things I have done in my life. I want to be able to NOT answer my phone without people thinking I am odd for not wanting to talk on the phone. I want to learn to understand and love people who believe my gay son is less human than they. I also want to learn to understand and love people who support Donald Trump. I don’t really care where I go or what I see, I want to feel ok in my own skin.

    • Wow Kori…I think you and I could be great friends! Except for the first sentence, everything else you said would be at the top of my list. And many of John’s listings. I want to love well. I want to communicate cleanly and well. I would wish that I didn’t have as many relationships with unspoken and unresolved issues. What a great post…I usually think of bucket lists as places to go and physical goals to accomplish. I get fresh air everyday from these posts!

  3. Thank you, your list is inspired. I too dont have a bucket list. I have tried to live by my moral values learned in Sunday School and have experienced a lot of discrimination and I have been taken advantage of by folk without a moral compass. I’m still living my values, I’m still living well as compared with a world citizen.

    • I just started a new bucket list last week:
      Learn to drive/navigate our boat
      Take photography classes
      Learn to fly fish with the Vs
      Get better at birding
      Journal regularly
      Stay at the Sayre Mansion in Bethlehem, PA (glass ceiling)

      So looking back on this list now I think I should add some things:
      Get my keyboard fixed so I can finish typing… 🙁

  4. Thank you for this post. It is so lovely to read and find someone who sees it as I do. Thank you for that.

  5. I want to stop wishing I could do my whole entire life over again. I want to stop thinking there is such a thing as a perfect family, though some can really seem that way on Facebook. I want to feel truly at home in a faith community, and not feel alone there. I want to stop trying to fit into a faith tradition that does not tolerate my beliefs, only because I was born into it and hate feeling rejected by it – even though others with my same beliefs feel just fine in its churches, and keeping quiet, feel warmly embraced there. I want to not envy that. I want to be the best parent to each of my three individual children that they can have, honoring who they are as close to flawlessly as possible. I want to be more like my husband – extreme only in his humility, his quiet strength, and in his utter disinterest in speaking ill of others, like ever.

  6. Identifying what you do want is a necessary first step toward having the stuff you want, although the very fact of “wanting” them keeps them in the future. You “want” because you don’t “have”. i.e., I want to see the best in people, I want to be okay not being right.

    The first key to manifesting what you want is to bring each item on your list into the here and now, expressing it as though it was already done. For instance,

    I see the best in people.
    I am okay not being right.

    Can you feel the difference between the two phrasings?

    Speak your statements out loud so you can hear your own voice saying what you want, and as long as you believe that you can have it, and you think, speak and act like you already have it, it will be yours.

    • Good exhortation for getting things past the “I want” to walking in the manifestation of things that are good and right!
      I think saying things aloud is really important too!

  7. A great list and one that can be accomplished. When done life changes in beautiful ways.

    Peace, Love and Joy brother!

  8. A masterfully wonderful list. Thank you, John.
    I might add: “Do something I love (that brings me joy/happiness) each day.”
    And maybe: “Learn and master the folding of the dreaded fitted sheet!” 😉

    • Your desire to learn how to fold fitted sheets made me smile…
      I learned how to do that when I was but a newlywed, 41 years ago. It can be done!
      This same technique was taught to me by folks who owned the laundromat I was going to at the time… I think they taught me in half the time (of this video)… but, just had to share for the fun of it!

      I’ll share in the name of what’s on my bucket list– I want to take life less seriously and laugh more!

    • –darla, that one made me laugh. Someone needs to invent a ‘foldable’ fitted sheet! After many years of trying, I went back to my original time saving method –roll it up into a ball.

  9. For me, I think they all get wrapped up in “I want a faith that is louder than all my words about that faith.” If that were true, the rest of those things you listed (which mostly are all true for me as well…) I believe would fall into place. At least, for me.
    I guess, bottom line, I want to be the person God designed me to be.

    • Which is why we shouldn’t compare ourselves to others, or be swayed too hard by others. Only listen to our own heart, our sole (soul?) divine connection. No one human has spiritual authority over another’s path. Some may guide and some may stray, but within the context of all eternity, who is any one temporary person to judge which is which?

      If you truly desire to be who God made you to be, you already are.

  10. I found your list to be great food for thought. Sometimes the bucket lists appear to just be something to brag about or random items to be checked off. You have really got me thinking. I really want to overcome a few of my fears that hold me back and prevent me from enjoying life more fully…and I want to stop speaking ill of anyone ever. Big job.

  11. It has been surreal for me to work on my “actual” bucket list since being diagnosed with late stage cancer. For me, it has come down to this:
    – Eyes on Jesus as the storm rages around me
    – Take a trip, whether one night to a nearby town or all the way to Spain, with each of my closest friends
    – First thing each morning, thank God for the gift of living another day and ask Him to help me order my day
    – Look for the small joys in even the roughest days
    – Focus what time and energy I have on loving and serving people and making memories with them
    – Use frequent words and hand-written cards to tell those I love how much I love them
    – Get my affairs in order
    – And eat dessert first, as I am doing as I write this, BEFORE dinner!

  12. Addressing your bucket list items–the traffic and the check out lines: one of my favorite books is “This is Water” by David Foster Wallace. It is the commencement speech he gave at Kenyon College in 2005. His words enter my head every time (well, almost every time…) I find myself short of patience, annoyed, and frustrated because the universe isn’t swirling around ME. Anyway–it’s a good read.

  13. Silly things : apply my makeup flawlessly

    Big important things: truly love others unconditionally and while I’m at it learn to love myself

  14. I enjoy all of your blogs, but I think this is definitely one of my top 3.

    On my bucket list: I want to release all the external factors I feel I need in order to be OK (workout every day, write every day, etc). Because we are all just fine the way we are.

  15. Excellent list, John. Right now, for today, I want to learn to treat myself with the same gentleness and compassion that I try to treat others, and to be better about treating others that way. Like you, I want to believe those who say they love me, and stop blaming myself for those things for which I have no actual responsibility.

  16. I want to have the courage to start a blog or write a book to encourage others and truly believe that what I have to say and what I have learned from my life experiences may actually be of value to someone else. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with me.

  17. My two favorites: “I want to make peace with the aging person I see in the mirror.” and “I want to let myself off the hook for the mistakes I made when I didn’t know what I know now.”

    I would add: Make peace with my family even if it means being rejected another 70 x 7 times before it happens.

    Thank you John!

    • And – having done this, so I speak from experience – accepting that sometimes the other person doesn’t want the peace or forgiveness you are offering. Forgive anyhow, even if you choose for your sanity to limit contact or remain out of contact, because it is good for your soul.

  18. I just returned from six days in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with a good friend. It was the only thing I had on my “bucket list.” Seriously. I could die contented now.

    Every time I read one of your columns about grief, it centers me. My sister died 17 months ago from lung cancer. My bucket list looks more like this now: live each day to the fullest and live a life “rich toward God.” Try not to waste time being angry and have patience with everyone — no one knows the battles they face. Aim to see the Godspark in everyone and everything. Go outside and see the world — delight in falling stars, sunsets, flowing water and wildflowers. Tell the people closest to you that you love them every chance you get, because no one is promised another day on this earth.

  19. I want to be truly kind – to everyone, even the annoying ATT guy.
    I want to open myself up to new people, new experiences, new ways of believing and new ways of being.
    I want to dispose of, sell, donate, give away, gift everything that does not bring joy to my soul or beauty to my life. And even if I love it, if I don’t have room for it I will let it go to someone who will love it even more because they will make the space for it.
    I want to be the change I want to see in the world. (Kinda stole that one!)
    I want to love with my whole heart, without worrying that I am imposing or sounding needy or pushy.
    I want to accept that even when I do love with my whole heart that not everyone can love me the same way – and that’s ok.
    I want my happiness to be dependent upon being – rather than upon my life circumstances.
    I want to always have a childlike joy and enthusiasm for the people & things I love.

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