The Yearly Bucket List Oath:  I solemnly swear to create memories that last a lifetime.  I vow to make an impression on the world, not the couch.  I promise to dream about unrealistic goals and make them a reality (Why You Should Make a Yearly Bucket List).

In 2007, Warner Bros. released a film called The Bucket List starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson.  It received awards and was a box office success despite some critical reviews.  The story is about two terminally ill men who strike up a friendship of sorts in the hospital.  They create lists of what they would like to do before “kicking the bucket.”  One of the men is very wealthy and is determined to realize some of their last wishes.

The movie brought on a frenzy of people creating lists of what they wanted to do before they died.  It’s a fun endeavor to think about the things you really would like to do, but there are those who warn that bucket lists can impede living your life to the fullest.  If you do decide to think about some goals for your future, there are some aids in developing your list that might be helpful.

The Opposition

Suzy Strutner writing for The Huffington Post gives “7 Reasons Not to Make a Bucket List.”  For example, she suggests, “High expectations will sabotage you.”  You may be setting yourself up for disappointment if your goal doesn’t produce the joy and satisfaction you had hoped to gain.  Or, she says that “bucket lists are all about doing the most epic thing, in the most epic place, to make for the most epic life.”  In other words, are you doing something on your list because it brings enjoyment or because you want to brag about it to others?  If you are looking towards a lofty goal, you may miss out on some spontaneous getaways.  This may happen to someone who is obsessed with his/her bucket list, and I would suggest that anytime you set up a list of goals, it should be flexible so that you can add or delete items as you grow and change.  I am sure that the list I have now would not be the same one I would have made when I was 21.

The Defense

On the other hand, many advocate for listing your dreams.  The anticipation and preparation for a goal like a trip can be nearly as enjoyable as the trip itself.  Christopher Peterson, Ph.D., in his article Bucket Lists and Positive Psychology, says that “a bucket list is an attempt to make life meaningful . . . .”  It is a way of setting goals, and goals can motivate us.  It shouldn’t just be a check-off list though; life is much more than a checklist.  Laura Vanderkam talks about Why You Should Make a Bucket List.  She calls it a “great productivity tool” that can bring a lot of joy and happiness to your life, and a happy personal life can positively affect your professional life.  Bill Clinton, Jane Fonda, and Cameron Diaz all have referenced their use of a bucket list.

What have you already accomplished?

There is a website devoted to suggesting ideas for a bucket list (  It was fun skimming through the suggestions for possible additions to my own bucket list.  I realized in looking at all these that I have lived a great life and had many of the experiences that others only dream.  For example, I have walked the Great Wall of China and traveled to Guatemala for a few weeks to immerse myself in a new language.  In the past year, I have been fortunate to encounter opportunities to fulfill other wishes.  I finally saw a professional opera performed live, though now I would like to see an opera in New York at the Metropolitan Opera.  This summer I am going to Iceland and hope to see a fantastic display of the Northern Lights.

Tips and tricks to making your own list

This same website suggests categories for inserting your goals and dreams.  One of these categories is “travel.”  I have numerous trips that I would still like to take such as a train excursion across Canada to Banff or a cruise from Buenos Aires down around the southern tip of South America to Santiago, Chile.  I have been to the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, but I understand that the owners have installed a display by the famous glassblower Dale Chihuly.  I would love to visit again and see that exhibition (and perhaps someday own a small piece of Chihuly glass).

Another category is to learn a new skill.  Exploring a city on a Segway sounds like a lot of fun, and I hear they are relatively easy to master in a short time.  Learning to take better photographs on my Apple iPhone camera would be a plus for making vacation photos a little more interesting.  There are experiences relating to food, both preparing and eating that are on my list.  For example, I would like to learn to crack an egg with one hand and learn to dice with my chef’s knife like the famous chefs on TV do.  There are so many other small and large things that I would like to do:  learn French, see the play Hamilton, or attend an international film festival such as the one at Telluride, CO, or the one in Cannes, France.  It is so pleasant to think about the possibilities.

Don’t forget about your own backyard

If you decide to create a bucket list, don’t forget about making a local list, too.  Depending on the size and location of your vicinity, there are probably many things within a short distance that are worthy of inclusion.  Don’t be afraid to edit your list over time as you grow and change.  Choose a mixture of simple and extravagant additions and occasionally review your list to see what might be possible in the near future and make plans to fulfill your wishes.

Bucket lists can be fun as long as your ties to these goals are flexible and the goals are within the realm of possibility.  I’d like to be able to have a conversation with my dog, but that just isn’t going to happen.  I also would love to dance like a pro, but I have been told that all I really do on the dance floor is “jiggle,” and those ballroom dancing classes with my husband nearly ended what was otherwise a good marriage.  It’s still okay to dream big; you never know what opportunities may come your way.



Diane Repass is a retired tenured assistant professor
from The University of Dubuque and now a beloved
writer for Plaid Swan Inc. She received her M.A. from
The University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, Iowa.