Many people have a list of goals, targets and experiences they want to achieve while they can, and a bucket list is a written or visual statement of those goals.
In This Article
Why Is It Called a Bucket List?
Bucket lists got their name from the phrase “kick the bucket”, a softer term for dying used extensively in the UK.
It’s no secret that British idioms don’t always land with English speakers from the rest of the world, especially with the likes of the US and Australia having plenty of their own! However, the term garnered greater global significance following its eponymous usage in the 2007 movie The Bucket List. Incidentally, it’s a decent film with a great cast, and if you still find yourself questioning “what is a bucket list?” after this article, it’s well worth a watch!
According to the Wikipedia article on the phrase, a typical North American counterpart is to “hand in one’s dinner pail”, but pail list doesn’t sound quite as snappy to me!
More importantly, the movie brought “kick the bucket” to broader attention. People knew what a bucket list was but weren’t sure of how it got its name. Well, there’s the answer – a bucket list is literally a list of things you’d like to do before you kick the bucket!
Why Make a Bucket List?
The best reason to make a bucket list is to have a practical list of things you’d like to do while you still can. Then, you can check them off while you do them and achieve the smaller goals quicker; that will make the more significant dreams happen later in life – but not too late.
I don’t want to create any existential crises here, but people come to accept that they only have limited time to achieve and experience certain things on this planet. So no matter what you believe about the afterlife, reincarnation or anything else like that, the fact remains that we have no idea whether the things we know we can do here can be achieved after we pass.
You might want to land a kickflip while you still can, but there’s no scientific evidence to back up OPM’s claim that Heaven is a Halfpipe. Essentially, the best reason to make a bucket list is to figure out what you want to do and then have something to work towards.
A bucket list will:
- Encourage you to think about what’s next in your life, potentially both in the near and short terms
- Make you more positive about what lies in store
- Give you something to work towards, cutting down on procrastination and wasted time
- Potentially be an activity not just for you, but for family and friends too
- Help to break down larger goals into smaller, more achievable ones
- Act as a statement that when all’s said and done, you’ll have no regrets!
How to Make a Bucket List
A bucket list is personal to you, and there’s no right or wrong when it comes to creating one. You could grab a piece of paper and scribble down targets with a pencil. It would still qualify as a bucket list. However, you do need to think about how far out some of your goals are.
If, for example, you want to visit space before you die, you’ve probably got a while to wait. Virgin Galactic looks a decent bet to start commercial space flights – or might have already started when you read this. Then, of course, there’s the small matter of the $200,000 for a ticket. So it might be worth starting to write your affirmations now if you’ve still got work to do!
The point is that a piece of paper written in pencil might not be the bucket list you need. You want your list to still be there so you can check things off as you do them or remind yourself of what you want to achieve when you lack direction.
If you’ve got a manifestation journal, the first or last page could be the ideal place for your bucket list. Any book or journal you plan to keep for a long time could work.
I know someone who wrote their bucket list on the inside back cover of their favourite book. They figured that they’d had the book for ten years already at that point, so if they were going to lose it, sell it or give it away, they’d probably have done so by now. As an added bonus, they also read that book at least a couple of times per year. So even if they don’t actively look for their bucket list regularly, they’ll see it every now and again, even if only by accident.
The great thing about bucket lists is that there’s no wrong answer. Grab a book or piece of paper and write down what you want to achieve before you die, and you’ve got a bucket list. Then, fire up the Notes app on your phone and write down the same things – you’ve got an equally viable bucket list. Whiteboards, walls, journals and word processors all count.
Always remember, it’s not about where you write your bucket list. It’s about what you write and making it happen!
What Are the Most Important Items on a Bucket List?
The most essential items on a bucket list are those that mean something to YOU! The hardest part of writing a bucket list is thinking about what you’d really like to achieve in life and condensing that down into an item on a checklist.
However, the great thing about checklists is that you only need one thing to get started. So whether you create a new note on your phone, start a new document on your computer, or flip to the back of your favourite notebook, you’ve started once you write down one dream or goal. You’re now the proud owner of a bucket list.
From there, you can add and remove as you see fit. The next time someone says they’re doing something and you find yourself thinking, “I really want to do that too,” it no longer has to be a passing thought. It’s something to put on your bucket list, and you just so happen to have exactly that!
Bucket Lists Should Be Fun
Another essential thought when deciding on things on a bucket list is that you don’t have to take things all that seriously. It’s your bucket list, and, as such, you make the rules. A bucket list isn’t a vision board, so don’t go all out to plan your career, draw up floor plans of your dream house and feel the pressure to think of what model and colour Ferrari you want in your driveway.
Instead, items on a bucket list should make you a bucket list AAPE:
If the things you think of fit these criteria, and you potentially develop a sudden fondness for bananas, you’ve found some goals, targets and experiences that would make for perfect items on a bucket list.
Examples of a Bucket List
So what does a bucket list look like? Well, it’s basically like any other checklist, but you’ve got until the day you can no longer achieve these things to do them!
As I’ve said, you can write a bucket list anywhere and on anything. However, try to do it somewhere relatively permanent – there might be things on your list that are unlikely to happen for a few years, so try to use something that you’ll still have handy when they do! After all, you wouldn’t want to miss out on the satisfaction of checking something off once you’ve succeeded!
The Handwritten Bucket List on Paper
Handwritten bucket lists trade longevity for flexibility. You might have landed here at Widibi because you want to write a bucket list, but you either don’t know what they are or are unsure of where to start. I’m a big believer in learning by doing, and by creating your bucket list right now, you’re not committing to it for the long term.
So, with that in mind, kick things off with the handwritten bucket list on paper. Unsurprisingly, you only need two things – paper and something to write with. So, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
These bucket lists are great for the spur of the moment, but they probably won’t last long. For example, I’ve got four sheets of paper on my desk right now that have been there for a while. Occasionally, I’ll decide it’s time for a clear-out and might throw those sheets away, possibly without even checking them.
Fortunately, I’m also a dab hand with Blu Tack, so at least I can stick it on a wall.
If you go with the pen and paper approach, pat yourself on the back for making a start but try to think of an exit strategy. Sheets of paper get lost, so consider this bucket list temporary until you have time to transfer your list to its forever home.
The Whiteboard Bucket List
Whiteboards typically boast greater longevity than paper, especially if you’re the only one that uses them. Whiteboards at school or in the office aren’t all that great, as your handiwork will inevitably have disappeared by the time you return. However, if you’ve got one in your home office or indeed anywhere at home, they can be a great candidate for a bucket list in progress.
Whiteboards, by their nature, aren’t overly permanent. That could be a good thing, or perhaps not so good. You’ll never find me advocating for the use of permanent markers on whiteboards, so don’t do that. However, if you’re brainstorming, experimenting or otherwise doing a ‘draft’ bucket list, that flexibility can help.
Once you’re happy with your list, you can make it more permanent by taking a picture or by transferring it over to another medium, just as you would have with the paper example above.
Make a Bucket List on Your Phone or Tablet
And now we come to my favourite bucket list format, and yes, it relies heavily on technology.
When I’ve written about popular Widibi topics in the past, such as vision boards, I’ve found that there’s a bit of a divide when it comes to technology. Some, including me, love the convenience, practicality and longevity of a technological solution. Others believe that something is lost if you type instead of write or use a stylus on a smooth screen that removes the feeling and friction of writing on paper.
To those in the latter camp, I’d say two things. First, the techniques people use to set goals and make things happen in their life predate paper as we know it now. They’re also older than graphite pencils and rollerball pens.
Secondly, this is an excellent opportunity to reinforce the fact that it’s not about what you write.
Scrawl it. Type it. Write in calligraphy if you must. If you can write something down and it makes you feel a certain way, you’re onto something. You can treat your bucket list at face value, literally as a list. There’s nothing at all wrong with that. But if it makes you feel a certain way, spurs you on to further success or otherwise contributes not only to reminding you of what you want to achieve but helps make it happen, you’ve got a bucket list to be proud of.
If you’ve got a phone or tablet, you’ve got all the tools you need to create a bucket list that’s easy to start, great to manage and, in most cases, will be with you for as long as you need it. I’ve had iPhones since the 3GS, and while I don’t upgrade to every new model as they come out, I’ve still got notes in what’s essentially the same app more than a decade after they were created.
Don’t overcomplicate it, either. Type’ bucket list’ into your app store of choice, and you’ll see dozens of results. They’re not necessary. Most of them are just notes apps with fancy outputs. Some boast additional features, but you don’t need them.
At most, you might want to make your list prettier than a notes app can handle. However, you don’t need anything fancy, and you definitely don’t need in-app purchases – just use the trusty Canva app, and you’ll have all the templates and design tweaks you’ll need.
What Are the Top 10 Bucket List Items?
If you don’t have major goals and ambitions that make starting a bucket list worthwhile right now, there’s no better way to get started with one than to see what everyone else is doing with theirs!
I’ve scoured multiple articles, blog posts and websites to see what others have on their bucket lists. While this list is by no means official and thoroughly unscientific beyond some handwritten notes and a good old-fashioned tally chart, here are what I’ve found to be the ten most mentioned things to put on a bucket list among random internet strangers today!
And if you want some more ideas, here’s USA Today’s bucket list survey results, contributed to by single people, and a selection of superb suggestions for ‘seniors’ (although I like the look of a lot of them!) from the fantastic British charity AgeUK.
1. Own a Second Home Abroad
This one depends on where you look, I suppose. I prefer to focus on experiences than material goals, but the most common bucket list item I came across was to own a second home. That could be discouraging if you’re still working on owning your first, but remember, these are merely for inspiration – tailor them to what matters to you.
While I don’t personally prioritise material things on bucket lists, I can certainly see why having a second home abroad appeals – mainly because I live in the UK and having somewhere in Spain to live from around October to February would suit me down to the ground!
2. Visit the Grand Canyon
Travel always seems to rank highly on bucket lists. The world is a big place, and you only come to truly appreciate that, not to mention how different other parts of it are, when you see it for yourself. The Grand Canyon is a breath-taking sight in real life, and pictures don’t do it justice. I see a bucket list as a plan to make memories, and this is something you’ll never forget.
The Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and one of two of them to appear here. That just goes to show that people with bucket lists love to see some of the most amazing things life has to offer first-hand.
3. Write a Novel
This one has particular significance for me, and I could go on about this point forever. I won’t do that, but do consider the old saying that “everyone has a book in them”. For balance, you may also want to consider Christopher Hitchens’ take on the quote: “Everyone has a book in them and that, in most cases, is where it should stay.”
In seriousness, I think everyone should try to write something, even if nobody reads it. I find writing highly rewarding and, at times, therapeutic. I also make a living from it, and I’d be the first to admit I’ve committed some absolute rubbish to paper/screen at times.
4. See the Pyramids
I can vouch for this one too. This is just the kind of thing I’d put on a reverse bucket list, but that’s for another article. There’s something fascinating about the unexplained as they were for much of my life – although physics came along and ruined the mystery.
If it’s the mystery that appeals, you’ve still got the likes of Stonehenge, the Goseck Circle and Puma Punku to explore.
5. Learn Another Language
You already know one language, so would learning another really be an achievement worthy of your bucket list? Well, statistically not. Estimates suggest that monolingual people are outnumbered and that between 60 and 75 per cent of people speak at least two languages. Nevertheless, bucket lists aren’t interested in not doing things just because other people do.
There are all sorts of reasons to learn another language, and this entry on your bucket list could easily combine nicely with that second home abroad if you’re copying these ideas!
6. Visit Old Trafford
If I had my way, this one would instead read ‘visit Villa Park’, although I don’t need to put that on my bucket list as I’ve been there many times. Never gets boring. Nevertheless, sports make regular appearances on bucket lists in one way or another. I might be biased here as I follow football closely, so I might have been more inclined to note down when I saw this on bucket lists around the web.
It makes sense to see Old Trafford fairly often on bucket lists, especially among people who don’t live in England. Its nickname as the Theatre of Dreams is well deserved, and Manchester United’s position among the most popular football teams on social media suggests that many people interested in the sport would like to go and see it for real one day.
7. See the Northern Lights
If you’re all about the natural wonders going on around the world, then the Northern Lights has to be on your bucket list. I’m yet to see it myself, but I know people that have, each of which specifically went out of their way to take in this unique experience.
Checking this one off might also align closely with other goals on your bucket list, not least travelling to the far reaches of the Northern Hemisphere. According to Forbes, or using some basic geography skills, you can see this particular sight from Alaska, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Canada and even Minnesota on occasion.
8. Start a Company
Am I veering a little too close to the ‘no money on bucket lists’ rule below? Possibly, but it is what it is. Deep down, most people want to run the place, whether that’s for their financial aspirations, making a difference, launching a product, building a team, or a whole host of reasons.
If you decide to put this on your bucket list and use the law of attraction, remember to specify a successful company so that the universe doesn’t get to work on landing you with the modern equivalent of Trotter’s Independent Traders.
9. Visit Every Continent
There came the point in my bucket list due diligence where I noticed a theme around travel emerging. It was far before I added this one, but here we are again. It reinforces precisely what I said about experiencing things for yourself in your lifetime. We’re one world, and we’re closer to others than at any point in history, thanks to technology. However, what you and those around you consider a typical day could and often will be vastly different to someone else’s interpretation.
It got me thinking. I live in Europe. I’ve been to Egypt and various places in the US. I’m not even halfway through this particular bucket list item. Fortunately, at least on paper, this one isn’t overly difficult from a logistical point of view. But, of course, there’s time, money and all sorts of other factors to consider, and it’s still a worthy inclusion on any bucket list.
10. None of the Above
Ooh, a plot twist! I considered making this the 11th entry in the top 10, but when I make a top 10, I like it to include, well, ten things. This entry won’t guide or inspire you, but I want to use this final spot to remind you that the other nine aren’t necessarily your dreams and goals. Some might resonate with you, but they don’t have to be yours.
Bucket lists aren’t competitions, nor are they measurements. If you hate the idea of travelling and you prefer home comforts, it knocks out a significant part of that list, but there’s nothing at all wrong with that. The travel-based suggestions can still have value because they demonstrate what other people feel qualify them as a bucket list AAPE – they’re achievable, ambitious, personal and exciting to them. They’re also possible. Anyone can do any of these things, even if it means saving, focusing or working hard, or even all three. If the contents of your bucket list follow the same ideas, then you’re in with a shot.
What Not to Put On Your Bucket List
One of the great things about writing articles is that something interesting always crops up no matter how much you plan in advance. While researching the top 10 bucket list items above, I came across something from a reputable source that perfectly illustrates what not to do when you make your bucket list.
I give credit for this section to Sainsbury’s Bank and their Money Matters Team for their findings in their Survey Reveals Most Popular Bucket List Ideas article. For the uninitiated, Sainsbury’s is a major UK supermarket – the second biggest at the time of writing. Many UK supermarkets branch out from selling everyday items into other services. Tesco, the UK’s market leader, also has a banking arm, along with a mobile phone network, among their other endeavours. For those in the US, Canada, Australia and South Africa, it’s like getting your debit card through Walmart, Sobeys, Woolworths or Shoprite, respectively. Heck, you probably can!
Anyway, let’s not digress too much into the retail world and head back to the pitfalls of bucket lists.
The linked article gets the general idea of bucket lists, and it’s really pretty too. Their team boasts Canva talent that rivals my own, even if that’s not necessarily saying much.
The survey asked people between the ages of 18 and 80 for their top bucket list items, and, interestingly enough, 73% of respondents said they have a bucket list. That’s good. I like that. People should have a bucket list.
What potentially throws that list into doubt is I’m not convinced that either Sainsbury’s Bank or its respondents are 100% clear on what a bucket list is or what should be on there. So let’s cut to the chase and look at the results.
The majority of the list makes perfect sense. Buying a house, becoming a parent and starting a business are all incredibly worthy goals and excellent additions to any bucket list.
Don’t Be Vague
However, I have issues with a few of the inclusions. Now, we do have to consider the aggregated data involved in surveys. ‘Go travelling’ shouldn’t be on a bucket list, but I can see why it’s included here. If one person wants to travel and see the Great Wall of China, and another wants to travel to Pahang to stay in the world’s largest hotel, I can see them both counting as going travelling.
At the same time, it skews the data somewhat as ‘going travelling’ isn’t linear. Don’t put ‘go travelling’ on your bucket list. If I went to another city 100 miles away, would that count as going travelling? Perhaps, but is it really bucket list-worthy?
Be specific. Pick a place and put it on your bucket list. Don’t add something that has you racking your brain all day in five years to work out what you meant when you wrote it down.
Don’t Focus on Money
The biggest issue with these results is what comes through to take the very top spot. ‘Saving money’ doesn’t earn a place on any bucket list. I’m sure the survey creators rejoiced when they saw the top result – they work for a bank, after all. Meanwhile, I can buy that almost half of the respondents noted that they wanted to travel somewhere, and they all got lumped in together. I’m less convinced that half the people that came back to Sainsbury’s with their life goals had ‘save £500’ or ‘have a million in the bank’ among their bucket lists.
I don’t doubt that some people do. However, I would argue that money doesn’t even have a place on a bucket list. These lists are all about things to achieve before you die. What’s the point of setting a goal of having earned a million when you’ve passed away? You could have had a pound while you lived, or you might have had a billion. We’re all worth the same when we’re six feet under!
Sure, it’s essential to set goals and have ambition when it comes to money, and I know it’s possible to stretch that point. However, there comes a time in life when you think less about what you have in the bank for your own benefit and start to consider inheritances and treating the grandchildren. Just as careers and specific material possessions serve more of a purpose on a vision board than a bucket list, I feel the same about finance for one specific reason.
If you’re a bucket list AAPE and your goals are achievable in the long term, money is usually what stands between you and checking off everything on your bucket list in the next few months.
Want to travel the world? You can’t – got work on Monday. No work, no cash.
You could use the law of attraction to manifest money if you’re into that sort of thing, but that takes time too. More importantly, you should save it for your manifestation journal. Don’t sully your bucket list with such buzzkills. Money and finance have no place on a bucket list.
Just as importantly, don’t put things on there you can’t check off with confidence. For example, swimming with dolphins may be the classic bucket list cliché, but nobody can take that away from you once you’ve done it.
If you’ve got ‘become a millionaire’ on your bucket list, you can check it off as soon as the digits in your bank reach seven figures. Then you go out to celebrate. By the end of your night, your net worth is now $999,725. Your bucket list is no longer accurate. Do you add ‘become a millionaire’ as a new bucket list goal?
In summary, when you add things to your bucket list, steer clear of money and finance and write down goals that are specific enough that future, you will have at least some idea of what you meant at the time.
Bucket Lists and the Law of Attraction
You don’t need to have anything to do with the law of attraction or believe that its anything more than pseudoscience to benefit from a bucket list. So whether you think you can manifest anything you want in life and that your positive thoughts bring positive outcomes, or you just want to do what you enjoy doing and meet personal goals without any outside help, a bucket list can make it happen.
If you do use bucket lists, they can contribute to your routine surrounding the law of attraction. For example, you might enjoy writing affirmations or keeping a manifestation journal. You may meditate to converse with the universe and tell it what you want.
Wielding the law of attraction is all about confidence, belief and positivity, so you can see where the law of attraction and bucket lists may overlap. They both thrive on the same contributing factors. Essentially, and I promise this isn’t a non-answer, a bucket list can help you manifest your dreams if you use the law of attraction. If you don’t use it, a bucket list will help remind and encourage you to achieve the targets and goals that matter to you.
Bucket Lists and Vision Boards
Bucket lists and vision boards share plenty in common. As touched on above, they both work well whether you have an interest in and connection with the law of attraction or not.
We did a deep dive into vision boards vs bucket lists, so be sure to check that out for more information. The short version is that vision boards are more about material objects and short-term career goals than the experiences on which bucket lists thrive. They also vary in how often you should check them. People wonder how often they should look at a vision board for the best results, and, in most cases, the answer is at least once per day.
Conversely, we have my friend I mentioned above that usually only sees their bucket list when they reread their favourite book. Usually, that means two or three times each year at most.
If you’ve gone big on your bucket list, checking off just a couple of things every year is a good pace. After all, you’ve got the rest of your life to finish it off. However, with vision boards, you’re usually focused on things that you want sooner rather than later. It could be a sum of money, a house, a car or just about anything else. You don’t necessarily need it immediately, but any time in the next few weeks would be perfect!
What Is a Bucket List? – In Summary
A bucket list is indeed a list but has nothing to do with buckets beyond the phrase “kick the bucket”. Simply enough, it’s a list of things you would like to do before you die. It’s about experiences, not material gain, so forget about money and cars and focus instead on making the memories that stand every chance of lasting you a lifetime.