Beyond The Traditional Bucket List: Ways To Enhance Your Daily Life
Many of us have a “bucket list”: a list of things we hope to accomplish before we die. These lists vary significantly per person. For instance, hiking the Appalachian Trail will be found on certain people’s bucket lists, and not on others. Visiting all fifty states or setting foot on all seven continents may be on your bucket list. It’s also possible you want to learn a second language, live in a foreign country, or start your own business.
Bucket lists can inspire people to live their dreams and even “seize the day” with the realization life is short and must be lived to the full. It’s also deceptively easy to put important dreams off under the premise of “one day” you’ll be able to accomplish this or that. The problem with “one day” thinking, however, is it’s easy for “one day” to become “never” if you don’t allow this dream to become a priority. A potential issue with bucket list items is they may be huge accomplishments—such as climbing the highest peak in every European country—which must be broken down into much smaller goals in order to be met.
The famous "Carpe Diem" scene from "Dead Poets Society"
The ideas in this article are alternatives to your bucket list. They are meant to be immediately accessible so you have fewer reasons to push them aside until the fabled “one day” when you will start pursuing them.
A relatively straightforward way to find fulfillment is to decide what subject or subjects you would like to learn more about. Quite naturally this will vary per person. Nonetheless, brief introspection should reveal the topics you’ve always had an interest in, or those which have sparked you interest recently. Once you determine what you would like to learn about, you should decide how to proceed. It’s possible you may be content looking for information on the internet or reading a few books on your chosen subject. If you want to learn even more, you could possibly take a community college class or even job shadow someone in this field. Regardless how much or how little you want to dive into this project, learning about a new subject can be greatly beneficial. You may even find a corresponding local club, online group, or international organization associated with this topic. After all, no matter how devoted your spouse is, they may eventually grow tired of hearing about the evolution of swordfish or whatever topic you have pursued. If you are spending time with others who share this interest, however, the conversation may be more edifying for all parties. With this activity it’s essential to move as far away from the “I should learn about this because…” thinking and move towards fascinating topics which may not have any discernable practical applications. The author Elizabeth Gilbert remarked in her memoir Eat, Pray, Love that she wanted to learn to speak Italian because it was a beautiful language which made her happy. This wasn’t an overtly practical pursuit, yet she found it immensely rewarding.
More wisdom from Elizabeth Gilbert
Which of these topics interest you?
If you enjoy reading, another pursuit to consider is reading all the works by a favorite author. Your favorite authors and my favorite authors likely differ, and therefore I am not going to suggest you read everything by the authors I happen to enjoy. Nonetheless, this is the chance to further develop your interest in and appreciation of a specific writer. Years ago I’ve considered doing this, but thus far haven’t done so. Nevertheless, this is another accessible way to bring simple enjoyment into your life without going sky diving or traveling to Japan.
Which band would you prefer listening exclusively to for a week?
Adding variety to your life can also be achieved by listening to one of your favorite musical artist for a specific amount of time. You determine the length of time and which artist or band you want to listen exclusively to and then proceed normally in this area of your life. In other words, if you mainly listen to music in your car while driving to and from work, you would listen to your chosen artist or band at this time. The point is, you don’t have to completely restructure your life in order to achieve this goal. In fact, this activity is a way to tweak your existence and make it more interesting. Comparable to moving your furniture to give your home a new look and feel, focusing on a single musical artist or band for a week, month, or longer will help you appreciate your entire music collection once this goal is reached.
In case you're a fan of The Eagles...
It’s also possible to enhance your life by joining a book club, taking a cooking class, or auditing a French 101 class at the local university. Even taking a single step outside your comfort zone in order to meet new people, learn a new skill, or determine if you actually want to learn French is worthwhile. Such “baby steps” can help you decide if the items on your bucket list are worth pursuing. Moreover, the simple act of stretching your social circle should expose you to new ideas and activities which may suit you better than your more established interests.
A final way you can enhance your current existence is by thinking back to those childhood activities you missed out on. Perhaps you wanted to learn how to play the piano, but your parents couldn’t afford lessons. If learning to play the piano still interests you, you have no reason not to contact a local teacher or look on YouTube for video lessons. Similarly, if you have always wanted to pursue a particular vocation but was unable to previously, it is never too late. After all, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, the American folk artist more commonly known as “Grandma Moses,” didn’t start painting until she was 78. I know a chiropractor who returned to school in his forties to pursue this field. Now in his sixties, he remains passionate about what he does. Not surprisingly, I think he was wise to pursue this passion even if he was older than many of his classmates.
Checkered House, a painting by Grandma Moses
Life is, as most of us already know, short. Consequently, it’s essential to pay attention to the bigger ticket items on your bucket list while remembering that there are many ways you can enhance your life today. What are you waiting for?