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Bucket Lists vs New Year's Resolutions

Updated on November 12, 2013

What is the difference between Bucket lists and New Year's resolutions?

You probably have heard both terms used before. A bucket list is a wish list of things you want to do before you die. A New Year's resolution is an action you plan on taking starting on the first day of the year. Both are usually personal goals or accomplishments we are setting for ourselves. Both can be written down in pen and ink. Both can be publicly shared.

The difference, in my opinion, is that a bucket list is generally more positive (except for the "before I die" part) and achievable. The New Year's resolution carries a more negative connotation of things you want to give up or stop doing, but doesn't always come with a plan to help you achieve that goal.

For example, on your bucket list you might add things like:

  • run a marathon
  • learn how to crochet
  • write a book
  • go on a mission trip

New Year's resolutions might be things like:

  • lose 30 lbs
  • quit smoking
  • stop drinking diet soda
  • no eating fried foods

Drawbacks for bucket lists and resolutions

If you add "learn a foreign language" to your personal bucket list, chances are you don't plan on learning that language via osmosis. The only way to check that off your bucket list is to enroll in a foreign language course or perhaps move to a foreign country and try the "immersion" method. You have to plan for and give yourself a way to accomplish your goal. You can't cross this off your list till it is done! Of course, you have a lifetime to achieve this goal, so if you are a procrastinator (or immortal) might not get around to it till it's too late!

On the other hand, your New Year's resolution which is to "quit eating junk food" doesn't really give you a clear-cut path of how you are going to do this. You set aside your bag of Cheetos at Midnight on the 1st of January. You might avoid the candy and cookies for a whole week. But then your co-worker brings in doughnut holes--with powdered sugar--and suddenly you realize that you just swallowed your resolution! You just failed your goal. Ah well, guess you have to wait till next year to try again.

Get the best of both worlds!

What if you take the best features of both and combine them? Make a Bucket List for the New Year! You don't have to start on January 1st, but you want to be able to cross it off your bucket list by December 31st.

  • You can make a positive list of goals you want to achieve in a given time frame
  • You have 12 months to achieve your goals and you can start at any time.
  • No excuses that you have to wait until next New Year's Day to try again!
  • If you tend to procrastinate, at least you have a little more stringent guideline than "before I die"
  • You can add some structure to your bucket list, breaking it down into parts and making it seem achievable

If your bucket list included "learn to ballroom dance" and your New Year's resolution was to lose 15 lbs and get in better shape---combine them. Give yourself 1 year to learn how to ballroom dance and shape up. Once you enroll in a class and start shaking your stuff on the dance floor, you can bet that you will be in much better shape than you were before you started. You'll build endurance and muscle tone and chances are the weight will come off too. You'll have a new hobby, meet friends with similar interests, and fit back into that favorite pair of jeans that you haven't been able to wear for a couple years. It's a win/win!

Other types of Bucket Lists

You can also make your bucket lists for different time frames or categories, for example:

  • Before I turn 50 Bucket List
  • My 5-year Bucket List
  • Bucket List of Vacation Destinations
  • My Writing Bucket List

The possibilities are really endless, the secret is to make these positive goals and experiences. Celebrate when you accomplish any of them and cross them off your list with a flourish!


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    • bodylevive profile image


      2 years ago from Alabama, USA

      Years ago I made New Years resolutions and never kept any I made so I just stopped altogether. Now I have a bucket list, lol. Best wishes

    • mpropp profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa Propp 

      3 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks! Happy New Year!

    • RandaHandler profile image

      Randa Awn Handler 

      3 years ago from USA

      Cute! Best for 2016!

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      5 years ago from San Diego California

      My bucket list is phone book size. You are right, New Years Resolutions mostly consist of bummers that nobody is really motivated to undertake, while bucket lists can be a lot of fun. Interesting approach and something I never really thought about until now.

    • mpropp profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa Propp 

      5 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks Aviannovice, now if I could just learn how to stop procrastinating and get to work on my lists! :)

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      5 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      Great suggestions, and a smart way to accomplish them.

    • mpropp profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa Propp 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks epbooks. I'm a born procrastinator, so I thought lists might help me to make my goals...its harder to ignore once its in writing! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

    • epbooks profile image

      Elizabeth Parker 

      6 years ago from Las Vegas, NV

      Very cool hub! I'm a fan of making lists of things to do and goals to achieve. It's very rewarding to mark them off as you go!

    • mpropp profile imageAUTHOR

      Melissa Propp 

      6 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks Bill, I'll admit that I actually wrote this months ago, but I wanted to wait till it was a little closer to the new year. I am reading hubs, even if I'm not posting or commenting as often...but I appreciate the warm welcome and I should have guessed you would be the first comment! Thank you my friend! P.S. I'm really enjoying your blog, I can always find time to read that!

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      6 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Imagine my surprise when I saw this hub pop up. Great to see you writing again. As for resolutions, I don't do them. Honestly, Melissa, I am so goal-oriented and driven that it would be a waste of time making these lists....what I have to do and what I want to do are forever etched in my brain. My only problem is lack of time. :) Good suggestions and again, it's nice to see you back among us.


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