June 11, 2009

30 Days to a Better Man

30 Days to a Better Man Day 12: Create Your Bucket List

Back in May, Art of Manliness’ resident adventurer Chris Hutcheson wrote a great piece on writing your bucket list. After the article published, my wife asked me, “What’s on your bucket list, Brett?” To be honest, I had never given much thought to what would be on my bucket list. Consequently, I could only think of two things. At that moment I realized: 1) I’m pretty pathetic if I could only think of two things I wanted to do before I die and 2) creating a bucket list actually takes a lot more thought than I thought it would. And so here it is more than a month later, and I still haven’t completed the task.

I’m sure I’m not the only man out there who hasn’t given much thought to all the exciting and fulfilling things he wants to do before he kicks the bucket. And I’m sure I’m not the only one who found Chris’ post really interesting, and then proceeded to do nothing about it. So today’s task is to turn our good intentions into something concrete by creating a bucket list and taking the first steps towards actually completing one of the items on the list.

Why Have a Bucket List?

As Chris pointed out in his post, when we were kids, we all had dreams of cool and exciting stuff we wanted to do when we grew up. I remember dreaming about going to Japan and learning karate. But something happens when we become adults. We become more cynical and start thinking big adventures aren’t prudent or reasonable. We think we’re too busy to do anything extraordinary. And we’re surrounded by ordinary people who aren’t doing anything special either. So we settle and stick with doing what’s safe.

Of course, no matter how deeply we bury our dreams, regret over their demise will still come bubbling to the surface. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to look back on my life wishing I would have done x, y, and z when I had the chance. I am convinced that all men are made for adventure. And when there’s no adventure in our lives, a little part of us dies.

If you feel like you’ve been in a rut or that you’ve become too boring, creating a bucket list is the first step to adding a little more excitement back into your life. A bucket list can act as a road map to a life of adventure and fulfillment.

Creating the Bucket List

Creating a bucket list is pretty easy. It’s just a matter of taking the time to actually do it.  But if you’re like me, it’s just one of those things that you never get around to and you keep living your life one dull day at a time. Today we’re going to change that.

Today’s task is to create your bucket list. Set aside about 30 minutes of your day and think about all the things you’ve always wanted to do. Then write them down. Writing creates a contract with yourself and makes you more likely to follow through with your dreams. The goal is to come up with at least 10 items for your bucket list. If you’re like me, this could take a lot longer than you think.

Don’t put down things just because you feel like you’re supposed to want to do them. If you’re not really excited about the idea of skydiving, then don’t put it down. People might tell you that everyone should backpack across Europe, but if you’re honestly not a person who enjoys travel, then don’t add it to your list. Really think about stuff that you yourself have dreamed of doing. The stuff that makes you happy just thinking about it. Think about where you want to be in 10, 20, and 50 years. Think about sitting in a nursing home at age 90 and looking back over your life. What is that old man wishing he had done?

If you’re having trouble coming up with items for your list, it might help to create categories such as these:

  • Travel
  • Relationships
  • Career
  • Financial
  • Entertainment
  • Education
  • Health

After you come up with the categories,  think of something for each that you would like to accomplish. For example:

  • Travel: Visit Greece
  • Relationships: Propose marriage to my girlfriend on top of a mountain
  • Career: Find a job where I can work at home
  • Financial: Become a millionaire by age 35
  • Entertainment: See Jimmy Eat World in concert
  • Education: Take a course in basic carpentry skills
  • Health: Lose 20 pounds

Pick One Item on Your Bucket List and Do Something to Set It in Motion

Now that you’ve created your bucket list, look it over and pick one goal as the one you next plan to accomplish. Pick the one that you can most reasonably complete this year. Then, come up with a plan on how you’re going to to accomplish this goal. Think through and make a list of everything you would need to do to make it happen. Then pick one task from the list and do it in the next 24 hours. For example, if your goal was to visit Greece this summer, you would make a plan like this:

  • Request time off from work
  • Buy travel book about Greece
  • Get passport
  • Figure out a way to make more money to pay for the trip
  • Start researching prices of airline tickets

You then might choose “buy travel book about Greece” as your first task, and head down to the bookstore to pick one up. The important thing is to do at least one single task that will move you closer to your goal.

Remember, a little bit of adventure is in the reach of every man. It doesn’t have to mean spending all your money or giving up your responsibilities. You can live like a happily ordinary guy 362 days a year, but just leave 3 days for doing something extraordinary, something that reminds you that you’re alive.

After you come up with your list, be sure to share it with us in the Community page.


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