A recent survey from one of Australia’s largest online business, found that people who have a bucket list are happier than those that do not. But it is not just having the list that makes people happier; it’s what you do with it that counts.
Dr Timothy Sharp is a highly regarded clinical and coaching psychologist and the author of Live Happier, Live Longer. He says that bucket lists make people happy because they enable people to do more of the things that they love.
#1 Identify the things you love
Dr Sharp also notes that there are other benefits to having a bucket list. “Other advantages would include achievement and accomplishment, connecting with others, trying and enjoying new experiences,” he says.
But according to Dr Sharp the biggest reason bucket lists make us happy is the process of identifying and achieving goals.
“A bucket list is similar to setting goals and we know from the research that the act of setting and committing to goals increases our chances of achieving them and, therefore, of enjoying happiness,” he explains.
#2 A change in mindset
Psychologist Kelly Fischl is a certified practitioner and mentor with the Australian Human Resources Institute. She says that in addition to helping people identify their big picture goals, having a bucket list can also facilitate a change in mindset.
“Mindset change is something that many people struggle with. Bucket lists help people to think about the things they are intrinsically motivated to achieve rather than the things they ‘should’ be doing,” she explains.
36-year-old Catherine Harvey started her bucket list while she was pregnant with her now three-year-old son. “It started as a list of things that I wanted to do before we had the baby,” she explains, “but it kept growing and growing.”
Although the list began with the “fun stuff,” Catherine started to use the process to think about the big picture.
#3 thinking about the “big picture”
“I started thinking about all the things that I wanted to achieve and put everything down on the list. It included some fun stuff like going to a music festival, but it also included bigger ambitions like writing a book.”
When her son arrived Catherine used her maternity leave to explore the idea of writing and enrolled on an online creative writing course that she believed would help her fulfil her wish to become a published writer.
“I know that I wont be ticking off ‘write a book’ anytime soon,” she says, “but I am feeling really positive about the fact that I am working towards it.”
So how should you go about compiling a meaningful bucket list? Luke Sheedy is a counsellor, motivator and author of the book Discover Your Path, Your Life is Worth Living. He suggests you start by having a think about the big picture.
“What do you want the theme of your list to be?” he asks. “Is it new experiences? Or, is this your way of uncovering hidden talents, strengths and abilities, or to push yourself to your full potential? Is it to try something you’ve always wanted to? Or maybe it’s a mixture.”
#4 Break down goals into smaller tasks
Luke also suggests that you break your list into categories such as travel, cuisine, leaving a legacy, personal achievement or sport. “If you get a knot in your stomach when you look at your list then you know that you onto something,” he says.
Of course nothing will happen until you plan it. Life coach Lee Alexander has a wealth of expertise within the health field. She says that your bucket list items should be ‘SMART’. I.e. they should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.
“For example, the goal ‘I’m going on an around world trip’ is less potent than ‘I will spend a week in New York before I turn 35’” Lee explains.
Lee provides the following tips.
How to create your own personal bucket list:
Think about your regrets. Could your regret become a goal, like participate in play, learn a musical instrument, travel or study?
Reflect on your core values and think about goals that are a reflection of those values. This will automatically make the activity meaningful because they are things that are important to you.
Add things to your bucket list that excite you and stretch you. If a goal is challenging it will be rewarding to achieve it.
At the same time add some things that will be quick, easy and less expensive to do so that you can get on a roll and tick some things off.
Connect your bucket list to a milestone birthday or date, for example your 40th birthday or a significant anniversary. It’s important to have a deadline to motivate you into action.
Share your list with motivated friends and family and see if you have any partners to join you in some of the activities. Motivation tends to breed motivation so connect with others who are thinking similarly.
We should all have a bucket list, they help us focus on what is important and help us fulfil our ambitions. If you don’t have a bucket list yet, then perhaps now would be a good time to make one. After all, as Thomas Edison said, “If we did the things we are capable of, we would astound ourselves.”