A couple of years back a wonderful movie called The Bucket List was released starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It was the story of two friends who were getting on in age and decided to do everything that they had wanted to do all of their lives but never had gotten around to do.  The name was based on the humorous fact that they wanted to do all of those things before they “kicked the bucket”, or passed away, from old age.

Since that time the term “Bucket List” has become ubiquitous for putting together a list of things to do before you die. While it may sound a bit frivolous or silly, creating a bucket list is actually an endeavor that psychologists will tell you is very good for a person’s mental health.

The reason why is not exactly easy to explain but I’ll give it a try. As a person gets older they can sometimes have resentment, anger or regret that they never did all of the things in their life that they had dreamed about. This might include things like “going to Paris”, “kayaking down the Colorado River” or “learning how to sail”.

Not having done these things can sometimes, even if a person has been successful in their life and their career, leave them with the feeling that their life has been unfulfilling, unrewarding or “empty”.  These are negative sentiments that can adversely affect a person’s health.

That being said, making a Bucket List is a great way to allay those negative feelings as well as put those wants and dreams onto a big “to do” list.  Once there, and if financially feasible, a person can start actually doing and experiencing the things that they have been dreaming about their whole life.

For example, if you have always wanted to learn how to do ice carvings, seeing it on your Bucket List may be just the impetus you need to research “ice carving” online and find a place or a professional ice carver that’s willing to teach you.  The same thing can be said for practically any skill that you might want to learn including cooking, learning a new language, learning how to sew, learning how to write a book, etc.

Creating a Bucket List is a great way to “see” your dreams on paper and start making them a reality.  For many people just making their list is cathartic and can help to put their mind and their thoughts in a better place.  Making a Bucket List with your spouse or significant other can also be a great way to get to know each other better. Indeed, some of the things that you find out about each other might be quite surprising.

In terms of creating your Bucket List, there’s really no set rules.  Whether you want to use pen and paper or write your Bucket List items into your tablet or smart phone, what you do is simply make a list of everything that you’ve always wanted to do, see, create or experience.  Some people use a numerical system to denote how important an item on their Bucket List is.  For example, “seeing Paris” might be number 7 on their list while “learning to speak Italian” might be number 1.

No matter what you do, remember that there is no need to hold back when you create your Bucket List. Anything that you’ve ever wanted to do or experience should go on to your list, even if you may not be able to actually do it.  While it may take some time and effort to cross the “big” things off of your list, if you have a number of “small” things on there that you can check off as you do them you’ll find that your Bucket List, and making the things on that list happen, can be a thoroughly enjoyable and highly rewarding experience.

Hallie Crawford and Katie Weiser
Encore Career Coaches

P.S. Is your clock ticking towards retirement? Check out our Encore Career Coaching services to help you define your life – on your terms.