The pandemic has forced us to face our mortality, for better or worse. Figuring out what we want to do before we die — our bucket list — has taken on an intensified urgency. Some of us have acted on goals just because we can, like writing a book or learning to play the piano. Others are itching to break free of lockdowns and restrictions in order to pursue big dreams, such as going on a safari or jumping out of an airplane.
Given this shifting landscape, revisiting our bucket list can be complicated, not only because of the pandemic but also because our priorities and/or our bank accounts have shifted.
As I turn 64, I still dream of hiking in the Swiss Alps, a place my mother lived when she was a young girl. I picture long summer days hiking from hut to hut, spending the evening cozying up to a spread of local wine and cheese and engaging in animated conversations with fellow travelers. I can’t imagine missing this opportunity. At the same time, I feel conflicted. How can I spend the time and money when there’s so much need around me? Will I be risking my health or that of others? Shouldn’t I be saving my money? Is there part of me that is afraid to go or worried that the adventure won’t live up to my expectations? These questions are the very reason I recommend pulling out that bucket list and giving it a good once-over. Even better, use the process below to bring at least one goal to life this year. Because taking a close look at what matters to us and doing big or even small things that feed our soul are enriching activities.
This assessment can be vital to our mental health and help us to see how we hold ourselves back from living our fullest life.
Step 1: Choose one thing
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by a bucket list. Maybe we have too many things or a few that loom large. Whatever the case, it’s easy to talk ourselves out of taking action. This is why I recommend committing to one item on the list this year, even if it means taking just a few steps toward the goal. If torn about what to choose, ask yourself the following questions: Am I really committed to this goal? Why or why not? How would I feel if it didn’t happen? How would I feel if it did? What’s standing in my way?
Step 2: Connect to emotions
As you review your list, pay attention to the emotions that might arise. Fear, excitement, worry, guilt, shame and even sadness might come up. When I think about hiking in the Swiss Alps, I feel sad because I didn’t go there with Mom, who passed away two years ago. I wish I had traveled there with her. But, like me (a mother of five and busy with life), you may think, Oh, I’ll do that one day. I also feel joy as I think about how I would reconnect to her through her past and the legacy that I share and pass along to my children. In considering how important this trip is to me, I’m noticing that these emotions help me realize how committed I am and why.
Step 3: Capture thoughts and beliefs
In choosing that one goal on your bucket list, notice and write down thoughts and beliefs that come up.
- There’s no one who could take care of the pets.
- I don’t have enough money or time to take a trip like that.
- It’s too late in my life to learn to sing.
Are these based on fact or fiction? Is the thought or belief driven by a deeper sentiment, such as, “I don’t deserve this.” This is a time to stay curious and let your creative brain reframe your ability to make the trip financially feasible. For example, you could trade houses with a family in your place of destination.
Step 4: Create a plan and share it
Creating a plan with timelines can be both exciting and scary. If so, go back to steps 2 and 3 to process your emotions and thoughts. Next, share the plan with a network of friends or family who can serve as accountability partners and champion this big thing you’re doing for yourself. Bonus: They may end up joining you!
Step 5: Collect the resources needed
Once you have a plan, you can identify and collect the resources needed to achieve your goal. The following are some recommendations tied to money.
- Create and set up automatic savings. Determine a budget goal and then how much you can put away regularly (weekly, monthly, bimonthly) to meet it. A best practice is to set up an automatic deposit into a separate account so you aren’t tempted to spend the cash and can enjoy watching it grow.
- Learn about travel resources like frequent-flier programs and points. There are countless resources online that can offer great deals and tips on how to maximize your money. One is The Points Guy, a website that’s full of advice on how to use points for travel, along with other deals. (Caution: If you are prone to racking up credit card debt, it is best to avoid this route.) If you’re flexible with your travel dates, there are a variety of search engines, such as Skiplagged and Fareness, that offer deals on flights; another option is Wander Wallet, an app that allows you to enter your flight and hotel budget to see where you can afford to go.
- Ask for support. You may be surprised by how willing and excited your network of friends, family or colleagues are to offer financial or other support to help bring your dream to life. There is no shame in asking. If you do feel hesitant, take time to explore why, as most often, people who love you do want to show their love.
Step 6: Celebrate accomplishments
Wherever you are in your bucket list journey, celebrate the achievements along the way.
- Chose one thing to focus on? Yes!
- Connected to and embraced my emotions? Yes!
- Captured my thoughts and beliefs so that I am aware of what’s holding me back? Yes!
- Created a plan and shared it? Yes!
- Collected the resources I need? Yes!
- Celebrated my accomplishments? Yes!
However we choose to bring our bucket list to life, it’s worth remembering our power to choose. If you really want to hike in the Swiss Alps, then what better time to commit than today? That said, anyone care to join me?