“And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.
It’s the life in your years.”
– Abraham Lincoln
“It’s the life in your years”. These words hold a poignant reminder to live life by doing all the things you love, freely, and with the joy of spontaneity. Sometimes obligations, duties, and work get in the way as we make our way in the journey of life.
As the years go on, finding ourselves perhaps on the other side of middle age, we may be dreaming more and more about the things we’d love to do, had we not had some obligations, duties and other commitments tying us down. Perhaps you’ve even said to yourself, “I really want to do X before I die.”
In this article, we are going to explore how to go about taking some initial steps to plan for some of your personal lifelong dreams to become reality, and even have some of your wishes fulfilled before it’s time to go, or before you “kick the bucket”.
Kick The Bucket
Let’s begin by first taking a brief look at the expression to “kick the bucket”. There are many theories as to the origin of this idiom, however, it is commonly accepted as an expression related to dying.
This expression can be traced back to 1785 regarding a hanging, suicide, or other means that involved a “kicking of the bucket” from under the feet of the individual usually with his/her head in a noose. It would make sense then that the term “bucket list,” holds a list of the things one wants to do before one die.
The term became even more popular with the 2007 movie The Bucket List, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, a story about two terminally ill men traveling around the world with a wish list of things to see and do before they die. One’s bucket list, however, does take planning, and it all begins with allowing yourself the pleasure of a deep introspection of all things you’ve always dreamed of doing or accomplishing.
It May Not Be Too Late
Today there are virtual reality experiences one can have and travel to places they have always wanted to go without leaving their beds.
Deep self-reflection can take us all the way back to childhood dreams and wishes. As children, we have dreams of doing or being something fantastic and wonderful when we grew up.
Traveling, adventure, acting, being in the joy of grandeur, or in glorious feelings of being adored for some accomplishments were all part of dreams that were deemed unrealistic by some adults in our life. Perhaps there were some adults who encouraged us to live out those dreams, whilst others may have said that dreams were unrealistic and a waste of time.
If our expressions of life dreams were met with a negative response, we may well have just tucked those dreams and visions away because we don’t want criticism, either for the impossibility of their reality, or our failure to make them come true. This is where the first step is rooted: getting back into those dreams and wishes of childhood and seeing where you now stand and feel with those dreams.
Thus, creating a bucket list is a way of channeling energies into accomplishing our dreams, visions, and goals that we want to experience, rather than “spending the time we have on things that don’t matter “
Visions: Bucket List Ideas
Allowing and consciously giving yourself permission to own the time and take pleasure in deep introspection gives way to beginning your list of wishes and dreams. No matter how trivial or grand, all of these thoughts, dreams, and wishes deserve consideration and must be first written down.
Then the consideration process of creating your own bucket list can ensue. Eventually leading to drafting a mission statement with your goal and an action plan, that you can achieve before you go.
You May Have Already Accomplished Things
I remember when I was 13 years old, sitting on a park bench with my girlfriend talking about being friends forever, and “one day” growing into becoming grandmothers together, and even buying a one-way ticket to Europe. It seemed so far off into the future.
When we were 19 years old, we decided to buy that one-way ticket to Europe, giving ourselves the gift of time for as long as our money would last. We each saved up $900 and we stayed in youth hostels for $1/night everything was inexpensive, and we also thought we had plenty of money.
We realized that we didn’t have any responsibility or obligations to anyone, and we somehow had a knowing that any travel we would ever choose to do again would never be the same. We told our parents that we purchased a “Euro-Rail” pass, allowing us to travel on trains for a particular period. We intended to hitch-hike and that is exactly what we did.
We didn’t know then that this was an item on a bucket list, and that we had already accomplished it so soon in life! In fact, we didn’t even know what a bucket list was. Long story short, my friend and I ended up traveling and hitchhiking for 6 months throughout Europe and Morocco, and truly had the time of our lives.
Make a Draft
Drafting your bucket list for yourself means you get to identify and then prioritize the experiences that truly sing to your heart the most. In the end, you will feel a joy in having accomplished what you always dreamed of, and that joy will bring a certain fulfillment and happiness of having lived life.
Personally, I feel blessed with an enormous amount of gratitude, joy, and absolute delight with all the experiences I’ve consciously allowed myself to have, or that have occurred naturally and serendipitously without me realizing that they made part of a bucket list.
The pendulum swing of experiences that you can allow yourself from one extreme to the other whether it’s paragliding or writing a book, knows no age barriers and no set age for any of these to occur. People over 80 can be fulfilling a dream by ziplining over the rainforest, just as people in their 30s may be doing it for the fun of it.
Making a List of Wishes
Eleanor Roosevelt served as the First Lady to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, president of the United States, from 1933 to 1945, lived a full and robust life. Being an activist and outspoken woman, she was the first presidential spouse to hold regular press conferences, write a daily newspaper column, write a monthly magazine column, host a weekly radio show, and speak at a national party convention.
By the time of her death, Roosevelt was “one of the most esteemed women in the world”, and was called, “the object of almost universal respect” in her New York Times obituary, proving that one can cram in many experiences from one’s bucket list.
Roosevelt’s insight into life was poignant and impactful, encouraging people to step up, live their lives fully, and not be afraid to do the things they want to do before they die. She has been quoted to say, “In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.
Life was meant for living and curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn his or her back on life. You must do the things you think you cannot do.” Eleanor Roosevelt was 78 years old when she died, having lived a full life.
What About Your Bucket List?
You’re on your way when you’ve written down all your dreams and wishes. Then you’ve considered each and every one of them and the degree to which they sing to your heart, or that may have already been accomplished. These are all your visions and quests.
The next part is choosing which ones to accomplish, how, when, and perhaps with whom. Focus on allowing yourself to free flow in uncovering hidden desires that you may still want to experience. There are very few things that are impossible, and seemingly difficult things due to age, infirmity, illness, or even money, can become possible with a little creativity.
I remember feeling guilty about wanting to do something, and yet nothing required a justification. Just having the privilege of being alive is enough to want to experience life’s adventures.
Being able to experience being alive is a gift we can give ourselves.
Writing a Bucket List/Mission Statement
You’ve identified what’s important to you and what truly makes your heart sing. Remember nothing is impossible, and here are a few ways you may want to consider making the impossible possible either for yourself or a loved one.
I’d like to share with you a wonderful example of an amazing bucket wish turning into a reality that occurred to my friend’s father who was dying.
My friend made a video of his life and showed it to her father over and over. Even sitting there with him in the hospital as he watched this video repeatedly, I could feel that he was at peace with his life. We thought that was it, that he was ready to go, and so we said our goodbyes.
Suddenly, though, he got “better” and expressed a wish. Her dad always wanted to fly in a 40’s biplane, so, my friend hired a pilot, found the plane, bought her dad one of those leather helmets with ear flaps, goggles, and bomber jackets, and took her dad off into the skies. He was so elated from that experience, and so grateful too. A seemingly impossible wish made possible! It was the ride of his life. He died 2 weeks later.
So, you see, it’s never too late. What’s important is to identify what experiences you really want to have, no matter how silly or childish they seem. Think how the ones that sing to you can become possible with a little creativity. Writing down a statement helps give life to your wish and brings it closer to a reality of accomplishment.
Virtual Reality Bucket List
New technologies in virtual reality help those who are dying to fulfill their wishes without leaving their room. It gives them an opportunity to connect or reconnect with the life and places they wish to see and may even help to alleviate some of the fear of dying.
In the palliative care department of a Toronto Hospital, Dr. Leah Steinberg, a palliative care physician, and David Parker, an IT consultant, have been conducting a pilot program that allows the viewer an immersive experience.
It may not be a typical medical tool, but the virtual reality experience has already shown that it can help patients cope after learning they have a terminal condition. Once they get a diagnosis of their life-threatening illness, they often lose their sense of who they are and what’s meaningful to them in their life. It’s a way of reconnecting them to who they are.
Parker wants them to feel like they are getting on a plane, riding in a taxi, or wandering the streets of wherever they want to travel. He considers it a gift that helps people achieve some of the wishes on their bucket lists.
Another pilot program exists at the Royal Trinity Hospice in London, enabling end-of-life patients to experience things they may never have had the opportunity to experience in their lives, like running with wild horses in Iceland, touring Venice’s canals aboard a gondola, skydiving, all without leaving their beds.
How Can They Help?
These programs are designed to improve the quality of life for those who suffer from serious, life-threatening, and in many cases terminal illnesses. It can be a way of bringing their memories and dreams back, maybe even going to places where they thought they’d never go again.
The virtual reality experience has even shown it decreases pain (called distraction therapy) without increasing medication and has alleviated some of their anxiety by taking them somewhere else. One cancer patient had a dream of returning to Jerusalem before she died, and they brought her there (virtually, of course).
Other possibilities would be to unite families that live thousands of miles away. Whatever the experience is, the intention of using virtual reality is to fulfill the dreams and wishes of the one who is dying, which is extremely healing, and soothing to the human experience.
These are some of the ways that technology can help with seemingly impossible to accomplish wishes on one’s bucket list. Other experiments use virtual reality to help people reduce their fear of dying and to experience what it’s like to have an out-of-body experience.
Discerning and Choosing Priorities
Which wish, or dream do you bring yourself into first perhaps starting with which one is the most feasible to do first? You can assess according to your health and financial concerns, timing, determining who needs to help you, coordinating the logistics, and maybe asking someone to accompany you. These are all things to take into consideration for actualizing your vision into a mission.
Nothing is impossible. The Make-A-Wish Foundation’s whole vision is to grant the wish of every child diagnosed with a critical illness, and it has grown into an organization that grants a wish every 34-minutes. Why? To make life better for kids with critical illnesses, to help strengthen and empower them battling critical illnesses. That’s what drives them in everything they do.
Writing a Personal Mission Statement
Once you know what you want to do, you can formulate your own personal mission statement for it to become accomplished.
When you think of your mission statement use only positive words to express it and give it life by using the present tense. Let’s say a wish on your bucket list is traveling to Venice, Italy, riding in the gondolas and staying in an old elegant Italian castle, and getting all the good things your imagination can devise.
Then your mission statement could read something like this: “I am so happy and grateful for being alive. I am deserving of fulfilling my lifelong dream, as I visit Venice, Italy. I own my dream, and my time, and embrace being creative to make this dream alive now. My plan for travel is now done, and I am now packing my bag.”
When you’ve written a similar statement, you begin to FEEL the sensation of already having or doing what you want, and it fills you with a sense of joy and excitement. What’s important is that you FEEL the feelings of excitement and joy and continue feeling these until you’re on your way.
Each one of your wishes and dreams that sings to you deserves its own mission statement. Write the statement as if it is already true and happening. It’s also important that you BELIEVE you can manifest what you want by creating the support system you need. This is part of the planning aspect. Getting in touch and coordinating the various logistics with a friend or family member is part of the plan in making your wish a reality.
Living life to the fullest is a way to make peace and die fulfilled. We want to take advantage of every breath we have and do the things that sing to our hearts and check off as many things as we can on our bucket lists. Very few things will be impossible, and it’s up to each one to determine the impossibility or the possibility of each wish.
Your bucket list can be very simple too, without any grandiose or elaborate things. If having the time and freedom from work to stay at home and be with a family with a sense of well-being, then it is a big wish on your bucket list. You don’t “have to” go to Europe to feel fulfilled. You don’t “have to” do anything on your bucket list if you are happy and at peace with your life.
This article was a way to not only offer you some guidance on how to make your bucket list come alive, but also to remind you that everything is possible. Fulfilling dreams and goals are the experiences you want in your life that translate into fulfillment and peace.
It’s your life. Enjoy the journey. And remember to bring love into everything you do.