bucket - empty or full?Everyone has been talking about bucket lists for years, but I find they just create more anxiety.  Here’s what I do instead.

It’s all over social media. Just checked one off my bucket list, as they post an amazing selfie from the Himalayas or while scuba diving with sharks. People have jumped on the bandwagon of this trend to create a list of all the things they have ever wanted to do before they “kick the bucket.”

I like lists, too. I have my to-do list, my goal list, my list of classes that I would like to take someday, etc. But the idea of a bucket list bothers me.

It’s a lot of pressure to put on yourself; to have these 10, 50, 200 things that you want to do before you die. When I was in my 20’s, that was a cool idea. I hadn’t done that much and hadn’t seen that many places. So it made sense to me back then (although the term hadn’t come into use at that time).

Having that bucket list feels anxiety-provoking. What happens if you get older, and things still aren’t checked off? A competition begins with others who are ticking off their items – will you feel that you’re behind? What if your fear about trying some of those things holds you back? What if you spend so much time planning for fulfilling X amount of bucket list items per year that you aren’t really appreciating what you have? The idea of a bucket list should be fun and exciting, not stressful and overwhelming.

The truth is, I don’t need more things to make me feel happy – or to stress me out. I think there is another way to consider what we want to explore and accomplish.

Now that I’ve passed the half-century mark, I see my life differently. Whereas before I always looked forward to the next adventure, new travel plans, expanding my mind and horizons in new ways, I feel pretty satisfied with what I have experienced. There isn’t an intense need for more. This isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy vacations, meeting new people, or trying exotic foods. It’s just that I don’t need those novel experiences to feel complete.

I’ve come to value what the present moment brings. When I’m fully present, what I have within is enough. From this point of view, everything else that comes along is a blessing, an overflow, rather than a need to fill up my empty bucket, so to speak.

I still appreciate seeing new places (especially taking my teen daughter and exposing her to varied landscapes and cultures). I still have my goals. But there is no particular list that I have to finish off before I die. Every day offers me enlightening experiences and new vistas, as I open to perceive them and receive them. I relax into them rather than grasp after them. By being open in this way, sometimes new opportunities present themselves that are more interesting than what I had in mind. I would have missed them if I stayed focused on a fixed list.

I’m not focused on what to do before I “kick the bucket.” I’m focused on who and where I am right now. When I’m able to fully tap into this moment, I experience a continuous flow of contentment and delight with just about everything that presents itself (Save bay area traffic and arguments with my daughter. But even those have some hidden blessings).

This makes life feel gratifying right now, with whatever is. No need for a bucket list. My bucket is overflowing.

How about you? What would you do instead of a bucket list to enjoy the present moment more?


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