Bucket lists should revolve around who you want to be

Justin Marinelli

Senior Writer

Recently, I found the time to make a bucket list. I’ve always heard this is a good way to buckle down and really think about what you want to do in life, but the experience prompted nothing of the sort. I realized that making a bucket list is really a red herring when it comes to figuring out your life.

My first realization was that it was really hard to think of things I wanted to do that I wasn’t already planning on doing. Travel the world? Part of my life framework. Master several different languages? In the process. Read all of Hemingway’s works? Making steady progress. It seemed that I was already working on all the things I wanted to get done.

So I began to think of things I didn’t want to do. Get my leg cut off in a horrible accident? Well, if I got a cool bionic leg, I might not mind. Get kidnapped and tortured by terrorists? I could pick up some cool scars and a great story. Wake up in a strange house in Milton after blacking out? Yeah, I’d like to avoid that. The problem with this approach is that I don’t have too much control over whether most of these things would happen, so they’re not really worth thinking about.

Somehow, I put together a decent list. The key theme ended up being not certain experiences, but rather molding myself a specific way. I realized I don’t necessarily desire certain experiences, but rather, desire being the kind of person who would have those experiences. It’s one thing to participate in the Running of the Bulls, but quite another to be a daredevil who does that sort of thing for fun.

I made no real progress in fleshing out what I want to do with my life. Instead, I took away from it the lesson that you need to focus on shaping yourself into the kind of person you want to be, instead of just planning isolated events to get around to someday. Why make a bucket list when you could actually be doing things?

That said, I highly recommend trying it. You may not get anything meaningful down, but if nothing else, you’ll learn a lot about yourself. If you do a really good job, and you have a bit of luck on your side, you might just end up being able to answer two of life’s biggest questions: “Who are you?” and “Who do you want to be?”

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