Okay, so here’s the thing.
I, too, love to browse Pinterest and National Geographic and travel blogs and anywhere else that offers an endless scrolling world of travel pictures and stories. I, too, drool all over all the incredible photos, videos and stories that are out there showing all of the amazing, awe-inspiring places and activities that our beautiful earth has to offer.
I am not immune to any of this. In fact, I think I’m the complete opposite! If I had a bucket list, is would be endless because I want to go everywhere and see everything and half the time I cant even contain myself for long enough to pick one, or twenty, because there are just so many things I would love to do.
For arguments sake, I could write down a bunch of places I want to go in a pretty little notebook with nice calligraphy on the cover. I could add Scuba Diving in the Great Barrier Reef and Floating in the Dead Sea. I could add visiting Marrakesh, climbing Machu Pichu and 100 other things. I’m using travel as an example, but I could add anything I’d like to do on there. Maybe I’d add starting my own business or having a family, or maybe it’s smaller like singing karaoke for the first time.
And after writing all of these things down, I could leave it on my desk and pull it out the next time I have something to add.
And then what?
Time goes by, I open it up, and I haven’t accomplished any of those things. So what gives? I did what I was supposed to do right? I made a list of my goals.
Or did I?
The Difference Between Wishes and Goals
Bucket lists are a great tool for self-introspection. They are a great way to dig deep and really think about who you are, where you want to go and the path you are on in life. This is a wonderful thing.
The problem here comes after you make the list. If all you do is close your book, or stick it on the fridge next to this week’s groceries, how can you ever expect anything to happen? Nothing will change. You will still go to work every day, go out with friends, and continue to follow the course you’re on. There’s no space for change.
And so nothing happens.
What you’ve ended up with is a giant, unfocused list of wishes. And you wait. And you wait some more. And the magical wish-granting fairy godmother never shows up (that jerk!).
I often hear people refer to their bucket list items as goals. For the majority of people, this is simply untrue. For something to be a goal, you need to be taking tangible steps to actively work towards it. A goal something that you are trying to do or achieve.
If all you have done is write a wish list, you have not set goals.
How to set Goals
1. Narrow your focus.
Take your list and circle the most important ones. Pick a few you can actually focus on. This number is going to change depending on a couple of factors: The complexity and effort required for each, and how many things you can personally work on without losing focus. Having a long sprawling list of all the little things you want to do is not going to be helpful because you will be pulling yourself in 100 directions all at once. You’ll just end up stuck in one place. Narrow that sucker down. Try starting with one large goal and smaller one. I’m going to use 2 of my previous examples: Vising Marrakesh and singing karaoke for the first time (Not together, although who knows! That would be an interesting adventure). One you’ve picked, toss the rest aside for now.
But what if I forget about x,y z? Chances are if you forget about it, it’s probably not that important.
2. Figure out what your barriers are.
For each of your goals, think about what your barriers are for achieving them. These could be internal (like fear or not having the confidence) or external (like not having the money or lacking the education). Think about ways you might overcome them. For Marrakesh my barriers might be: Needing a new passport, not having enough money, being out of vacation days at work. For Karaoke they might be: fear of sounding bad, fear of performing in front of others.
3. Come up with achievable steps.
Plan out the steps you will take to achieve each goal. Incorporate realistic ways you can break down the barriers you thought of in step 2. The key here is to make them reasonable! Write them down and make sure to use first person, as in “I will…”
Some steps for Marrakesh could be:
- I will research the cost of flights and accommodations, and determine how much money I’m going to need.
- Instead of buying Starbucks coffee everyday, I will drink coffee at home and save the $2.00 a day for my trip.
- I will apply for a passport.
Some steps for Karaoke could be:
- I will go to karaoke with friends and just listen.
- I will pick a song and try out singing it with a group of friends first.
- When I’ve done it a few times and am more confident I will try it out on my own when it’s not as busy.
4. Set yourself a reasonable time-frame.
This is key. Decide how long you will need for each step and stick to it! Make sure your time frame is reasonable, or you will be setting yourself up for failure. If I only gave myself a week to book my trip to Marrakesh that probably would not be reasonable. I would not have the time to save enough money or get a passport, and my boss would probably be angry that I didn’t give any notice.
5. Enjoy the Journey.
Remember that life is not a race, and it’s not about how many items you can cross off your list. While having a goal is really helpful, make sure you don’t let them overshadow the present. Many of the best experiences I’ve ever had have taken me by surprise on an ordinary day. Sometimes it’s the small, unexpected things that make life wonderful. Make sure to enjoy the journey; it’s all part of a great story.
Make your bucket list work for you by taking your wishes and turning them into achievable goals. You won’t be needing that fairy godmother after all.
I want to hear from you! What steps are you taking to make you dreams come true?