Do You Really Need a Bucket List?

Do You Really Need a Bucket List?

By Jamie Matthewman
July 15th, 2014

What is a bucket list? That’s the question I pondered before I wrote this article. I’d seen the film bucket list and obviously had some ideas, but in all honesty I’d never thought of creating one before.

You don’t need a bucket list, but they are potentially a great idea to create your own which I share with you here, plus outline some potential pitfalls.

In a forthcoming post I’ll share with you 25 questions, I used to create my bucket list. These will help you to get started or refine your own.

Do You Have a Bucket List

Do you even know what a bucket list is? If you’re aged between 35 – 45, you’ve got around 500 – 600 months left to live…if you’re lucky. So intellectually, even though you might not give it much thought, you know that at some point in the future, you will die.

It’s one of the only certainties in life.

But most of us, unless an illness wakes us up to the imminence of death, rarely do we get it emotionally. Yet in some ways this acts as a blessing for some people, because this acts like an invitation to really start living; to go outside of their comfort zone and give joy and pleasure priority.

So because death is imminent, at least in the form you inhabit today, it makes sense to me to cram in to this short experience of being human, as much as you can before you die, which is why I’ve recently been creating my own bucket list. Although I prefer to call it a plan of possibility.

The Pioneer of Bucket Lists

So what’s a bucket list? Here’s Google’s definition:

what is a bucket list

The pioneer of bucket list, although I’m sure that wasn’t his intention was John Goddard – a man fondly known as the real life Indiana Jones. In 1940 at the age of 15, he made a list of everything he wanted to achieve – a total of 127 goals including a visit every country in the world; explore the Great Barrier Reef; watch a cremation ceremony in Bali; milk a poisonous snake; and visit the Moon.

Some goals were bundled together, number 113 for example, was to “become proficient in the use of a plane, motorcycle, tractor, surfboard, rifle, pistol, canoe, microscope, football, basketball, bow and arrow, lariat and boomerang.”

He achieved 109 of those original goals, plus in the years since he’s set himself hundreds more. He died in 2013 at the age of 89.

My First Bucket List

My first attempt at a bucket list was about 7 years ago. I didn’t call it that, I don’t much like the name, but it was a list of about 40 goals I wanted to achieve before I died.

I wrote out each one on an individual, white 3×5” cards, all filed neatly in a black Rolodex. It never amounted to anything more than a list of ideas. I don’t think I looked at them more than a couple of times – the process clearly didn’t capture my imagination or inspire me at the time.

Perhaps back then the goals seemed out of reach, so I gave up before I started. Maybe they weren’t really important or I just wasn’t ready; still too engulfed by my own perceived imperfections to believe they were possible.

I don’t know for sure, but whatever the reason, I decided I didn’t need one until recently, after coming across Steve Lamb’s Epic Quest, (I like what Steve’s doing over at Nerd Fitness, you should check him out.), which inspired me to explore the idea of a bucket list again.

A Bucket Lists Help You Avoid a Bucket Full of Regrets

The Inspired Man is about conscious living, which in part means reaching the end of your life without a bucket full of regrets. Regrets about not becoming the man you’re truly capable of and making your life the adventure you deserve.
bucket of regrets

One way of the ways to help you get to the end of your life without thinking you’ve blown it, is by getting clear about what you REALLY want to be, do, have and create during your lifetime. Clarity is crucial for conscious living.

A bucket list, especially if you use the 25 questions in the next post, helps you make explicit about what matters most. This means you’re living on purpose, instead of being dragged in all directions by your emotions and other peoples agendas. In this sense a bucket list can be a helpful tool in keeping you focused on what really matters.

Life is About the Experience

Human life by its very nature is always experiential, every moment offering a totally unique experience to everyone of the 7 billion people on this planet, created from the inside out. You ultimately determine the quality of your experience, by the level of consciousness you bring to life’s passing moments.

For example, there’s little point travelling 5,000 miles to your dream tropical destination, if you’re unable to relax and enjoy the beauty, because you’re so busy worrying about some made up problem. You miss the potential for a truly amazing experience.

Whereas someone who’s operating from a higher level of consciousness, who has greater self awareness is freer to fully embrace the richness of life, without getting lost in the contents of their minds.

A Bucket List is a Blueprint of Possibility

The whole point of creating a bucket list is to live life more purposefully. The inquiry prompts you to figure out what matters most instead of pandering to pointless activities and distractions.

No matter how unrealistic or impossible it may look, by consciously choosing to make your life about what truly matters, irrespective of whether you believe you can, or in fact achieve everything.

Going through the process is a great exercise to get you thinking bigger, the result being an inspiring bucket list which offers the potential for new adventures and the advancement of your personal evolution. However there are a few potential pitfalls…

Don’t Let Your Bucket List Become Toxic

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, one of the first things you discover when you set out into the world of personal development, is the importance of setting goals; proclaimed by many as perhaps the key determinant for success.

As a result over the years I’ve trained myself really well to set goals. Years ago I remember hearing Brian Tracy state that only 3% of American’s sets goals, so I made it MY goal to start setting goals! Most of which I never achieved primarily because most of them didn’t really matter.

Slow Down and Start Appreciating Now

I learnt the hard way that before you try and fill your life with more, it’s important to fully appreciate who you are and what you already have. To see how the nature of life really works from the inside out, so that you appreciate that adding more to your life, isn’t necessarily the answer.

Making your life all about the pursuit of goals, without first choosing freedom, has a tendency to feel like you always need to get to the next base to feel worthy.

It is a little like being the donkey, pulled through life by the thought of finally getting the carrot. Always moving, but never quite reaching the it, then finally at some point running out of gas.

You have to slow down before going faster, there’s nothing more counterproductive than going full speed ahead in the wrong direction (tweet this).

Travelling at an incessant pace through life, hides your innate capacity for clarity and authenticity, which is difficult to see when you’re travelling at a million miles an hour. Creating a bucket list that’s powerfully inspiring based on clarity, is essential.

Toxic Bucket Lists Put Your Happiness on Hold

Are you having fun yet? Are you enjoying your life now as much as you plan to one day? ~ Robert Holden (tweet this)


If you believe your happiness is conditional on the successful completion of your bucket list, then it’s toxic.

You are choosing to delay your happiness, because you don’t yet understand life is lived from the inside out. Albeit innocently, you abdicate the opportunity for joy and contentment now, which is as pointless as waiting for retirement before deciding to start fully enjoying life.

A bucket list needs to be life affirming, something you approach knowing that your happiness isn’t dependent on it’s attainment. If it is you’ll probably strive so hard to make it happen and close yourself off to the many other opportunities that will come your way.

A bucket list is merely a plan of possibility. It is an opportunity to inquire within. A flexible working document, to be modified as new insights and ideas arise as your life evolves. By all means work hard to make the various components happen, but enjoy the process of creation.

Let the pieces fall into place effortlessly, without clinging to it, so that your happiness and self worth don’t become dependent on it.


A bucket list is merely a tool to help you appreciate what you want to do with your life and making explicit ideas, that might otherwise remain hidden. Going through the process is a good idea because getting the most out of this gift of life, requires a high level of conscious living – a deep sense of knowing what’s important, and a balance between looking towards the future and living in the present.

By all means take a bucket list seriously, go after what you want, but enjoy it. Don’t let the achievement of it define your life or yourself worth. If you’re reading this it’s likely you don’t really need anymore than you already have.

It just so happens you are lucky enough to be living at a time when if you can think it, you can pretty much be it, do it or have it – that’s awesome so why not make the most of the opportunity, to get stuck into life.

However all experience is impermanent. Don’t lose sight of the real goal, which is to see that who you truly are. Timeless, unchangeable and already free.

What about you? Have you got a bucket list or are you thinking about creating one? Are you an experience seeker? Love to hear your thoughts…

Jamie Matthewman

About Jamie Matthewman

Jamie is the founder, main contributor and editor of The Inspired Man.

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