In Practice

Putting social psychology to work for you

How to Write a Bucket List

Start writing your best ever bucket list today.

"Bucket" by Angie Harms.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/aisforangie/26504627/
1. Surround yourself with people who are actively pursuing their bucket list.

Social psychologists have identified an effect called social contagion. You can catch extra willpower from your friends, so if you want to achieve your bucket list, make friends with people who are acheiving their bucket list. Find people who are actively pursuing their bucket list. They're likely to enjoy talking about ideas for bucket list items, and inspire you to take action on your list.

2. Make a list of goals you want to do this year.

Here is an excellent example of someone who made a one-year list.

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Have a "sometime" list but also have a list for this year. You can play with the time frame further, e.g., which bucket list items do you want to do this month?


3. Mix big and small goals, and include harder/easier variations.

Your list should include things you can do

a) for less than $100, and

b) without leaving your home town.

Some bucket list items will naturally be small ones e.g., attempt to make vegan cheesecake yourself. 

You can also include harder/easier variations on important themes. For example, related to song writing, you might include: 

write a song, play your song to an audience, play your own song to a paying audience, play your own song live in NYC, record a song, hear your own song on radio.

Include the steps involved in achieving larger goals as goals in and of themselves e.g., if one goal is "write a book," then other goals would be "write a book proposal" and "learn how to write a book proposal."

Other examples of harder/easier variations:

- Have a one-on-one dinner with the president / meet the president.

- Live in a overseas country / sublet an apartment for a month in a overseas country.

- Get your own cooking show / upload a cooking show video to youtube and get 1,000 views.

- Own a Ferrari / rent a Ferrari.

Including harder/easier variations will help you become aware of opportunities to achieve or partially achieve items on your bucket list that otherwise would pass you by.

4. Put some time aside each week to work on your bucket list e.g., two hours each Sunday afternoon.

Spend this time taking steps towards your bucket list, either doing or planning

e.g., price out what spending a month in Rome would cost, find other people who have done this and ask them for tips.

or, find a recipe for a vegan cheesecake and make a shopping list.


5. Let your bucket list reflect your own personality, quirks, and interests.

Get beyond the perennial favorites like going to Paris, learning a language, and writing a book. Don't censor yourself because you're worried how others would judge you, or because things seem unachievable.  It doesn't matter if you don't achieve some items - a bucket list isn't an exercise in perfectionism. If you want it, write it down. You can prune your list later if you lose interest in an item or realize the work isn't worth the payoff (this isn't failing, it's just changing your mind).

If you liked this

If you liked this, try Eight Bucket List Questions to Ask Yourself http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/in-practice/201207/eight-bucket-list-questions-ask-yourself

If you want to find out about my bucket list, you can find me on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/DrAliceBoyes and Twitter @DrAliceBoyes. 

Photo credit: "Bucket" by Angie Harms.

Alice Boyes, Ph.D. translates principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and social psychology into tips people can use in their everyday lives.

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