What is a bucket list?

At a funeral recently, I was talking to my cousin when I mentioned that it was time to get some items off his bucket list. He replied with “Yeah, if you have one,” which prompted me to write this blog.

You always hear the term “bucket list”. So where did the term “bucket list” come from?  We all know the expression that “so-and-so kicked the bucket”. I figured it was related to that saying. The term “bucket list” actually came from a 2007 movie, but I thought it was used before then.

Each person’s bucket list is different. It doesn’t have to be exotic or expensive. The bucket list is something you will regret not doing if you die tomorrow. Most bucket lists are to travel somewhere, watch your favourite sports team in their stadium, see an event, or mend a relationship. Learning a new activity such as ballroom dancing or volunteering in your community are also common themes for a bucket list.

Why make a bucket list?

I tried to remember when I started my bucket list. I certainly didn’t have one in my twenties, since at that age I didn’t think about death. When my friends developed medical issues that restricted them from doing some activities, I started to prioritize my bucket list by putting the harder activities at the top of the list.

Most people think a bucket list is what you do when you retire, but there are some really good reasons why you shouldn’t wait that long:

  • A couple of years after retirement, my mother died. My mother-in-law died the year after she retired. Neither of them got to enjoy the golden years that they planned for; and 
  • A co-worker who worked for more than twenty years for our company suddenly stopped showing up at work. She was one of those reliable people that showed up everyday. I discovered unofficially that she was undergoing chemo treatment for cancer. She died a few months later. She never even made it to her retirement, and didn’t get to tackle the items on her bucket list. 

That hit home. I realized there was more to life than working. Working should not be your end goal: it should be a means to an end. The company kept going after my friend died: she was just a cog in the machine and was replaced. As much as we like to think that we are irreplaceable, companies easily replace workers all the time.

What happens if you always wait for the perfect time to do your bucket list? Well, I have a friend that has been thinking for 3 years about going to Bahamas. He still hasn’t got his passport yet. It’s never the “right” time to do it. They are always too busy. You can always make a reason for not doing an item on your bucket list. If you wait for the perfect time, it will never get done.

I think people should start to do their bucket list as soon as possible. Why? You never know if tomorrow will be your last day alive. Who knows, you may get hit by a bus and die, or be alive, but bed-ridden. Then you will have wished you did a few things while you were capable.

So think of what you would like to do, and as Nike says, “Just do it”!