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Why Bucket Lists are Bad!

A fun thing that kids and even young adults do is create a bucket list as a form of entertainment or organization. For those unfamiliar with this concept, a bucket list is a list that you write all the things you want to do before a certain point in your life, most commonly before you die. Although this is a great way to pass time when you are simply doing it for fun and may prioritize different things you may want to do for fun in future trips, bucket lists should not be taken too seriously. 

What even goes on a bucket list to begin with? Bucket lists are not the same as short-term to-do lists or reminders on your calendar. They promote a particular habit of postponing satisfaction, gratitude, defining happiness, and ultimately may deter many people from living in the moment. These lists often contain activities that provide a sense of satisfaction, and in Jeff Steen’s definition, this would equate to, “satisfaction= what you have/what you want” (Steen 2022). The more you want, the more unsatisfied you will be with your life which only worsens when you decide to put off the activity under a condition like when your life is more stable. Although you cannot change what you have, you can change what or how much you want, simply by considering what you actually need. It promotes a constant desire to seek completion of the next task on the list as opposed to focusing on the present or the possible opportunities around you.

Bucket lists generally have people waiting on happiness. When someone says “I can’t wait to go bungee jumping in a few months,” it isn’t inherently bad. Bucket lists can be helpful to organize having goals or serving as a reminder for things you want to do. However, it should not define your overall happiness or satisfaction. However, in many instances, we postpone this activity for certain conditions such as when we are employed, have money saved up, and have bought a house. Why should enjoying an activity be postponed and idolized for a day in the future as opposed to living and enjoying the present? The list encourages the postponing of happiness and accomplishments to later activities with conditions that may never be met as opposed to simply living and appreciating daily opportunities.

Bucket lists may also ruin those activities when you finally get to check it off the list. We have a tendency to have more unrealistic expectations for events that we spend waiting for and some instances may even put the value or activity as “the ‘purpose’ of the trip” (Strutner, 2013). The list can also make the individual experience tunnel vision for what they might eventually do, as opposed to what spontaneous things they can do that are not on the list. Even considering what should be on the list raises a question, what is something that you must accomplish or want to accomplish before you die? These desires and necessities are ever changing and some early plans made in your 20s such as a full backpack trip across Europe may make you more financially cautious or hesitant to a last minute arrangement with friends. A bucket list trip to Europe may make someone wary of a spontaneous trip with friends as it will push back their long awaited trip.

I am not inherently against bucket lists as when done properly and even in short term goals, they can pose as a healthy means of organizing your priorities. However, once an item isn’t receiving the necessary attention needed to achieve the goal or it is simply put on the back burner and forgotten, a bucket list only becomes a place of regrets or a “one day” activity. As journalist Oliver Burkeman puts it, “seek novelty in the mundane.”  Make sure to maintain a balance between committed wants/desires and being satisfied or appreciative of moments in the present. Instead of solely focusing on the “right conditions' ' to appear, remember to focus on your current conditions as well to help live a satisfied life.

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