Alright, this might have been a bit of a click-baity headline, because we all have a bucket list, right?
We all have a 30 by 30 list, a five year plan; whatever you wanna call it. That list of sometimes small, sometimes lofty goals we set ourselves to meet by some arbitrary time in our lives…
One of the trends of any new year is to write a list of goals for the year: lose 5 kilos, learn a new language, get a boyfriend or read 100 books – all that stuff. Some of these are fine, some of them are problematic, some of them are entirely achievable and others are doomed to make you feel like a failure. Goal setting is important; it’s an ideal way to monitor your progress and keep you on track. The endorphin boost we gain from achieving a goal is what keeps us going to the next goal and the next. Visualising your future and actively working towards it is not only good for your mental health, but also for your career and your relationships.
But what I get worried about is when people base their successes on that arbitrary little tick list. I’m talking about this habit of giving ourselves deadlines for certain milestones, that by and large, we don’t have control over.
As someone who has somehow found themselves in their late 20s, only just now figuring out their career, and only just now chasing their lifelong dreams, I can really see how these kinds of lists could be damaging. If I’d been holding myself to some timeline, I absolutely would have failed. In fact I did – my biggest (and possibly, only) bucket list item was to live in London by the time I was 25. Thanks to life (and a boy) I failed miserably. When 26 rolled around, I was single, drunk and alone on my couch, very very far away from London. I felt like a failure. I’m smart, I’ve travelled, I’m well educated and I have a good career; even then, those things were true. But a bucket list made me forget all of that because I’d failed to tick of that arbitrary little thing I’d told myself had to happen in order to be happy with my life.
I think my biggest problem with the lofty bucket list, is that there are no winners. Either you achieve everything on it, and are rewarded with an underwhelming sense of “well… what now?”. Or you fall very far short of your bucket list, and you’re met with that crushing disappointment in yourself for not having achieved everything you’ve set out to. Let’s face it – life gets in the way, for all of us.
Instead of bucket listing, I much prefer setting short term goals; about a year at a time. I find if I plan too far ahead, I’m not motivated enough – I can’t let myself worry about something that’s planned to happen 5 years from now, when I’ve got a long list of things I have to worry about now. And you know what, based on my experiences, I can do everything I can to meet that goal in 5 years time but I can pretty much guarantee you that life will get in the way at some point and either completely or at least partially derail it.
Instead of saying “in 5 years time, I want to be self-employed and living in Spain by the beach” (because to me that seems so lofty and unrealistic), I prefer to say “this year, I plan to have a business plan, some finances behind me and have started private Spanish lessons”. That way, I can take the bigger, more overwhelming plan, and wear it down, chunk by chunk. This way, I can live this year to the fullest, instead of seeing it as a stepping stone to next year and the next, and so on and so on, to five years from now.