We were somewhere in between Barstow, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada, heading back from a long weekend in California. To me this was one of the least appealing parts of the drive, with only a sprawling, desolate brown desert and some random Alien Jerky billboards to look at. We had piled in a car for one of our many road trip adventures and had spent the weekend discussing everything from English literature to politics, fashion to humanitarian aid, and teaching to running biomechanics (I had to throw that topic in!).
To help pass the time and the lovely scenery, we started discussing some of the goals we wanted to accomplish in the next year and thus began our idea of creating a yearly bucket list. Often people consider a bucket list a list of items that they want to accomplish before they pass away (“kick the bucket,” as some call it, although I know this phrase does not sit well with everyone). Items on this list are often lifelong dreams such as a trip to a far-off country, winning a well-known recognition, seeing all their children have grandchildren, etc.
We decided to take this idea but put it on a smaller level: things we wanted to accomplish, places we wanted to see, new talents we wanted to develop, who we wanted to become by the end of the next year. We wanted to set goals of ways to grow while we were still single and had the time and resources to do these things before we moved on to a different phase of life—marriage.
As we outlined the rules and it became more of a tradition, we began holding bucket list parties, and they’re a great idea for everyone to try out. Perhaps it will be the easiest to outline how we approached the bucket list idea so as to understand how we set it up. These are ideas the that worked the best for us but may not for others or based upon life’s circumstances.
1) The number of items on your list correlates with how old you will be that year: If you will be turning 29, then you pick 29 items for your bucket list. My grandma suggested my grandpa do the same thing, but I think 90 items may be a bit too much!
2) Ideas for items on your bucket list: We picked personal goals of things to accomplish in a few different areas—spiritual, social, cultural, health, and educational—to give our bucket list variety. Under these areas, we choose specific goals for the year, such as reading a church book, meeting 10 new people, going camping in a new place, trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon, or taking a community class. Often these ideas where items we thought of, but if we couldn’t come up with an idea, we helped each other brainstorm concepts to come up with a goal.
3) Review process: We also reviewed our goals that we had written down, so others could help us see if they were realistic or if they needed to be modified to be more specific, achievable, or just crazier.
4) Challenges: Some of the goals we wrote down at the beginning of the year could not be accomplished as the year progressed. This is where we came up with the idea of having challenges. We would come up with 5 to 6 ideas of other things that could be done (ex: give away a Book of Mormon) instead of a goal on our list. These challenges were universal for all the participants, and the first person that accomplished the challenge got to substitute it for one item on his or her bucket list.
5) Follow-up: We had a few bucket list parties throughout the year to discuss how our lists were going and if we needed any help. We took a few hours to meet at one of our homes and pull out our lists. We could go through what we had finished so far and also discuss the items we needed help with. We would plan activities and trips to help each other cross off goals. Throughout the year, we also sent messages to each other on Facebook when we had crossed off an item.
6) Rewards and consequences: We all choose our own consequence if we did not finish all of the items on our bucket list (ex: going a whole day without makeup). We also choose a reward upon completion our bucket list (ex: getting a camera to take up photography). We decided to make it an all-or-nothing deal; you finished the whole list (with substitutions if needed) or you did not.
7) Ways to get out of finishing: Since we started this as a way to continue to progress and enjoy life while single instead of getting into a rut, for us, you get a free pass on the rest of your list when you kicked the bucket of being single. If you’re already married and want to start this tradition, you can think of a different free pass or—even better—get rid of it completely.
The second year of our bucket lists is almost finished. Since the idea was created, the number of people in our group has increased. Some have gotten a free pass, and goals have become more manageable. Personally, I have grown in ways I could not have imagined on that road trip two years ago. Many have completed or are about to finish their list for this year and have already started writing their list for next year. As for me, well, I only have one item left on my list this year. Here’s to hoping I start off the New Year with a camera to take up photography.