A couple years ago, Shilagh Mirgain, a health psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison made a promise to herself to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest peak in Africa. This past year, she achieved her bucket list wish of reaching the mountain’s summit.
“Bucket lists are helpful in that they’re a way of listening to your inner wisdom,” Mirgain told Readers Digest in an interview. “It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind, to-do lists, going to work and coming home, doing chores, and the like—you can lose sight of that inner compass.”
As it turns out, science supports the concept of bucket lists and studies have found bucket lists can add more meaning to one’s life.
The term bucket list actually originates from the term “kicking the bucket” and, according to the New Yorker, “Etymologists suggest that the bucket being kicked is not, as we might imagine, a pail, but a corruption of the Old French word buquet, meaning a balance or beam, from which slaughtered animals were suspended.”
The concept crept into the mainstream with the 2007 film The Bucket List, starring Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson. A bucket list typically involves “places one wants to visit, experiences one wants to undergo, and accomplishments one wants to master before dying.”
Science Behind Bucket Lists
A recent study found that people who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them and that creating a bucket list will make life feel more meaningful. Psychologists suggest that these lists help connect people to something larger than themselves and lead to a sense of fulfillment when a goal is accomplished.
According to the Positive Psychology Program, the benefits of a bucket list include:
- Give us focus
- Make us take action
- Give us self-confidence
- Bring happiness
Bucket Lists and End-of-Life Care
The concept of a bucket list has grown to end-of-life care. Victoria Hospice, a palliative care program in British Columbia, created the first ever Bucket List Festival. The festival is designed to help increase the quality of life in their patients and help them find meaning.
Creating a bucket list also is an easy way to help jumpstart the funeral planning process and can help families begin to think about how they want to be remembered.
A bucket list also can help create ideas for meaningful memorial services later in life.
To get started on a bucket list, here are some things to consider:
- What do I still want to experience?
- What legacy do I want to leave behind?
- What gives me hope?
- What gives me peace?
- What am I thankful for?
- What do I love?
And for those looking for some added inspiration, there’s even a site called bucketlist.org that’s dedicated to the idea. The site allows you plan and track your goals, and lets you browse more than 5 million ideas — from chasing a tornado, to having a food fight, to visiting the Amazon rainforest.
What’s on your bucket list? Share with us in the comments below!