Have you noticed how the New Year resolutions of our youth have been replaced by bucket lists as we moved to middle age and onward?
New Year resolutions are all about self-improvement and personal growth, while bucket lists emphasize self-satisfaction and gratification.
The term “bucket list” refers to experiences and achievements we hope to have or accomplish during our lifetime before we “kick the bucket” (die).
According to Google, bucket list is a relatively new word, popularized by the 2007 film “The Bucket List,” about two unlikely companions, both terminally ill, who go on a journey, experiencing and checking off the items on their list.
When we were kids, many of us were taught, by our teachers especially, to put down in writing a list of our New Year resolutions at the start of each year. The early ones were quite simple—obey our parents without fussing; don’t bully our younger siblings; do our homework and study more diligently, etc.
When we became teenagers, our resolutions also rose to the next level—come home from parties no later than the hour imposed by our parents; spend “only” 15 minutes on the phone in consideration to the “party line” and other family members; don’t spend more than our weekly allowance, etc.
When we reached adulthood, our resolutions became more sophisticated, but we stopped writing them down. A sample resolution would be to lose two pounds a month for one year, which meant sticking to a specific diet and exercise regimen. Quitting smoking was a favorite resolution for many, but I know very few friends who have successfully kicked the habit. As one of them said wryly, it was actually easy—he quit smoking at the start of every year!
As we approach our senior years, resolutions for self-improvement diminish and are slowly replaced by a growing bucket list of the things we want to do and experience before our time runs out. Many people take their time but others pursue their lists with great fervor, checking off items with immense satisfaction as they get completed.
Research on the world’s 20 most popular bucket list activities (by Vivian Manning-Schaffel on Livestrong.com) shows an interesting mix, from traveling to unusual places, doing/experiencing extraordinary activities, to learning new skills. I’m certain many of us have already experienced some of them.
Here’s the list, spiced up with my personal comments and some items I’ve checked, although my own list (and probably yours) is quite different.
See the Northern Lights—The spectacular aurora borealis phenomenon, most famously seen in Iceland
Run a marathon—A milestone personal achievement for avid runners
Go on an African safari—for the lovers of the great outdoors and wildlife
Write a story—I interpret this as a novel, a book of one’s memoirs, essays, short stories or poems.
Walk along the Great Wall of China—I’ve done this, but the going can be steep in some places. Thankfully, one walks only a short distance along the wall.
Own a dog
Learn to play an instrument—If you love music, it’s never too late. I love playing the guitar.
Snorkel at the Great Barrier Reef (or just go snorkeling)—Next to scuba diving, most of us will settle for snorkeling, and there are many great places for that right here in our country.
Skydiving—Not for the fainthearted, but an exhilarating experience, so I’ve heard
Own a dog—Who hasn’t? But if you haven’t, you’re missing something in your life.
See the pyramids of Giza—Some of the oldest man-made structures, and one of the original Seven Wonders of the World
Learn another language—A great source of personal satisfaction to be able to communicate with people in their native language in their own country
Ride a Venetian gondola—One can almost hear the gondoliers serenading their passengers as the boat glides along the waterways of Venice.
Drive across the country—Starting with our own country, preferably. I’ve traveled to many parts of the Philippines in the more enjoyable way for me—on a motorcycle.
View Paris from atop the Eiffel Tower—for a breathtaking panorama of the City of Light from this historic landmark
Hike the Pacific Crest Trail—a challenging 2,650-mile hike spanning the Pacific Coast of the United States
Take an Alaskan cruise—See the grandeur of glaciers and nature up close from the comfort of your ship
See your favorite band— Listening to our favorite bands (or artists) live is a definite high, especially for millennials.
Go “glamping”—a new favorite, outdoor adventure combined with the comforts of a luxury vacation, a.k.a. “glamour camping”
Visit Stonehenge—the mysterious site of the secret rites of the ancient druids
Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro (or another big mountain of your choosing)—Almost every country, including ours, has several challenging mountains that attract enthusiasts, from the occasional trekkers to the dedicated mountaineers.
The resolutions of our earlier years and our current bucket lists are unique to each of us. The one thing they have in common is that they are mostly about ourselves—our self-improvement or self-gratification. But I suggest they can be merged to create a new category—a promise, a specific “must do” activity not focused on us but on others. It is a commitment to do some specific act or service for our less fortunate fellow humans within our reach in the remaining time we have.
We can choose from an almost endless list of people: abandoned children, orphans, special children, the elderly, the sick in hospitals, the disabled, the imprisoned, the out-of-school youth, financially struggling families. We need only to open our eyes to the waiting world around us. It should be a personal act beyond the usual charity or fund-raising contributions we already make.