A very close friend asked me to do a post about bucketlists. Let’s see.
When I will leave Sri Lanka in a few days, there are so many things that I will not have done:
- I will not have seen the north of the country and many of the sights there.
- I won’t have hiked Adam’s Peak
- I will not have achieved Kelly Slater-esque surfing skills, despite having watched a video about how to paddle like Kelly Slater
- It is likely I will not have tried the Fish Tacos at Southcoast tacos in Mirissa which were recommended by a fellow surfer
- I will also not have used the 10 weeks on Sri Lanka to pop over to the Maldives, which are just a 2h plane ride away from Colombo and
- …I will not have split the time between Sri Lanka and say Lombok, Indonesia.
Some of the above was on my mental bucketlist of things to do, but then life happened and I didn’t do or achieve them.
The question now is, should I be less happy with my life?
What is a bucketlist?
Bucketlists are lists of things or places that we, as affluent Generation X to Millenials, want to do/see in the future / in our life.
If you don’t have one, there are dozens of books you can buy to find inspiration or websites to ponder until your overwhelmed with all the things you still need to do in your remaining lifetime, your head explodes and you need a drink.
Since when do they exist?
It’s a first-world word, for one. You have to be pretty high on Maslow’s pyramid of needs to be in a position to create bucketlists. A bucketlist item has never been „making enough money to put food on the table for your family“.
Therefore, I assume bucketlists didn’t really exist for most people in Medieval times.
What’s your deal with bucketlists now? What’s so bad about them?
Glad you asked. My theory is – similar to the „options“ post – that bucketlists don’t
necessarily make us happy.
If happiness is finding a balance between ambition and being happy for what you have, then bucketlists tend to tip this balance towards ambition.
Bucketlists add to FOMO (fear of missing out). Bucketlists increase your opportunity cost with every item on the list.
Example: You could spend your vacation in Portugal at this fantastic surfspot where you went two years ago and had the time of your life, OR you could go to a place on your bucketlist and finally up your „Countries traveled to“ score to 32. This would make your Quora profile look so much cooler.
This means, doing something you have already done again, will make you feel like you are missing out, even if that thing was fricking fantastic last time around.
The problem is not that you shouldn’t try new things. Of course you should.
I see two other problems.
What if your bucketlist is really short and by the time you’re 25 you have done everything on it? Built a house, made a million, saw half the planet, had a threesome, bungee-jumped in the Fijis over a waterfall, you name it – you did it all.
Should you feel accomplished that you did all you wanted to do? Can you now die a happy person?
You are 35. You are married and just got your second child. Your back is a mess from too much physical labor. Some things on your bucketlist will never happen.
Should you feel sad?
Again, I will not provide answers to these. A few thoughts, though:
All in all, it is probably a good thing to have a bucketlist. Maybe even a local one.
I sometimes feel I need to create one for Munich, because I don’t participate enough in all the things that the city has to offer.
A bucketlist therefore requires research and planning, it requires determining what you like and what you don’t like – and these are good things.
On the other hand, I strongly believe that bucketlists should only be a loose inspiration to our lives but never our guiding light. Insisting on doing the things on your bucketlist may result in heartbreak, in never really focusing in on one thing (activity/location/person etc) or distracting you from doing what you’re truly good at or what you truly like.