I’m going to admit it. I’m a list girl. I’m not talking shopping lists, chore lists or ‘to do’ lists (although I’ve been known to pay homage to those as well). I’m talking mega-lists. The kind of list that takes hours to compile, involves multiple revisions and includes a space for follow-up comments.
I truly believe that creating lists is good for the soul. Truly. It helps refocus energy, reminds us about the things that matter (and don’t matter), and encourages big thinking. There are no limitations in the act of listing other than those we place on ourselves. When we write lists we hit the pause button, for just a few minutes (or hours) and turn inwards. And inwards is where truth waits.
Above all else, there is immense pleasure to be found in the art of creating a good list. In finding the balance between personal pleasures, spiritual or emotional growth, new challenges, financial goals and career developments. And because of this, at least once a year, sometimes more often, I set myself up at my desk, open my journal to a crisp, white page and let the daydreaming begin.
I admit though that I often forget to go back to my list, usually stumbling upon them years later, laughing at some of the items, occasionally applauding myself for things I actualised, pondering over the things I haven’t. Regularly reviewed or not, though, the list inevitably serves its purpose. Written with integrity and positive intent (and those are key) a good list plants seeds in my unconscious and provides direction as I go about my life. It became a homing device leading me to experiences through which I can grow and adventure and evolve. My list encourages me to be more – and in doing so, to reach beyond my perceived limitations.
I want to make it clear though, I don’t refer to these lists as, nor do I have, a ‘bucket list’. In fact I find the very term ‘bucket list’ vaguely offensive. I find it shallow. When someone says ‘bucket list’ I imagine a child’s pail, filled with cliches. I view the term ‘bucket list’ as a tool by which to measure your life in front of others. A ‘bucket list’ is less about personally enriching and looking for growth opportunities, and more about ticking off items that social media and pop culture would have us believe we ‘must experience before we die’.
Last year when I moved house, I stumbled upon one of my old lists (from March 1999). Reading it led me to digging out all my lists and taking stock of who I had been and who I was. Which of course led me to thinking about where I was headed. I was somewhat surprised by the amount of cross-over in the lists – things that kept reappearing – as well as the number of unexpected, big tick offs. And, on this, contrary to what I had thought about lists, I found that sometimes the less prescriptive I was, the more chance I had of success. By way of example, every year I listed “be recognised for my work’ or ‘receive an award for my work’. I didn’t understand what form that recognition or award would take, but that wasn’t the point. What I was actually telling my subconscious was – ‘Be the best you can, at all times. The rest will follow.’ And it did.
Of course, there were more than a few items on my lists that were no longer relevant, particularly given the changes in my life since the list was written. But as I read over each list it was the repetition that struck me – the items that remained unchecked, unfulfilled and yet reappeared every year. (Such as ‘learn to fly’.) It gave me pause and cause to wonder – what was it about those items that despite the passing years I still hungered for the experience? (Be an advocate for equality.) And would my life be any less fulfilled if they remained unchecked? (Sing on stage in a smokey jazz club.) Should I just stop adding them, untether those hopes and let them float away? (Like the hot air balloon trip I’ve been longing to take.) Or in true list writing spirit, should I take those items, craft them into a new stand-alone list and then go at them like a bull at a gate, letting nothing stand in my way.
The answer was clearly, ‘yes’.
Because if we are honest about the purpose and the origins of a list, we can admit that they are less about ‘putting off until tomorrow what you can do today’. They are not about avoiding regrets or wishing you had done things differently. The things on your list come from a place deep inside that knows what you need. Every item on that list comes from a place of absolute clarity about what experiences are right for you, will help you grow, become the person you want to be and ultimately, change the world.
So, what is on your list?