New Year’s Resolutions, Bucket Lists, and Other Ways to Live Your Best Life

by Dr. Len Kayes, guest writer in MAINE SENIORS Magazine

The 2007 film The Bucket List portrays two terminally ill men, Edward Cole and Carter Chambers (played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, respectively) who escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of “to-dos” before they die. Included in their list was skydiving, driving a race car, flying over the North Pole, riding motorcycles on the Great Wall of China, and going on a lion safari in Africa. This touching comedy/drama reminds us that there is much that can be accomplished in life regardless of our age or health status and striving to have new experiences before we die can be exceedingly satisfying and meaningful.

Call it what you like — a set of New Year’s resolutions, a bucket list of hopes and dreams, or a life list of goals and objectives — reaching out for new experiences can represent an exciting road map for achieving your best life. And, let there be no doubt about it – it is never too late to develop and enact such a plan. The arrival of 2012 represents a great time to plan your future, whatever your age.

Marelisa Fabrega, the author of How to Live Your Best Life, tells us that a life list is simply a set of goals which cover all the different areas of your life. Taken seriously, it can represent a powerful tool for making sure that you decide what you want to do and have in life, and who you want to be, and that you take the necessary action to accomplish these things.

Remember that bucket lists are not just for those in the latter stages of life. While bucket lists are meant to contain accomplishments that you want to achieve before you “kick the bucket”, you can build your list as early in your life as you choose. Everyone, regardless of age, deserves to have aspirations, hopes, and dreams yet to be realized but consistently sought after. Walt Disney put it well when he said “all our dreams can come true—if we have the courage to pursue them.”

Prudence Searl, 63, of Bangor has a bucket list – she wants to tour the western United States and see the Grand Canyon. She also wants to go to Florida one day and drive down one side of the state and up the other visiting the many friends she has living there…then return to Disney World along the way. She wants to do it in a new Toyota Camry, also on her bucket list.

Sara Dimmick, 65, of Augusta also has a bucket list. She tells me she would like to visit the pyramids in Egypt, travel to Australia, learn about other religions, and become proficient in a language other than her own – probably Spanish.

And, so does Frank Ober, 69, of Whitefield. Frank considers his bucket list to be a “to- do” list which tends to include various projects that “need” to get done or “have” to be done and are not necessarily projects that he “wants” to do. Included on his list was painting the garage floor (already accomplished), and building a sunroom and both refurbishing and expanding the deck that is attached to his house (yet to be accomplished). He checks his list regularly and he says it helps to keep him focused.

It seems that a lot of people tend to have various life goals that fall into one or more of the following categories. These may serve as a useful guide for readers to organize their own personal bucket lists:

*Love/Love Life
*Spiritual Life

Here are a few suggestions to consider when developing your own bucket list:

  • Make sure that your list contains things that YOU really want to accomplish, obtain, or do. Don’t be influenced by the opinions of others. After all, it is YOUR list so let it contain things you want to have, things you want to do, things you want to be, places you want to visit, and people you want to meet. It should be about what you find meaningful and what brings you joy.
  • Even though the list is yours doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t share it with others. Go public with it. Doing so can give you additional motivation and incentive to pursue the items on the list. And, those you share your dreams with may be able to help you achieve them by offering helpful words of advice. Research actually suggests that success in reaching your goals is more likely when your goals are made public and support is received from friends. You may also discover along the way that your dreams are held by others and that pursuing them can become a joint venture.
  • Try to include some far reaching or longer term goals as well as some that are probably more easily attainable in the short term. The things you want should be a mix of both exceedingly challenging as well as more attainable accomplishments. Also, it is OK to think big, be creative, and go outside your comfort zone. If what you want is to lose weight, exercise more, and eat healthier, that is fine but don’t be afraid to reach beyond the usual resolutions–that are too often broken before the first week has passed.
  • Remember, and this is very important, don’t waste time creating your personalized bucket list if you don’t intend to take the actions required to achieve the items on it. Being engaged in goal setting, including keeping track of small but measurable progress toward reaching your goal, is helpful as well. Ultimately, however, whether you succeed or not may be less important than being able to honestly say you tried. And, maintaining a life list, even though you eventually are unable to achieve all that you set out to accomplish, in and of itself is a sign of an active mind, a vibrant spirit, and a motivated and positive thinker. It can help give you continued meaning, purpose, structure, identity, and direction in life as you grow older.

We have one precious life to live – be it resolved that in 2012 and beyond that we will live it well – with purpose and identifiable goals that we aspire to achieve.