How is your bucket list doing? Want to know what are the 20 items I want to do before I die?

Posted on December 13 2011 by frank

What are the most awesome things that you definitely want to do before you finally ‘hit the bucket’? Answering this question right now can be a revealing or even life-changing experience. I’ll tell you why and then you’ll have an exclusive look at the 20 items that ended up on my own personal bucket list.

Why bucket list is so powerful? The answer is simple: Because most of the dreams we are really committed to work for are actually achievable. And getting clear of your dreams is the first step in this process. Additionally, even if you already have a certain dream you’ll be amazed by the power that the simple act of putting it on a paper has for committing to it and realizing it. So even if it sounds a bit cliché and silly, do it!

For me the wake-up call to do the list came in early morning hours of a bus trip between El Salvador and Nicaragua. I woke up to see Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman chat with each other in Spanish on the bus TV. Even though the movie was dubbed into Spanish the subtitles were in English (twisted, isn’t it) and captured by the charm of these two older gentlemen I watched the movie to the end. The movie was Bucket List and it is about two men from different backgrounds who are united by the approaching death and decide to join forces and do the things they always wanted to do. The plot is somewhat predictable but was still able to raise important issues about how one should live one’s life – and also move me to tears at few points.

The most obvious question raised by the movie is of course: Have you done your bucket list yet? If not, then do it! Not tomorrow, but right now!

To practice what I preach I did the exercise myself.

The first thing I realized when I started to answer the question was that I intuitively try to put my life in some kind of categories through which to think about the question. Two dimensions immediately came to my mind: the professional dimension of creating and achieving something. And the personal dimension of those people that stand close to me. After that I realized that I want to give something to the world also beyond my immediate social relations. And finally I thought that perhaps I should also ask what personal joys would I want to experience before I die. Beyond these four dimensions I really couldn’t think of anything that would be worthwhile to include on a bucket list.

So here are my dimensions for the bucket list (please comment if you feel that something important is missing):
1. Professional life: What targets I commit myself to aim to achieve during my limited lifetime?
2. Personal life: What beauty I want to experience in my relations to those near to me?
3. Giving: What do I want to give to the world before I die?
4. Experiencing: What memorable moments do I want to encounter before hitting the bucket?

So what items ended up on my bucket list?

In professional life my mission is to explore the eternal question about how to live a good life. I want to deliver some fragments of wisdom that could enhance people’s actual capacity to live a good life. But with the bucket list I had to get more concrete than that. And the first concrete target that came to my mind is to write and publish at least three different books: one in professional academic philosophy (preferably published by Oxford University Press, if I am allowed to dream big), one book about good life targeted at a more general audience and one fictional novel. In my trade, the books are the milestones of the progress of our thinking. Hence, items 1, 2 & 3.

1. Write a book in academic philosophy.
2. Write a book about good life for a more general audience.
3. Write a fictional novel.

Secondly, good philosophy is rarely done in isolation and one of the most exciting experiences in my short career have been the thrilling conversations I have had the honor to have with many wise people. This is a dimension I want to have more of and to put it into concrete targets I came up with items 4 and 5.

4. Have at least five professor-level contacts whom I can call day or night if an exciting idea hits me.
5. Give a lecture in one of the top universities in the world.

Thirdly, during my short initiation into philosophy and the scientific community I have encountered many great mentors that have unselfishly given so much guidance and invaluable advices to me that I am forever thankful for them. This is a debt I want to pay back for those that come after me. This is items 6 & 7.

6. Be amongst the persons that a future philosopher thanks in the acknowledgment section of her or his breakthrough book as one of the most important advisors in making his or her work possible.
7. Get some form of award for good teaching abilities.

Personal life proved to be a tricky section in terms of clear targets. One of my strongest personal dreams is to have children and be a loving father to them. But how to remake that into a clear bucket list item? Or how can one reduce love story or friendship into certain measurable bucket list items? Finally I came up with four items, 8, 9, 10 & 11.

8. Be able to support each one of my children in achieving what they dream about, whatever that might be.
9. Have a person to whom I can honestly tell that I love her until death do us apart.
10. Be the first person that a friend calls to when a major turning point of life hits him or her.
11. Organize at least every other year a huge party where around 100 good people I know gather together for a long night of joy and companionship.

Giving. Life has been fortunate for me. I have won the lottery of life by being born into a loving family in a peaceful and democratic country with strong social security system and good educational opportunities. Not all people are so lucky and therefore I feel that it is my responsibility to enhance their possibilities to live out a good life. I know that I could give quite much of my possessions away without it affecting significantly my happiness level. At the same time the amount I am giving away could change the life of a big number of people, save them from a disease, give them education and so forth. Let’s start, however, with a quite moderate monetary goal (item 12).

12. Give constantly at least 10% of all my income to good causes.

But I would like to get more personal than that. Martti Ahtisaari received a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts for world peace in, for example, Namibia, Kosovo and Aceh. Yet even more impressive demonstration of his good work is the fact that in Namibia there are now lots of boys carrying his first name, Martti. Naming one’s child after someone is perhaps the greatest gesture of honour one can give. I don’t believe that my contribution will ever be as grand as Ahtisaari’s. But the true test of one’s devotion to helping others is not in numbers. It would be mind-blowing if some people felt that my contribution to their life had been so great that they want to honor that by giving my name to their son – or why not a daughter. Of all the items here I believe that this (number 13) is the hardest to achieve but in the bucket list you are allowed to put also your more ‘impossible’ dreams.

13. Have a baby named after me.

Experiencing. Finally, why not have some fun in life while it lasts? These things need not much explanation. I’ve wanted to try paragliding for many years but haven’t got into it yet. Meditation sounds very interesting but despite a few tries I haven’t had the patience to really make it into a daily habit. I enjoy traveling and love the sea. And some sporting challenges are always rewarding to achieve. You’ll find these items (14-21) below.

So here is my bucket list as of now, written just around the time I turned 30:

Professional life:
1. Write a book in academic philosophy.
2. Write a book about good life for a more general audience.
3. Write a fictional novel.
4. Have at least five professor-level contacts whom I can call day or night if an exciting idea hits me.
5. Give a lecture in one of the top universities in the world
6. Be amongst the persons that a future philosopher thanks in the acknowledgment section of her or his breakthrough book as one of the most important advisors in making his or her work possible.
7. Get some form of award for good teaching abilities.

Personal life:
8. Be able to support each one of my children in achieving what they dream about, whatever that might be.
9. Have a person to whom I can honestly tell that I love her until death do us apart.
10. Be the first person that a friend calls to when a major turning point of life hits him or her.
11. Organize at least every other year a huge party where around 100 good people I know gather together for a long night of joy and companionship

Giving:
12. Give constantly at least 10% of all my income to good causes.
13. Have a baby named after me.

Experiencing:
14. Paragliding.
15. Cross an ocean with a sailing boat.
16. Be able to uphold a state of meditation for an hour.
17. Live at least a half a year in three different countries.
18. Run the marathon.
19. Conquer a few cool mountains.
20. Complete a Worldloppet cross-country race in ten different countries.
21. Participate in the Jukola orienteering competition.

If reading my list didn’t move you to make your own list, watch the movie for additional inspiration. Even if for just to see how the dying character played by Jack Nicholson is finally able to complete the list item ‘Kiss the most beautiful girl in the world’. For me, seeing that scene was one of the moments when tears filled my eyes. The answer was so simple yet so surprising.

P.S. I would really love to hear your story. What items would you include in your bucket list? What kind of experience was doing the bucket list for you?


Similar Posts:

Be Sociable, Share!

3 responses to “How is your bucket list doing? Want to know what are the 20 items I want to do before I die?”

  1. Tuomas says:

    That was fun to read, if I end up doing the list in near future I’ll post it here =)

  2. frank says:

    Thanks, it would be great to see some other people’s bucket lists as well!

    By the way, two of the dimensions I had there – giving and experiencing – connect directly to a scene in the movie. Watching the pyramids Morgan Freeman tells to Jack Nicholson that Egyptians believed that when you die, at the gate of heavens, two questions are asked of you which determined your destiny*:

    Have you found joy in your life?
    Has your life brought joy to the others?

    The first is thus about what you get from life. And the second is about what you give to the lives of others. Very simple and basic questions. Yet truly thinking where you stand in relation to them from time to time could be an important guidance in keeping you on the right track.

    * I tried to check the story but couldn’t find any verification that it would be true. Good questions in any case!

  3. Ilona says:

    Thanks for inspiration! I did my own list and watched the movie, too. I just wrote down the 20 things that first came to my mind that I would like to do before I die. I didn’t categorize them.

    1. Find the love of my life and share my life with him
    2. Raise at least two children
    3. Belong to a community of inspiring people
    4. Work abroad on a social project
    5. Set up my own company with a few wonderful people
    6. Speak at least 5 languages fluently
    7. Learn the Alexander technique
    8. Learn to sing and performe a solo song publicly
    9. Write a book
    10. Get master’s degree
    11. Find a way to practice spirituality
    12. Perform in an improvisation theatre festival abroad
    13. Travel to all the continents
    14. Inspire others through teaching, coaching, training and drama,
    15. Practise kindness every day.
    16. Help someone without expecting anything in return.
    17. Write a thank you letter to all my loved ones and people who have affected my life positively.
    18. Make a change in a global scale.
    19. Know myself.
    20. Appreaciate what I have.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *