You Need A Reverse Bucket List

reverse bucket list

It’s important and fabulous to have big dreams + ambitious goals.  But, sometimes they can overshadow things and make us feel less satisfied with our lives…or make us chronically feel as if we are “missing the mark”.  I have felt full on SHAME in moments…when I realize that I STILL haven’t accomplished goals I set for myself 13 years ago…what to do?  You don’t want to feel like a total failure all the time! You need a REVERSE BUCKET LIST.

The problem with our WILDEST and most RIDICULOUS and INCREDIBLE goals (the stuff that has to do with money, power, pleasure and fame typically)  is that they can make us feel small and powerless sometimes…especially if we are deeply attached to getting them.  I learned from Arther C. Brooks, a Harvard  professor, about these reverse bucket lists.  He says that lasting life satisfaction/contentment is equal to WHAT YOU HAVE divided your WANTS (So, you can increase your contentment temporarily by having more OR you can permanently raise your contentment by  wanting less.) You might need to read that again.  I did.

So what can we do about the fact that some of our wildest ambitions can make us feel like a loser  (because we don’t have them yet)? We make a reverse bucket list.

Step One.  Write out all of your wildest dreams for yourself and your life.  Especially the ones you’d be embarrassed to speak aloud. Write them by hand on paper.

Step Two: Cross each one of them out.  


Now,  crossing them out doesn’t mean you’re not going to achieve amazing things and receive all sort of incredible experiences….but you are NOW going to choose to consciously detach from these things.  That’s what crossing them out does.  We don’t want to be OWNED by these ambitions-  we want to detach from them.  Then, in that detached state, we can peacefully and calmly move towards them (all the while thinking- “Maybe I will get it and maybe I won’t and that’s OK”)

It’s not that you don’t care about these dreams/ambitions.  “You’re actually moving it into a different part of your brain.”, says Professor Brooks.  It’s now in the frontal cortex, the planning and executing part of the brain (so they are no longer nebulously haunting the rest of your brain).

When I did this, it felt so empowering.  These things on my list pop up now and again and taunt me a little–or can derail my afternoon when I think of them. Crossing them off felt great, weirdly.  It’s OK if they never come to fruition. I know that.  I can still hold them up as possibilities, but I am OK if they never do.

The best things to put on the REVERSE BUCKET LIST are the dreams and goals that can make you shrink and feel miserable at times.

Listen to the whole interview here with Prof. Brooks and Tim.  It’s pretty fantastic.   Let me know how this process feels for you? I’m earnestly curious.




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