What’s on your bucket list? What’s a bucket list, you ask? It’s a list of everything you’re dying to do before you kick the bucket. Today, I’d like to invite you to write your bucket list. Why wait until you’re terminally ill to start living! When Dad died, I realized that he was fully prepared to live to a ripe old age. His retirement fund was well stocked, his papers were all in order, and he’d have been set to live until 90. But fate had other plans for him, and he died at 60. Dad didn’t have a single regret though, and I want to go out the same way- with zero regrets. So why not start living today like you might die tomorrow. Because, truth is, you might. We never know when our time’s up, so we might as well live for today.
Most of my life I spent living for the future. How else do you get through medical school? You grind away, day after day, night after night, with the hope that your efforts will be rewarded in the future. But if I found out I only had a year to live, would I have stayed in medical school or residency? No way in hell. I’d have been so out of there!
Losing Dad 3 1/2 years ago made me realize that I needed to start living life as if I might die in a year. What would I need to change if I knew I only had a year to live? The first item of business was quitting my job, because the only reason I was willing to work 72 hour call shifts and miss out on so much else in life was because of the future. That job put big cash into my retirement fund. But if I was going to die in year? Nope – I’d have to quit. So I did.
Now, I can honestly say that if I found out I only had a year to live I would keep doing exactly what I’m doing right now. I would write, paint, teach workshops, see clients, hike, chill with my family, and hang with my Pink Posse at OwningPink.com. That’s my new meter for how my life is going. Remember that this moment you’re living right now is the only moment that actually exists. The past is over, and the future hasn’t happened yet. The only thing that’s real is the present.
With that in mind, my friend Joy and I have been busy adding to our bucket lists lately, which are magic marker written on the walls of Owning Pink’s headquarters. When I started writing my bucket list, I realized that I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do before I kick the bucket. But now that I’ve given myself permission to write my bucket list on the wall, ideas keep coming to me. You know the phrase “If you can dream it, you can do it?” I think that’s bullshit. I might dream about getting it on with Rob Lowe (my all time crush of life), but chances are, I’m never gonna have sex with Rob Lowe. But I think the opposite of that phrase is absolutely true. If you CAN’T dream it, you CAN’T do it. Writing your bucket list is the first step to achieving your dreams. So dream big, baby. It’s good for the mojo.
Step 1. Figure out where you’re going to write your bucket list. For me, the wall seemed fitting, but for you, it might be your journal, a piece of posterboard, or a big ol’ canvas. I recommend writing it somewhere prominent, like a whiteboard in your office or at least a piece of notepaper on your fridge. That way you can see it regularly and be reminded of your really big dreams.
Step 2. Find a comfortable place to sit, close your eyes and let your imagination run wild. If you have a favorite spot where you go to think, go there! Take slow deep breaths and free your mind of the clutter.
Step 3. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do I want to do before I die?
Who do I want to meet?
Who do I want to be?
Invite images and thoughts to enter your mind. Don’t be afraid to dream really, really big.
Step 4: Send your inner critic to time out. Don’t allow thoughts like “Oh, that’ll never happen” or “That’s too dangerous” or “That costs too much money” or “She would never want to meet me” or “I could never do that.” Banish all such thoughts. Remember, if you can’t dream it, you can’t do it. Dream big, baby!
Step 5: Now write it all down. Don’t leave anything out. This is not a litmus test of whether you’ve lived a full, rich life. If you die before you check everything off your list, so be it. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure.
Step 6: Accept that your bucket list may change over time. As you grow, it will evolve. Give yourself permission to change your mind.
Step 7: Schedule one item on your bucket list- RIGHT NOW. Don’t wait until tomorrow to start living today.
Kisses and hugs until I kick the bucket,
Lissa Rankin is an OB/GYN physician, founder of Owning Pink, and author of the forthcoming What’s Up Down There: Questions You’d Only Ask Your Gynecologist If She Was Your Best Friend (St. Martin’s Press, September 2010).