In general, I think being a good human being means asking a lot of questions. Interrogating ourselves and the systems around us is the first step to promoting growth, both at the individual and societal level.
And when it comes to bucket lists, I think asking ourselves questions is crucial.
Perhaps you think I’m going to suggest you ask yourself whether your goals are actually attainable or how you’re going to achieve them before you write them down. But I’m not. I think we dream first, plan later.
At the same time, there are two questions I think we should ask ourselves during that dreaming phase, before we put pen to paper and ink that goal onto our lists of to-dos. Without these questions, I believe we risk turning our bucket lists into a series of goals that are not meaningful and don’t make ourselves (or the world) better.
The first question: Why?
As aspirations pop up into our heads, we should always ask ourselves why we want them before we make them into concrete goals to start striving for. I know “Why?” can be a dauntingly big question, so here are some mini questions that get at the same idea and provide a little more direction:
- What made me want to put this on my list?
- What about this goal is important to me?
- How will this goal add meaning to my life?
- How will this goal add joy to my life?
The reason I think asking these questions is important is to avoid adding goals to our bucket lists that aren’t truly what we want. I know I’ve been tempted to write goals into my list simply because I think achieving it would impress my friends. I’ve also been guilty of adding items to my list because I saw them on someone else’s list and it sounded cool on theirs, so I wanted it to sound cool on mine, too.
But when I asked myself why these goals were important to me, I realized they weren’t actually what I wanted out of life. I had no interest in them for myself. I just wanted others to think I was accomplished.
Asking myself why I want a goal ensures I’m doing this bucket list for me and nobody else. This means that when I accomplish my goals, it truly adds meaning or joy to my life instead of just impressing others.
One important distinction: I’m not trying to communicate that seemingly “meaningless” items like “sleep for one night in a haunted house” (#14, long-term list) should be taken out just because they don’t do much in the way of personal development. That’s an item I honestly wanted to do because I thought it would be cool, not because someone else would. Differentiating between what we truly want and what others want for us is the point here, not taking out silly list items. Those are just plain fun. 🙂
The second question: Who am I hurting?
While the last question is intended to make sure the items on our bucket list fulfill us, this question is intended to illuminate whether the items on our bucket lists make the world a better place.
Before I started asking myself who I could be hurting by accomplishing or striving for each of the items on my bucket list, I had a few problematic goals. For example, I used to want to spend one night in jail. I thought it would be cool.
But then I realized that the only reason I was able to put that item on my list in good fun is because I am a white female. I’m not in danger of being wrongfully accused of crimes and overpoliced the way people of color in the United States are. And adding this item to my list is laughing in the face of injustices happening in our society, and that is hurtful to others.
So I took it off. And I’m glad I did. I don’t need to spend a night in jail if it contributes to the minimizing of wrongs in our society.
Asking ourselves whether our bucket list items could be hurting someone helps us decide whether we are basing our goals off of privileges that perpetuate wrongs at the systemic level and at the individual level. And this helps us make the world a better place. Or at the very least, it helps not make it any worse.
These questions can hep us feel good about what we strive for in life. What other questions do you ask yourself when you are deciding whether a goal is worth aiming for?