Simon Terry

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From Bucket List to Purpose

I am beginning to have a problem with the bucket list. A bucket list is a list of experiences or achievements to have fulfilled by the time you die. My problem with bucket lists is that they are too often laundry lists of notable achievements, socially recognised moments and exotic travel destinations. It is rare to see a bucket list with an internal logic.

If a bucket list takes this form, then it is simply another manifestation of the overhang of expectations.  The image of the grim reaper cutting short bucket lists creates an unnatural urgency.  That urgency can be used to create consumer demand. Promoting experiences as ‘bucket list-worthy’ have become a way to market experiences from the mundane to the sublime. The bucket list is the latest manifestation of consumer marketing, the experience you have to have. There is no end to things that we just have to have on our bucket lists.

Life isn’t determined by what we have to have. There is precious little that we have to have. Once we move beyond meeting the needs of living standards, quality of life is determined by more than what we have. Quality of life is determined by the impact we choose to have on the world.  

Those choices arise as you make each decision on work, on relationships and on living. Many of these choices are the mundane, everyday living choices that are a far remove from the exotic one-off experiences of the bucket list.  However, over time what these choices will share in common is your personal sense of purpose.  Realising a personal inner purpose over the many obstacles is how each of us can help realise our potential. That is far more important than the fleeting experience of ticking off a random list.

A fully ticked bucket list will keep you busy but won’t necessarily let you die happy. A life of fulfilling purpose will.


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