Cyprus Mail

Are bucket lists a good idea?


The 2007 movie The Bucket List has gained a certain amount of cult status, encouraging viewers to never stop believing in themselves and to never lose sight of their passions.

Although it initially received mixed reviews, it certainly reinforces the value of living life to the fullest, finding joy in one’s own life and those of others, travelling the world, and taking risks because, whether young or old, death often comes when least expected.

The most typical life goals that I came across while looking for bucket list ideas are to have a successful profession, earn a lot of money, invest in real estate, retire and travel the world. However, there are plenty of daring bucket list items that will undoubtedly set the heart racing, and a few of them caught my attention.

While some may view facing death by diving with saltwater crocodiles in a “cage of death” in Australia, lowering oneself into Finland’s icy cold waters, falling towards an active volcano in Nicaragua, or bungee jumping from the Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building – as adventurous and brave, others would say they are in denial.

In 1940, when American adventurer John Goddard was 15, he made a list of everything he wanted to achieve. There were 127 objectives in total, including seeing every country on the planet, embarking on a Great Barrier Reef expedition, attending a cremation ceremony in Bali, milking a poisonous snake, and going into space. Becoming adept in the use of a plane, motorcycle, tractor, surfboard, rifle, handgun, canoe, microscope, football, basketball, bow and arrow, lariat and boomerang were just a few of the goals that were grouped together. This objective, like 109 of the original ones, had a checkmark next to it designating it as completed. Throughout the course of his remaining years, he also made a commitment to himself to set hundreds of additional goals.

Goddard’s ‘Life List’ is one of the inspirations cited by people who have created what are now more usually called ‘bucket lists.’ The phrase derives from kick the bucket, a term for death, with unclear origins, but which quite likely relates to the bucket kicked away at a hanging. In the 2007 film The Bucket List, characters played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman meet in a cancer ward, then race around the world, packing in experiences.

Like the film’s narrative, some people create similar lists after learning they have an incurable illness, and in those situations, the goals frequently seem to have a deeper, far more personal flavour.

There are an infinite number of websites for those who want to compile and share their ambitions, with a whole industry that has developed around the idea of listing as many eye-popping, pleasure-seeking experiences before one ‘kicks the bucket.’

But are bucket lists really a good idea? Having clear objectives can be helpful, of course, but the lists appear to encourage a peculiar mix of extremely individualistic behaviour and conformity, leading to a situation in which everyone is racing alone towards the same objectives.

Bucket lists also have a natural air of rivalry, of trying to outdo oneself while simultaneously outdoing others. They have become very popular in an age when we are all pushed to promote ourselves and use our social media profiles as a shop window for our successful lives.

Could they be a practical means of coping with the certainty of death, though? Clinical psychologist Linda Blair claims that doing so is a means of ignoring the concept of death and completely failing to cope with it. “People typically do this to make sure there are things to look forward to, indicating that things will still happen. My knowledge forewarns me that this is likely done to avoid contemplating death.”

Whichever way you look at it, the aim of a bucket list is to live a life filled with goals and aspirations. Making a bucket list enables us to consider our beliefs and objectives as well as highlight significant life milestones and experiences. Do you think bucket lists are a good idea, and if so, what would be on yours?

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