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  • Jodi Blake

Dream Big: Building Your Bucket List

Man in a hang glider soaring in the sky
Learning how to hang glide might be a goal to add to your bucket list.

Throughout the years, we often ponder what to do with our lives. As kids, we might think about what activities to get involved with. In high school, we often think about career aspirations after graduation. Then as adults, we might create a bucket list of other goals to achieve – accomplishments that will make us feel like our lives were well spent.

Origin of the Bucket List

Two men sitting on large square-cut stones and facing each other as they talk
Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson play hospice patients in The Bucket List.

The term bucket list has been around for a few decades, perhaps since 1960 as noted by Antonio Rotolo on Blogwig. But it likely became more popular when screenwriter Justin Zackham created his own list, which he called a “List of Things to Do Before I Kick the Bucket” and then shortened to “Justin’s Bucket List.” Then some years later he turned the idea of his bucket list into a screenplay that became The Bucket List film, starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. It tells the story of two hospice patients with terminal lung cancer diagnoses who embark on a journey to complete their bucket lists – from skydiving to traveling to some of the most iconic places around the globe – before they (you guessed it!) kick the bucket. I’m adding this film to my watch list!

A final sign of acceptance for the term came in 2012 when it was listed in Webster’s Dictionary and the Oxford English Dictionary.

Tips for Creating Your Bucket List

Commonly a bucket list usually conveys the things someone wants to accomplish or experience before “kicking the bucket,” but a bucket list doesn’t need to focus on the end of life or be started when one is close to death. Instead, you can create and evolve a bucket list any time – maybe in your 20s and then revised every five or ten years. Also, you alone decide what qualifies for your bucket list. There are no rules, no specific number of items to include or complete – basically, no Bucket List Police. Some things you decide to do in life may not feel significant enough for your bucket list. For example, traveling to a foreign country might just be an interesting destination to visit because you enjoy traveling, but you might have a goal to visit the specific region where your great, great, great grandparents lived before immigrating to a new country – and that kind of trip would hold extra meaning for you.

Pinterest screenshot showing graphics of pinned items that are displayed as results of a search for bullet list ideas.
A Pinterest board screenshot showing different bucket list ideas.

Keep these tips in mind as you work on your bucket list:

  • Don’t worry about following any rules for when you start a bucket list, what items you include and how you manage your list – make it your own

  • Actively generate ideas – research Google, talk to friends about their goals or check Instagram for inspiration using variations of a #bucketlist hashtag

  • Create a Pinterest board of possible bucket list items

  • Use an app to document and track your bucket list (see below for more details)

  • Track your achievements by posting photos on social media, creating photo books or using a vision board

Ideas for Bucket List Items

I don’t remember when I started to think about my own bucket list and it’s not a long list, but it floats around in my subconscious and surfaces from time to time as a reminder of the more significant goals I want to achieve. My current bucket list has items that I’m actively working on, ones I’ve completed, and others I haven’t started yet.

  • In-progress item: Fluently speak another language. Ever since I first studied a foreign language in high school, I decided I wanted to be fluent in at least one other language. I admire polyglots who can speak multiple languages – like my high school French teacher who spoke at least four additional languages. I also think it’s important to speak another language and not just rely on English to communicate with others. Now I’m studying Italian on my own and through tutoring sessions with a native speaker. Maybe I’ll also have time to expand my French-speaking skills.

Two women wearing soccer scarves are smiling at the camera while sitting in the stands at a soccer match
Sporting our team scarves, Laurie (right) and I cheered for the A.S. Roma soccer team in the Olympic Stadium in Rome (October 7, 2012).
  • Completed item: See Francesco Totti play during an A.S. Roma soccer match in Rome. I’m a fan of A.S. Roma, one of the pro men’s soccer teams in Rome, and I’ve been fortunate to attend four matches. But my bucket list item was to see Francesco Totti, their star striker and team "capitano," play at the Olympic Stadium in the Eternal City before he retired. I crossed off this goal in October 2012 on a trip to Rome and Paris with friend Laurie to celebrate our 50th birthdays. Not only did Roma win the match 2-0 against Atalanta, but I witnessed Totti kicking a through ball to Erik Lamela, who scored the first goal.

  • Yet-to-start item: Use up my quilting fabric stash. After more than 30 years as a quilter, I’ve accumulated a large stash of cotton fabrics. Some of these fabrics are already earmarked for specific quilting projects, but most of them are just hanging out in wire baskets in my sewing room. I would like to spare my family the hassle of dispersing this stash after I die, so I plan to use as much of it as possible to sew quilts as gifts for family and friends, for charitable donations, and to use in my home. I better get busy deciding on which quilts to make!

If you’re just starting to think about creating your bucket list, here are some categories to consider for list items:

  • Travel – Visit glamourous locales, take heritage trips or view the wonders of the world.

  • Adventures – Add some daring pursuits such as hang gliding, mountain climbing or a backpacking trip in the Grand Canyon.

  • Experiences – Splurge on tickets to see your favorite musical or actor on Broadway, attend a concert by your favorite musical artist or band, cheer for your team at the Super Bowl or World Cup, or meet a personal idol.

  • Achievements – Graduate from culinary school, learn a trade or skill such as landscape architecture or tap dancing, build a house, or compete in a marathon, triathlon or cross-country cycling race.

  • Humanitarian pursuits – Volunteer to build Habitat for Humanity houses, work for the Peace Corp or do mission work, become a court advocate for children or crime victims, sit on the board for a charitable organization, or provide literacy, English as a Second Language (ESL) and other tutoring assistance.

Apps for Managing Your Bucket List

As with many things we do and think about nowadays, there is an online app to help you set up, track, and evolve your bucket list and keep it at your fingertips on your phone, tablet or computer.

Note: There are also no- and low-tech ways to help you with your bucket list. Simply keep a notebook or journal with your bucket list and add your progress, edit your list, or mark items as complete. Some people use a vision board to remind them of their goals.

A handy resource for finding the right app is “20 Popular Bucket List Apps (Free or Low-Cost).” Sam Tetrault explains key features to look for in these apps and then provides short descriptions of both free and low-cost apps you can check out.

Photo 1: Screenshots from the Bucket List app, / Photo 2: Graphic from the Bear Bucket List app.

Heather, friend and co-blog owner, and I like the following app options:

  • Bucket List – Free trial period with BucketPlus subscription plans. Available for Apple product users. Besides allowing you to create, organize and track your bucket list, you can get a feed of bucket lists created by your friends and the Bucket community and then share your completed bucket list items through a storybook of photos, videos, text and prompts.

  • Bear Bucket List – Free. Available for Apple product users. Allows you to create one or more categories for your bucket list and then add your list items. Features beautiful graphics.

  • Accomplish – Free with optional premium upgrade option. Available for Apple product users. After adding goals for your bucket list, you can also set objectives, select inspiring images, choose pep talks to keep you motivated about your bucket list and set up reminders to check your list on a daily or weekly basis.


Whenever you decide to start a bucket list, whatever you want to put on your list, and however you want to document, track and manage it, having a bucket list gives you the chance to think about and then accomplish and experience the things that are meaningful for your life. Remember, dream big!

If you already have a bucket list, if you just added your first item, or if you are somewhere in between, we would love to hear about what you want to do before that bucket is kicked. Share your list items and progress in the comments.


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1 Comment

Sep 28, 2023

Some excellent thought-provoking tips here! (Also gotta say I loved being a part of your AS Roma bucket list experience!) — Laurie

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