Bucket Lists: A Skeptical Assessment


The other day, a friend asked if I had a bucket list. I don’t, never have and don’t expect to start one. Given my advanced seniority on this Earth, I’ve had ample time to do what appealed to me. I’ve traveled, had plentiful adventures and enough random good fortune to do what had to be done, looked interesting and seemed worthy and fun. At present, I’m content and even somewhat serene. I’ve no desire to jump out of an airplane, climb Mt Everest, embark on a pilgrimage, streak Yankee Stadium, run for president or anything else that merits a to-do-before exiting list.

On second thought, running for president has some appeal. I ran for mayor (Tampa in 2003) and thoroughly enjoyed the experience, especially the candidate forums that facilitated my secular missionary zeal of explaining REAL wellness and sharing Ingersoll excerpts. But president? I don’t know. I’ll be 82 in 2020 – a little old to appeal to the younger crowd – and my fellow octogenarians might assume I won’t last a single term. What’s more, I don’t have the name recognition or deep pocket/special interest fund-raising contacts to mount a viable campaign. As if this were not enough to doom my prospects for becoming the 46th president, there’s this: I’m not willing to spend days, let alone weeks or months, in Iowa or New Hampshire annoying primary voters in the dead of Winter. Thus, how could I ever gain steam in the polls?

No, I’m not starting a bucket list. I won’t run for president in 2020 (even if nominated!). I will pass on the temptation to embark on a holy grail-worthy quest to become the new leader of the free world seeking to “Make America Rational, Respectable and Decent Again.” Bucket list entries are not for me. There are no goals or experiences I wish to highlight as essential endeavors to enjoy before entering eternity. (Oh, and by the way, on the subject of exiting this “narrow vale between the cold and barren peaks of two eternities,” like Ronald Reagan Jr., I’m “not afraid of burning in hell.”)

This does not mean, I should make clear, that I lack interest in dozens and dozens of possible things to do daily. On the contrary: Every day has promise and adventure, which I (and I suspect most others) This does not mean, I should make clear, that I lack interest in dozens and dozens of possible things to do daily. On the contrary: Every day has promise and adventure, which I (and I suspect most others) appreciate fully as each day comes and goes.

From a REAL wellness perspective, you might want to think about the bucket list question, specifically, why or why not have one?

Bucket List Possibilities

A bucket list (noun) consists of a number of experiences or achievements a person hopes to have or accomplish during his or her lifetime, goals and aspirations… things to reach for and look forward to.

If you think everyone should have a bucket list because, well, I don’t know, just because, maybe, you can get ideas galore at a website called “Bucketlistjourney.net” (800 possibilities). No matter your personality or range of imagination, you’ll probably find a few that appeal. If none of the 800 “Bucketlistjourney” alternatives work for you, try plain “bucketlist.com.” Here you will be given a menu of 10,000 suggestions. This site, by the way, claims 634,335 members who are said to be tracking 6,340,149 goals.

Maybe one reason such lists are popular is due to the 2007 “Bucket List” movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman. This was about about two terminally ill men who escape a cancer ward in order to fully live again, if briefly, during a series of final life-enriching adventures – a road trip to enjoy an entertaining wish list of to-dos before dying.

We know from the literature about man’s search for meaning and purpose that the most satisfying goals, the greatest satisfactions and joys, do not follow from self-focused accomplishments. Nothing wrong with such goals and achievements but Viktor Frankl, Irving Yalom and many existential deep thinkers believe that happiness ensues from good works, from service to others. Don’t overlook the fact that you may want to include if not favor initiatives that support the less fortunate, or that promote a cause for which you are passionate – even if some might think your quest if Don Quixote-worthy.


Bucket list choices usually reflect a healthy curiosity about attractive ways to enjoy life’s moments. Some are personal (i.e., exploring novel, challenging, mind-expanding and/or body sensation exhilarations) while others provide added meaning and purpose and thus added “jewels of joy” (Ingersoll’s phrase for moments of happiness) to self and others). Both kinds of bucket list items are laudatory – the latter, however, warrant special regard and consideration.

Be well and, if so inclined, let me know what you think.

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