Bucket List versus Joy and Meaning List

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pen-writing-notes-studyingThis week I wanted to start with a wonderful quote by Brené Brown from her book, The Gifts of Imperfection.

“When we compared our dream list to our “joy and meaning” list, we realized that by merely letting go of the list of things we want to accomplish and acquire, we would be actually living our dream – not striving to make it happen in the future, but living it right now.”

~ Brené Brown p 102 The Gifts of Imperfection.

Most people nowadays are familiar with the idea of having a bucket list. It’s a widely touted way of making sure that we live life to the fullest. The idea was popularized in 2011 when a blockbuster movie came out called The Bucket List. In it Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman star as two men, both terminally ill, who set out to check off as many points on their bucket list as possible before they die.

While many people have been inspired by this concept, many no doubt have also been discouraged and/or depressed. What if your bucket list contains many things that currently seem unattainable? Striving to be able to skydive in South America off of Angel Falls for example may prompt us to reach for new heights in our work in order to afford it, or to overcome our terror of heights. But there is a delicate balancing act between something inspiring us and overwhelming us. Also a bucket list can encourage us to focus on the future constantly, and rob us of joy in the present.

Parents are at the busiest time of their lives, with already an insane amount of demands on us. So a bucket list full of items that are attainable post- or pre-kids, can be very disheartening when you are in the thick of parenting and can barely find time to read a magazine or to shower some days. That’s why I LOVE how Brené turns the concept of a bucket list on its head.

Brené shares how her family went on the journey to simplifying their life, and finding more happiness. A key part of this shift was creating a Joy and Meaning list, and tossing, or at least putting aside for now, her bucket list.

Like many of us, her bucket list included a bigger house, and vacations, etc that all encouraged her and her husband to work more, to be more driven and type A. Yet she could see her family quickly growing up, and didn’t like this tension. Fortunately for all of us, she found the brilliant solution of asking herself, what brings me joy and meaning right now? Then she found ways to increase those things in the here and now. Incidentally, for Brene, this allowed her to work less and have more things like family time in her life.

I encourage you to take a few minutes to start your Joy and Meaning list. Then you can see if your family wants to do the exercise with you. It is a very bonding experience to do this with your loved ones as well.

Some questions to ask yourself:

Is this making me feel less than others, or less than I “should” be?

Does it encourage a feeling of scarcity or abundance?

What can I do right now that would add joy and meaning in my life?

Is there some way I can give back to others right now? (this often adds deep joy and meaning to people’s lives. We are hardwired to be in community and to give.)

Those are just a few ideas to get you started.

I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on what brings you more joy and meaning! Do you think you could benefit from focusing more on the present and what you do have? It is human nature to scan for what is missing in our lives, and with training, we can find way more joy and meaning, right here, right now.

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