on creating a life list



Recently, I've had a spate of people tell me that they are strongly considering writing their own life lists, which, as you can imagine, excites me to no end (Maggie, see what you've started, here?).  However, I have a lot of people who are also giving me reasons why they're afraid to come up with their own life lists, and this makes me sad.  Having had this list for about 2 months, I fully agree with Maggie that simply writing down the list is transformative -- and, like Maggie, I truly and sincerely want everyone to do their own lists, because it's such a powerful thing.  So today, I thought I'd share a couple of tips and tricks to creating your own life list, in the event you haven't yet, and are just looking for a little nudge to do so.

1.  First of all, write it down.  I suspect many of you, like me, have had sort of a running mental list of things you'd like to accomplish in your life, but you've never actually written it down.  You might be walking through some open-air festival, see someone juggling, and think to yourself, "Huh.  I'd love to be able to do that."  Or maybe one day you're watching TV, and muse to yourself, "Wow.  I'd love to ride with the horsemen of Mongolia."   The problem with avoiding writing these things down is that by not doing so, the thoughts remain exactly what they are:  fleeting thoughts.  But when you write them down, suddenly they become more concrete.  Even more, they're little reminders -- so that when, a week later, you come across a weird little ad in a local paper advertising juggling lessons, or your church talks about a mission they're planning to take to outer Mongolia, you have a concrete reminder that you'd always intended on doing those things in the first place.  Writing your life list down makes it more likely that you'll actually attempt to do some of the items on it.

2.  Do not be intimidated by coming up with 100 things.  Choosing 100 things to put to your life list is obviously not mandatory (because, let's face it, coming up with a life list at all isn't mandatory), but I love the idea of a ridiculous number of possibilities laid out before you to attempt over the rest of your life.  There's so much optimism in doing so, you know?  Also, realize that you don't have to come up with 100 items in one 30 minute sitting -- when I came up with my list, I probably had 50 items down in about 30 minutes, and then it took several hours (and Marcus suggesting items to do!) for me to come up with the second 50.  Just make the goal of coming up with 100, and don't beat yourself up if it doesn't happen right away. 

That said, I promise you, you can come up with 100 things, even if you've already had an amazingly rich life.  Read on for how.

3.  Sprinkle some everyday stuff in amongst all the mondo-beyondo-type stuff.  If every item on your list is something along the lines of "travel to the opposite side of the planet to do some daredevil insanity," I suspect that once you're through writing it, your list is going to intimidate the hell out of you. Be sure to add some everyday stuff, things that you've always meant to do, but just have never gotten around to doing it.  For example, let's face it, my number 64, growing a flower from a seed, isn't that wild a thing to do; however, I've never actually done it before, so it made it on the list (and dude!  Gayla confirms that as of yesterday, I have a flower bud on one of my plants!).  Scratching those sorts of things off the list provides a lovely shot of satisfaction -- maybe not as big a shot as jumping out of a perfectly good airplane, but trust me, you'll still feel enough pride to lift your spirits for at least a day or two.

4.  Consider things you've already done before, but may not have done with a particular person, or in a certain way.  For example, I've been to Paris before, but I've never eaten truffles there -- so that made it on my list (number 79).  I've hand-churned ice cream before, but I'd love to do it with my daughter, since "hand churning ice cream" is a lovely childhood memory that a lot of kids probably don't get to have these days -- so that got added as well (number 11).  Maybe you know how to quilt, but you've never made one with your mom, and you'd love to -- that should go on your list.  Perhaps you like to fish, but have never gone fishing with your dad, and you want to -- that should go on the list, as well. 

5.  Make a few items fit under the heading "doing something I love many, many times."  I think it's important that your life list allow you to exercise your passions, as well.  For example, I've obviously taken many portraits before, but it's my favourite type of photography, and I love faces -- so "photograph 1000 faces" (number 16) was a no-brainer to put on my list.  Similarly, I love a good rum, and being from the Caribbean, I feel like I owe to myself to learn what makes a good rum, so "try 50 rums" (number 80) is on my list as well.  I enjoy scuba diving, but haven't had the opportunity to dive recently -- so I added a few  places I've never been diving before to my list.  In other words, be sure to add the things you love or you have passion for to your list.  And challenge yourself to do it often.

6.  UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU PUT SOMETHING ON YOUR LIST THAT WILL MAKE YOU FEEL BAD ABOUT YOURSELF FOR NOT COMPLETING IT.  For example, you will notice that "lose 20 pounds" is NOWHERE on my list.  This is not because I don't think I should lose weight; it's because I didn't want my list to be a constant reminder of me not losing weight, or not working out, or not foregoing a piece of chocolate, you know?  I'll deal with goals like that separately.

Your life list should be about adding moments of joy to your life, not about adding moments of guilt.  Life can guilt you enough, I think.  Your life list shouldn't. 


7.  Do not let the fact that you might not complete every item on your list within your lifetime stop you.  A friend told me once, "I'm afraid to actually write down my list because if I don't do everything on my list by the time I'm an old woman, I'll feel awful."  Right.  I hear you.  Although, here's a secret:  I don't actually think I'm going to do everything on my list. I mean, it would be really cool if I did; however, practically-speaking, it's not likely.  But the thing is?  That's not the point.  Your life list isn't a "must do before I die" list, it's a list to help remind you as you're going through life, when opportunity comes knocking (and really, it's surprising how often it will come knocking), you should go ahead and give it a go.  It's a list to look at when you find yourself somewhat bored, or needing a little jolt, so you can pick something to try to do.  It's a list that, when you're old, you'll look at it and think, "Wow.  Look at all the cool things I attempted in my life"; a list that perhaps you can pass on to someone younger than you and say, "Your turn.  Feel free to embellish and amend as necessary." 

If it helps you to call it an "Inspiration List" instead of a "Life List," feel free to do that, instead. 

8.  Don't feel like you're limited to 100 things.  You know what's interesting?  Just like many of you, I didn't think I could come up with 100 things.  It took me hours.  But then?  Once I did, weeks would pass,  I'd think of something else to do, and go, "DAMMIT!  I should've put that on my life list!"

Then last week, as I watched a show on Easter Island and thought the same "DAMMIT!" it suddenly occurred to me: why, exactly, couldn't I put "visit Easter Island" on my list?  It's not like it's against the law to add things to my list, right?

In short, I've found that writing the list actually begets writing a longer list.  So do not feel limited -- if you think of 101 things or 342 things or 10,000 things by this time next year, just keep adding to your list.  There's nothing to lose and everything to gain by doing so (see also number 7, above).

So!  There you have it:  all you need to go write your own life list.  So go on -- grab a cup of your favourite beverage, a piece of paper (or notebook or journal or, hell, your blog), and get started. 

Go inspire yourself.

(Incidentally, that teapot you see in the picture above?  When I took that photograph, it was holding my third blend of tea from number 56 on my life list:  drink 700 blends of tea.   Jenny gave me this one: it's Indonique's blend of jasmine-scented green tea.  While it wasn't quite in the league of my favourite jasmine tea from my favourite Thai restaurant in Houston, it was very, very good.)


Song: Whirlwind by Dispatch



Karen Walrond48 Comments