I made my first life list back when I was 18 and in college. Now more than a decade later (whoa!), I still have my list but it certainly has changed a few times through the years. I usually update my list at least once a year to keep it fresh. I also update it to make sure it’s relevant to myself as my priorities change over time. I just posted my most up to date life list last month, and keeping my list up to date is one of the ways I make sure I'm living what I love.
I whole heartedly believe everyone should have a life list full of things they hope to do or accomplish in their lifetime. You might call yours a bucket list or life goals, and the name it goes by is really up to you. Whether you’ve already got a life list going, or you’re going to be creating your very first one (hooray!), these tips will help you make up an exciting, personal list to inspire you.
(Psst! There's a free Life List worksheet waiting for you at the bottom of this post. This download will make it super-duper easy to create a list of your own.)
1. Choose goals that are within your control
I’m a big hockey fan so one of the goals I wrote down when I made my first life list was to see my home team, the Vancouver Canucks, win the Stanley Cup. It took a few years for to realize how silly my goal was, because I had no power to make it happen. I could only keep hoping it would happen. While I still think it would be great for the Canucks to win their first Stanley Cup someday (they’ve come close twice in my lifetime, sigh), I’ve realized that I have no control over this and took it off my list.
Make sure when you create your life list that you’re choosing goals you can control. You want to add things to your list you can actually take actionable steps towards achieving. Things you can go out and make happen, even if you need to put in a bit of work.
2. Be specific
Instead of just writing down “Read more books,” list it as “Read 100 books in a year.” Turn “Travel in Europe” into “Travel to Italy, France, and Greece.” You’ll know exactly you’re aiming for, making it easier to build a plan for reaching your goal. Building a plan for your specific goal brings you even closer to success and being able to cross it off your life list. Otherwise you’re just aiming for something vague, and you may never be able to tell you’ve actually achieved it.
3. Check out other life lists
I love love love reading other people’s life lists and seeing what they’re aiming towards. Reading through other lists will spark extra ideas for yourself and help you think about more goals. Just make sure not to take someone else’s idea just for the sake of adding to your list. Use the lists for inspiration, but stay true to yourself and what you actually want to do.
4. Choose goals you are excited about
This should be a no-brainer, but I’ve caught myself adding goals that were actually kind of ‘meh’ to me. When you add a new goal to your life list, add it because it’s something you really care about, not what you think you’re supposed to care about, and definitely not what someone else is telling you to care about. This list is all about you and only what matters to you.
A popular one I see on other life lists is ‘Become a morning person.’ While I think that’s a perfectly lovely goal, it sure isn’t one of mine! I like my sleep, especially on lazy mornings, and don’t have any intention of trying to change that. Staying in bed until 9 is one of my favourite perks to being self-employed after all.
5. Update your list of goals every year
You change and evolve all the time, so it makes sense that your life list will too. Read through your list at least once a year, perhaps on your birthday or every January 1st. Add any new goals you have come up with recently, and remove any goals that don’t get you excited anymore. But don’t delete them completely! Instead...
6. Keep a record of your old goals
Whenever you have goals that aren’t exciting to you anymore, remove them from your life list. Instead of taking a goal off altogether though, move it to a separate list of goals you’ve removed over time. You’ll enjoy looking back on these old goals and remembering they did matter to you at one point. The goals you had in the past showcase a little piece of who you once were.
Looking at my list of old goals now, I used to want to spend a week on the West Coast Trail. The WCT is a super tough hike along the coast of British Columbia, and years ago I was friends with a few people who had hiked portions of it. Being around them is what piqued my interest in the first place, but now that I’m removed from that, hiking the WCT isn’t a big deal to me anymore. Either way, I find it interesting to look back and see what was important to me in the past.
7. Share your life list with others
Once you've come up with your awesome life list, let someone else like your other half, your best friends, or someone in your family read your goals. Post your life list on your blog or Facebook. Having someone else read the list will motivate you into being accountable and achieving more of your goals. Plus, when other people know about your goals, they’ll encourage you and push you towards success.
What’s really cool when you share your life list is that you might even inspire someone else to write their own life list.
8. Don’t let a life list make you feel guilty
As with everything in life, balance is important in life lists. This list isn’t meant to make you feel guilty for not accomplishing things, and they’re not meant for comparison with other people either. Your life list should inspire and excite you, simply reminding you to live what you love.
If your life list ever starts to weigh you down, it’s time to edit your list, and remind yourself it’s just for fun. If it continues to weigh you down, put it away for a few months. Don’t worry about the big goals, and just live one day at a time. Sooner or later, you’ll be ready to return to your list feeling invigorated again.
9. Celebrate things you accomplish on your life list
When you achieve something on your life list, it’s time to celebrate! Take pride in yourself and get excited. I’m all about celebrating the small successes in life, so you better believe I’m all for celebrating crossing something big off your list. Treat yourself to a celebratory dinner, announce it to your friends, or just take a nice bubble bath. Whatever you choose, make sure you spend some time celebrating and feeling awesome. Because you are!
PS: Wondering how I'm doing with my life list these days? Check out my up-to-date list!
BONUS: Ready to create your own life list? Make it easy with this free Life List worksheet! You can even customize the category titles and make it your own. Download it here for free, no email required.