Celebrating Success With a Reverse Bucket List

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Celebrating Success With a Reverse Bucket List

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"Remember where you have been and know where you are going. Life is not a race, but a journey to be savored each step of the way."

-Nikita Koloff

While people were busy making bucket lists of things they wanted to do before they die, I took a different approach. I made a reverse bucket list.

The Danger of Only Looking Forward

I'm all for planning. Looking forward is essential to getting the most out of life; without vision, the resulting directionless approach to each day can be unfulfilling.

But only looking forward can be problematic in two ways:

1) It can be discouraging if all you have is a list of things you haven't done (ie: your bucket list).

2) There's no context. Bungee jumping is a pretty cool goal no matter how you slice it, but with the underlying context of being scared of heights and spending years working up to it makes it a whole new kind of accomplishment.

Creating Context

A reverse bucket list helps you celebrate successes to date, and create context for your future. It can keep you positive and motivated for long-term goals, and even help you clarify what you want and set new goals.

Reverse Bucket List

A reverse bucket list is pretty much as it sounds; a list of things that you might consider worthy of a bucket list, but that you've already done. You might even surprise yourself by what's on your reverse bucket list.

How to Create a Reverse Bucket List

Making your reverse bucket list is as simple as writing a list of your accomplishments. But between humility and apathy (and distraction), you might find your list a little lacking.

Here's how to create your reverse bucket list so you surprise even yourself:

1) Clear all distractions and set a timer for 10 minutes.

2) Use the time to write your reverse bucket list. Some ideas:

  • Places you've traveled to
  • Fears you've conquered
  • Certifications or degrees you've earned
  • People you've met or friends who have enriched your life
  • Careers you've had
  • Truly happy moments
  • Things you've done that you tell stories about
  • Goals or childhood dreams you've accomplished (even if they're silly to you now)
  • Places you've lived

3) Don't stop for 10 minutes. Don't think about what you're writing, or judge whether the thought that popped into your head is reverse-bucket-list-worthy or not. Just write down as much as you possibly can down in 10 minutes.

Review the List

Once the 10 minutes (or your stroke of inspiration if you've taken longer) is up, take a few breaths and walk around. Then come back and review your list.

How does it make you feel? Are there accomplishments you'd like to take further? Is there a theme you can build on? How about a nagging desire?

Next Step

Once you've looked back, it's time to look forward. You can create a "regular" bucket list, vision board, or set new goals. And if you're still stuck, in a few weeks I'll introduce a technique to get the creative juices flowing for future opportunities.

Feel free to share your own reverse bucket list experiences below!


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Nora Dunn, Guest Lifestyle Blogger for Leading Provider of Debt Relief Services, CareOne Services, Inc. Nora Dunn

Nora Dunn is The Professional Hobo: a full-time traveler and freelance writer. She is a contributing writer under the CareOne Debt Relief Services Life Balance blog. Having sold her business and belongings to travel, she has been on the road since 2007. She travels in a financially sustainable manner, taking advantage of creative volunteering positions. As a former certified Financial Planner, she is financially responsible for her actions along the way. She believes there is a fine balance between planning for tomorrow, and living for today. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services. You can follow Nora on Twitter @hobonora

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  • I love this idea! Bucket lists tend to stress me out. They feel like really big to-do lists to me. A reverse bucket list would have the opposite effect, I think.

  • What a beautiful idea! Thanks for reminding us to look at the awesome things we've accomplished! It's like the difference between facing a to-do list and forgetting about all the things we've ticked off!

  • Great Idea!  I have never liked the concept of a bucket list - as per others comments it seems like a to do list that you will never finish, which can be disheartening.  From my perspective I am only able to travel periodically, so over time I see options where I think - that would be good - but I don't particularly commit to any particular ideas too early.  As time goes on we save up for travel and we are really only thinking about the next trip.  

    Currently we are saving to do a big trip to the USA and Canada, probably in 2015.  As a family of five it is going to be an expensive trip, and also I want my youngest son to be old enough to remember it (he is about to turn 4 years old) and also be big enough to go on a lot of the rides at Disneyland.

  • I retired eight years ago. I'm still struggling with debts, though many are under control and a few actually paid off.  I've always enjoyed writing, journalling, going back to the second grade. . One of my retirement dreams is to write a book, an autobiography. Not for publishing or to sell, but to leave a record of my life for my grandchildren to read. This posting has given me some great ideas of what to write about.

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