If you’ve been feeling down on yourself lately, or insecure about your next step in life, you’re not alone. Everyone is busy, no matter what age they are—and with all that frenzied action around us—it can be hard to sit down and figure out what to do next.
Think about a traditional bucket list, the “wish list” of activities or achievements you hope to check off in the future. Though bucket lists are great for planning ahead and keeping your goals in mind, it can be demoralizing if you feel as though you haven’t been able to cross an item off that list. In that sense, a reverse bucket list can help by seeing all the detailed activities and achievements you’ve already accomplished.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- 1. Choose How You’d Like to Write Your List
- 2. Figure Out Your Timeframe
- 3. What Do You Want to Learn About Yourself?
- 4. Start Writing Your List
- 5. Put Your List in a Safe Place (and Start a New List)
- Reverse Bucket List Ideas and Examples
A reverse bucket list can give you some much-needed perspective if you feel like you’re not using your time wisely, or feel down about your life’s trajectory. It can be useful to look back, especially if you are frustrated with your current situation — whether it’s related to where you’re living, how you spend your time with friends and loved ones, or your career path.
Assessing how far you have come can also be a great way to infuse some gratitude into your day-to-day life. Each person’s life is unique, because no one person will experience or do things the exact same way all the time. Reveling in that fact can be difficult, but with a reverse bucket list, perhaps it can get you to start looking at your life in a more positive fashion.
Consider making a reverse bucket list to help you take stock of what you’ve accomplished. If you’re not sure how to create one or what to list, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know.
1. Choose How You’d Like to Write Your List
Yes, oftentimes lists are simply a written place to check off things you have to do. However, you should think about if you’re planning to share this list with others or if it’s for personal use. Sharing your reverse bucket list at certain times of the year, such as on your birthday or on New Year’s can help keep you accountable for your evolving goals and accomplishments.
And it can be a great way to have other loved ones write and share so you can stay motivated and check-in with others. In terms of different list “mediums,” what exactly does this mean? Well, think about the following questions. Do you prefer writing in a journal by hand? Do you prefer typing or keeping things digital?
The way you record your list matters. The more serious you take the reverse bucket list writing process, the more you can get out of it. If you’ll be more likely to stick with it if you buy yourself a new, separate journal, go for it! Some journals also come with pre-written prompts that may guide your writing process.
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2. Figure Out Your Timeframe
If you’re looking to inspire action, concentrate on a specific time period in your life that can provide useful insight. It can be from whenever, such as achievements or experiences have you had since undergrad, after having a child, starting your first job or even after high school.
If you isolate a specific time in your life, it can help you laser in on particular aspirations and values beyond providing gratitude. Figuring out your timeline will come a bit easier when you consider the next step, too.
3. What Do You Want to Learn About Yourself?
What else do you hope to learn about yourself from writing a reverse bucket list? What you want from your relationships? What do you want to do next in your career? Perhaps you had a near-death experience and want to reassess how you spend your time.
Maybe you’re trying to be proactive for the next stage of your life, and are interested in end-of-life planning, even if you think you’ll be here for a while longer. Besides teaching yourself a lesson in gratitude, spending some time in self-reflection, especially positively minded self-reflection, can reveal quite a bit about what makes you tick.
If you’re feeling lost or unsure about your life choices, reverse bucket lists can help you mentally reset. In fact, writing a reverse bucket list may inspire you to write some other type of bucket list for what you want to do next and even help you nail down some future plans.
4. Start Writing Your List
How you start your list doesn’t really matter. You can always edit it or whittle it down as you see fit, but it’s important that you start. Writing your reverse bucket list in mostly chronological order may be the easiest. As you write this first list, try to keep it general.
When you write down different points, it may inspire smaller and more specific lists afterward, which is what makes a reverse bucket list so valuable. These are all past experiences that are unique to you, and worth revisiting to look at how far you have made it in life.
Though there are some experiences you may wish never happened, talking to others who are going through similar things may inspire a discussion that helps you and others heal.
5. Put Your List in a Safe Place (and Start a New List)
Your list won’t be worth much if you don’t keep it around as a reminder. Though once you’ve written it you may feel grateful for a little while, negativity has a funny way of creeping itself back into our lives.
If your list is scribbled and scratched through and has food spilled on it or is otherwise uninspiring to look at, consider rewriting it. Print it out or make a copy and keep it with you for the time being.
Now, about that next list. As you were writing your first one, you may have tapped into a whole other set of memories that you can address. Whether good or bad, does it make sense to write another list for a different aspect of your life?
Reverse Bucket List Ideas and Examples
There’s not just one kind of reverse bucket list. Though the exact process for writing one is about the same each time, you can write a reverse bucket list for a variety of topics. Each list can reveal something else about yourself and what makes you happy.
Likewise, some lists may be hard to write, even troublesome. For example, thinking about people who are no longer in your life or pets who have passed away. You’re probably very grateful for the time you spent with them but wish they were still here.
Check out the following ideas for different types of reverse bucket lists you can create:
- Personal achievements: You can include notable times when you’ve stood up for yourself or how you’ve grown to love yourself better.
- Athletic or health-related achievements: This list can include personal records for training or running, as well as scoring or other sports stats if you’re an athlete. For example, when you hit your first home run or shaved time off of your mile.
- Educational achievements: This list can be as broad or as specific as you wish. You may include other things you’ve learned outside of school, such as how to change a tire or how to bake a family recipe from scratch.
- Places you’ve traveled: If you’ve traveled a little or a lot, it doesn’t matter. Fill this list with all of your favorite spots — or which ones you realized aren’t so great.
- People who matter to you: Think about the people closest to you and how they’ve impacted your life. You can create separate lists of friends, family members, and mentors, if you wish.
- Pets you have or had: Pets are just as important to many people as other family members. Look back on experiences you’ve had training your pet or adventures you’ve shared together.
- Fears you’ve faced: Do you feel a bit of a thrill when you address something you’re afraid of? Whether it’s killing a bug or ziplining over a canyon, facing even the silliest fears takes a lot more than people give themselves credit for.
- Challenges you’ve overcome: What are the hardest things you’ve had to do? How did you get past them? Thinking about the difficulties you’ve overcome can make the present seem more manageable.
- How you’ve helped others: Many people don’t think about being able to help others as something that makes them fortunate. However, if you’re able to lend time and energy for the sake of others, you should feel proud.
- Times you’ve messed up: Maybe you can laugh writing this list. Maybe you’ll cry. However, thinking about lessons you’ve learned the hard way can give you some perspective on how much you’ve grown.
Gratitude for the Past Equals Gratitude for the Present
Even if your past is a bit more complicated or painful to think about, it can help to address your experiences and accomplishments with a fresh perspective. You wouldn’t be the same person you are today without them.
For that, you should recognize the unique power you have over what’s coming next in your life. Even if you can’t always change your circumstances, you can always change your attitude toward your circumstances.