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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Forget the list. Fill the bucket.

I love lists. Currently, at least a half a dozen of them populate my desk on scratch paper, old envelopes, and notebooks.  Things to do, groceries to buy, menus to plan, candidates to interview, and places to travel.  My hard drive contains lists of chapters to revise and writing ideas to … well … write. 

Last week, in honor of my 40th birthday, I began construction on a new list.  A big one. I planned to name forty accomplishments in my life and then to identify forty more I still plan to achieve. On Saturday morning, I opened a file, fully intending to use the quiet of the morning before anyone has awoken to complete my task: write something meaningful regarding the lists and post my blog entry for the week.  Easy peasy.

Except I only got to 16.  Hmm.  Really? 

A bit dejected and not wanting to spoil the birthday buzz I'd worked up, I closed the file rapidly.  A few days later, I tried again, adding only five more items to the list.

I spent a couple of more days kind of beating myself up over it.  How could I not have more to write down? Had I not done anything worthwhile or is my memory so bad that I just can't remember it? Why bother with a list of 40 more things I want to do when I haven't managed much in the first place? And what the heck am I going to write about in the blog now?

After stewing a bit on that, I came to a pretty important conclusion.  Screw the list. Perhaps, I've overstated that.  I do still have a desk full of lists, after all.  It's just that maybe this particular list is less important than I thought.

I can't really live my life by whether or not an accomplishment is list-worthy. In part, I realized that the list was so hard because I spent too much time analyzing what would sound like an accomplishment to other people. I don't believe for a second that I haven't done many more than forty good things.  It doesn't make all those unremembered achievements less valuable because they didn't make it onto this oh-so-irrelevant blog posting.

Just like the novels I write are worthwhile even if they're never published.

I found this article which argued that a bucket list keeps you on track—helps you see the big picture.  Sure.  I agree.  But I think I liked the sentiment in the picture more.

 Time to stop making lists and fill the damn bucket. 

1 comment:

  1. About halfway through your post I was like "yeah! I'm gonna make a list!" But you're right... In my mind I started viewing the "things accomplished" as more of a bragging rights tool... Like I was listing things that would impress people, and convince them--as well as myself-- that I'd done some worthwhile somethings with my life.

    I am also a compulsive list maker, but it's true that at some point you have to step away from the list and just start DOING things. Thanks for the reminder!