Make a Bucket List Instead of a New Year’s Resolution

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By Marci Nault
Author of The Lake House

It’s that time of year again when everyone’s asking, “What’s your New Year’s resolution?” I’d like to offer a different approach to 2013: I challenge you to complete one item on your bucket list. Here are five reasons why going after a bucket-list item is better than making a resolution.

1) Resolutions fail because they start with the negative.
You take something you don’t like about yourself or your life and vow to make it better. In actuality you’re beginning your year by saying, “I’m not good enough and I should be better.”

2) The items on your list are the key to living the life you’ve always dreamed about. If you start your year deciding that you’ll accomplish one major dream in your life it will move you in a positive direction.

3) Making one of your biggest dreams come true leads to a healthier mind and body. Say you want to get in better shape (a typical New Year’s Resolution), but you hate the gym. What if you tried an activity you’ve always wanted to do, like ice skating, volleyball, or dancing? Once you start doing that activity you’ll look forward to it and find ways to do it more often leading to a healthier body and mind.

4) Going after your dreams can be good for your budget. This one might sound crazy. Many people look at their dreams and think financial constraints make it impossible. But if you make a promise to go after your biggest dream with everything you have and the only way to accomplish your goal is to get your finances under control you’ll be more willing to save, pay down bills, and not go out and do things that fill a void, because you’re putting your focus on a bigger goal.

5) Life is short. When you put off going after your biggest dreams you run the risk of regret. You’ll never look back at life and say, “I wish I’d created more New Year’s resolutions.” But what would you regret if you ran out of time?
So how do you choose what to pursue and how do you get there? Here’s a five-step activity to help you make the most out of 2013 and achieve one of your biggest life dreams. Think of how it will feel if at this time next year you’ve accomplished one of your biggest goals in life… and in five years from now when you’ve accomplished five of your bucket-list items.

Decide on a dream you’ve always wanted to pursue.
Make a list of everything you’ve ever thought about doing in your lifetime. This isn’t the time to be practical. What if there were no rules? What if you didn’t fear failure? Where would you go? What activities would you try? If you believed you could do anything for just a moment, what would you want?

A fun way to do this step is to invite supportive friends and family to join you for a “bucket list party” and promise to help one another pursue dreams.

Choose one dream to accomplish in 2013.
You may have a huge list, but narrow it down to one big dream you’ll accomplish this year. If you complete it before the end of the year, you can always go after another.

How do you choose? You can go one of two ways. Choose something that looks the easiest if you know you need a confidence boost that you can accomplish your dreams. Or choose one that causes the most fear. Fear is looked upon as a bad emotion—it can paralyze—but fear also means that you want this dream more than anything and it would actually hurt to not have it come true.

Take a blank piece of paper and write the dream at the top. Then make three columns.
—In the third column: Write the story of accomplishing your dream. What does it look like? How do you feel? Imagine it as vividly as you can.
—In the first column: Write everything that you believe is in your way of accomplishing your dream. You have to know your starting point in order to succeed.
—In the middle column: This is where you find the answers and the solutions to column one so that you can get to column three. You might not know the answers right away, but as opportunities open or you find the knowledge, write the solutions here.

Put this dream somewhere prominent where you’ll see it every day.
Make a promise to pursue your dream with everything you have no matter what happens, how afraid you become, or what gets in your way.

Say “yes” to any opportunity that will lead you to accomplishing your dream.
Your dreams are there for a reason—they lead you to the life you’re meant to live. You’re so much more than you believe and only in pursuing what matters most will you find out how amazing you and your life really are.

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