Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Life List trumps Bucket List

By Bill Starr, CEO of
Since the movie 'The Bucket List' came out in 2007, I've heard a lot of people compare a life list to a bucket list. But they are not exactly the same thing.

I first became aware of the concept of creating a life list after reading the story of the real-life Indiana Jones, John Goddard, in the first Chicken Soup for the Soul book in 1993. I had just graduated from university and was reading everything I could get my hands on to help me in my new career as a financial planner. As the story goes: "One rainy afternoon, an inspired 15-year-old boy named John Goddard sat down at his kitchen table in Los Angeles and wrote three words at the top of a yellow pad, "My Life List." Under that heading, he wrote down 127 goals. These were not simple or easy goals. They included climbing the world's major mountains, exploring from source to mouth the longest rivers of the world, piloting the world's fastest aircraft, running a mile in five minutes and reading the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. Now, a generation later, he has accomplished 109 of these quests, and has logged an impressive list of records in achieving them."

John Goddard created a road map for his future by writing down his life list. A bucket list, as referred to in the movie, is a list of all the things you want to do before you die. The key difference is outlook.

It’s important to see a life list, not as a static thing but a dynamic list that reflects the ongoing changes in your life. While I was young and single, I had education, sports and career goals at the top of my list. As I got older, I added more travel and adventure activities. Recently, I have been adding more family and lifestyle experiences to my list.

Although John Goddard started with a list of 127 goals, he added things to his list and has achieved more than 400 over the course of his life. I can assure you, John, now in his 80s, is not writing his bucket list. He has lived a full life and followed through on his life list by setting new goals all along. John is the original inspiration for and a few years ago, I had the pleasure to meet him at the Adventurers' Club in LA. With a twinkle in his eye and a presence that could make a rushing hippo stop, he greeted me as a kindred spirit.

So here’s my advice: Skip the bucket list and don’t rush to complete a finite number of goals before the end is near. Make your life – and your life list – something to strive for and savor every day.

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