How to Build a Bucket List Rather Than Create Short-term Resolutions

Updated Jan 24, 2024
How to Build a Bucket List Rather Than Create Short-term Resolutions

Surrender a bucket list to God for a more abundant, full life than you could ever imagine!

If you're like me, you're not a big fan of making New Year's resolutions. This is not because I don't normally keep them, but because I only end up improving one small part of my life for a short time rather than every facet of my life forever. New Year’s resolutions also focus on short-term self-improvement, which eliminates our need for the Holy Spirit’s transformative work. However, in addition to making New Year's resolutions, I also have a bucket list. This is a list of all the things I want to do in life. It’s exciting to brainstorm and dream of all the things I’d love to accomplish in life. I have items as simple as seeing a Broadway show, to something more complicated like getting my doctorate or seeing all fifty states. Resolutions fix what’s broken; bucket lists allow us to dream! 

Many people have a bucket list. The bucket list originated from a movie called “The Bucket List” where Jack Nicholson, who learned he was dying of cancer, spent the remaining months of his life doing everything he wished he could do. This movie inspired many people to create a bucket list, including me. Although I have not updated my bucket list in a while, I always tell myself I'm going to get to it, but never do. This year, instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I add items to my bucket list that make for a life focused on adventure and enjoyment rather than on self-improvement. Although this goes against society’s norms of creating resolutions, I learned that to enjoy my life I must learn to live it to the fullest. 

Here's how I added items to my bucket list instead of making resolutions:

Keep It Simple

The idea of the bucket list is to allow ourselves to dream. Dreaming can be more difficult as we get older because life and its trials weigh on us. This makes the concept of dreaming more difficult. We stop dreaming and hoping for the future as we age because we're afraid our dreams will be dashed, and we will never achieve the things we want out of life. The bucket list helps resurrect those dreams. 

If you have trouble dreaming, it might be best to start small. What are some small dreams you'd like to see accomplished? Often, we think bucket lists have to be grandiose adventures that cost a lot of time, money, and resources. But that doesn't have to be the case. Maybe a bucket list item is to pay off your home in fifteen years rather than thirty. Perhaps another bucket list item is to have a rental home to make a side income. The more you add items to your bucket list, the better your chances of accomplishing your dreams. Start small and you'll quickly find dreams become more vivid as time goes on.

Revise Bucket List Items Often 

I wrote down my first bucket list almost twenty years ago. I wrote it down in a book that remains on my bookshelf. I review it from time to time just to remind myself of some of the things I want to accomplish. There are some things I still want to happen and there are other things I don't want anymore. That's okay! Think back to years gone by. What did you use to dream about? Start there. Often, our most vibrant and difficult-to-accomplish dreams are the ones we dreamed about when we were younger. When we're young, life is simpler. We don't have as many responsibilities weighing us down and we still have many years of our life left. It's easy to dream and discover what our life might look like. As we get older, however, our physical bodies have limitations that don't allow us to achieve the same dreams we once had. Additionally, financial challenges and saving for retirement in an ever-changing economy also pose a challenge.

Ask the Lord to help you recall the dreams you had when you were younger. Write those down. Even if you never get to them, having them on a single list that serves as a constant reminder to you of what you once wanted, will help give you hope for the future. Then add additional bucket list items based on affordability, time, limitations, etc. Bucket lists can be as crazy as you want or as doable as you want. The possibilities are endless! Life changes and so do we. Our bucket lists should reflect that. 

Don’t Tackle Them All at Once

It can seem insurmountable to want to tackle all the bucket list items. This can seem overwhelming. This is not the purpose of the bucket list. The bucket list is to allow us to dream and discover the possibilities of all that life may offer us. It is to offer us hope rather than anxiety or fear. The good thing about having a bucket list with both small, accomplishable dreams and larger, seemingly impossible ones is that the more we accomplish the smaller ones, the more hope we have in accomplishing the bigger ones. Seek to accomplish one bucket list item for the year. If you can do it before the year is done, accomplish another. There's no limit on what you can do with the list. The list is simply a way to brainstorm your greatest adventures. Be in tune with what you want out of life and seek to accomplish these goals one by one. 

Seek the Lord

Above all, seek the Lord on these items. What we want for our lives and what the Lord has for our lives can be very different things. The prophet Joel in the Old Testament communicated God’s heart. The Book of Acts repeats this prophesy: “In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17). This doesn't mean we can't have a bucket list; it simply means we must yield our lives to Christ and allow God to dictate those items. We must be content with not accomplishing everything on our bucket list. We must also be content with allowing God to accomplish many of those things. While we have this life to live, we must yield our lives to whatever God has for us. This includes our bucket lists. Surrender a bucket list to God for a more abundant, full life than you could ever imagine!

With the ever-changing world in which we live, dreaming is more important than ever. When life seems out of control or full of despair, we know we can rely upon our renewed ability to dream. God promises that he will give dreams to his people. His dreams are about completing his will on earth. Bucket list items inspire us to become more adventurous, more hopeful, and more willing to live life to the fullest. Make your bucket list today and have fun. Make the beginning of each year a time when you add to that list. Based on your experiences from the previous year, what new items can you add to your list? Allow a bucket list to let you become more excited about life and all the possibilities it may hold. 

Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/MichellePatrickPhotographyLLC

Writer Michelle LazurekMichelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog. For more info, please visit her website