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April 25, 2014

Start a Bucket List Worth Keeping

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“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause…”

— Theodore Roosevelt


Teddy had it right.

A “worthy cause.” It’s a phrase tossed about with abandon any more, mostly by politicians, but also by self-serving celebrities who like to put their name or faces to something that may enhance their public profile or popularity quotient.

But, for you and I — the average working stiff or regular Joe or Jane — the notion of venturing off to deepest Africa to help fight the spread of AIDS in Third World villages might be a stretch.

Or is it?

Many of us have tossed around the idea of a bucket list. You know, “I’m definitely putting skydiving, just one jump even, on my bucket list.”

But, corny as it may sound to some, there’s a big old school of thought out there that says the idea of adding some good deeds for a ‘worthy cause’ to the bucket list can be as rewarding as that always-dreamed-of trip to the Super Bowl.

Caroline Adams Miller, MAPP, a certified professional coach and co-author of Creating Your Best Life: The Ultimate Life List Guide offers some solid ideas on how to go about compiling a bucket list that would make your mom proud.

“The list should consist of things you plan to attempt and want to reach for so that you leave behind the imprint you wanted to have,” says Miller.

The bucket list was popularized by the wildly successful 2007 movie of the same name in which two men (played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman) — both given grim health prognoses — set off on a series of adventures.

But, while Nicholson’s character, loaded and able to afford the wildest adventures possible, blew the bank in the movie, Miller is suggesting something much more pragmatic for you and I.

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“The research is clear,” Miller says. “The happiest people wake up every day to short and long-term goals that involve taking risks, connecting with others, and persistence.” Set specific, challenging objectives that move you beyond your comfort zone, she suggests. “Properly-set goals provide a roadmap for our lives, and we end up being proactive instead of reactive,” she notes. “We are also more optimistic because we are always looking forward, not behind.”

According to, physicians and those in the health field, for example, can make some of the biggest impacts in a bucket list-style contribution to the world.

Some doctors make this goal come true by working through Doctors Without Borders, an international humanitarian organization. For example, David Austin, MD, from Albion, Maine, has made four trips to underdeveloped countries, including Sudan, Congo and Haiti.

Likely, though, you’ve heard pitches wrapped in pitches and sometimes from an “inspirational speaker” who, let’s face it, usually has a catch by which he or she can make a buck off your dreams and sense of self inadequacy.

But, there’s a cat named Tal Gur who has a website entitled Below Zero to Hero that offers some pretty inspirational stuff for those of us who are looking for one or two important bucket list targets.

Sure, he too offers books and services, but Gur has lived some pretty amazing life experiences and offers some meaningful bucket list goals — goals that can make a difference in your life and that of others — that include some easily attainable targets.

bucket list image

If you look on his “1,000 bucket list ideas” page, you’ll find some admirable achievements. You’ll also find a smattering of silly ideas and a lot of duplicated bucket list goals (mentoring, blood donors, etc.)

But, a sample of some of those ideas offers some good starting points: “…48. Build Schools For Women and Girls in Developing Countries, 49. Buy a Cup of Coffee For a Cold Salvation Army Bell Ringer, 50. Buy a Stranger a Meal at a Restaurant, 51. Buy a Stranger’s Groceries, 52. Care Less About What People Think, 53. Change “My Story” to “What I Want my Life to Be,” 54. Change As Many Lives As I Can, 55. Change at Least One Person’s Mind About Gay Rights, 56. Change Someone’s Life For the Better, 57. Change Someone’s Point of View, 58. Complete 26 Random Acts of Kindness…

For those of us who need a little bump in the ideas department, there’s a book for that. Who knows, there may well be an app for that, too, but for now, consider Amazon’s listing for a book that could offer some simple suggestions.

Nearly 20 years ago, Conari Press published Random Acts of Kindness, and launched a simple movement — of people being kind to one another in their daily lives.

To celebrate the 20th anniversary of Random Acts of Kindness, the editors of Conari Press have compiled Random Acts of Kindness Then and Now, which includes the original book along with new material sourced from Facebook, Twitter, and various other social networks.

“It combines the best of 21st Century crowd-sourced wisdom with the best of 20th century social activism. The inspiration for the kindness movement, Random Acts of Kindness is an antidote for a weary world. Its true stories, thoughtful quotations, and suggestions for generosity inspire readers to live more compassionately in this beautiful new edition,” according to

The original Random Acts of Kindness was name a Best Bet for Educators in 2000 by USA Today. As well, there’s a compendium of hints provided by the blog clearing house

It suggests:

Making a Bucket List – The Basics

  • 1 – The easiest way is to simply start creating a list on a piece of paper. You can use a yellow legal pad, a page from a notebook, or the blank page of printer paper.
  • 2 – Most people are able to list the first 10-20 ideas before they get stuck. Don’t let that little lapse worry you. Just stay with it. All of a sudden your brain will get the idea that you are serious and cough up some more ideas.
  • 3 – A lot of people like to have a end game in sight so they assign a number to their list. Creativity and journal writing instructors often like to use the 100 List exercise. You’ll go through a series of waves when the ideas will come. Just stay with it. About the time you’re ready to give up the ideas will begin bubbling up to the surface once again.
  • 4 – Many people like to transfer their list into a more formal journal and put one item on one page. That way when they accomplish the item, they can write a few notes about the experience.
  • 5 – Others are happy to stay with the simple list and just cross of the item when finished.
  • 6 – Don’t wait to start your list. Begin now. Action begets action.

No on expects you to be Mother Teresa or to emulate St. Francis of Assisi in your lifetime, but it’s pretty much universally accepted that doing something good for someone close to you, or even for a stranger, is a simple strategy for making your community, your town or city, county or state a better place.

And, let’s face it, it makes us all feel a little better about ourselves.


Chris Malette is a retired newspaper journalist with 35 years of experience as a reporter and city editor. Over his career, Malette covered municipal and federal politics, military, health and court beats. He has reported from Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti and covered relief efforts in Honduras in the wake of Hurricane Mitch in 1998. He now works for SPN News as an editorial columnist.