How to Make a Life List You’ll Actually Do: A Comprehensive Guide
There is only one success: to be able to spend your life in your own way. ~ Christopher Morley
The principle of the life list is simple. You list all the things you want to do in life, and cross them off as you do them. Try to do them all before you die.
It’s easy and fun to make one, but to create a list of dreams that will actually come true is not quite as simple as merely writing down what you want.
You may have made a life list before. Where is it now? Probably in a landfill, like most life lists. It’s too easy to let life get in the way. You get busy, tied up with more immediate concerns, and your dreams become less and less relevant to your actual life.
But not everyone’s list gets abandoned. John Goddard is known best for living out the ambitious life list he made at age fifteen.
Even though it includes many difficult and humongous items (for example, number 113 is “Become proficient in the use of a plane, motorcycle, tractor, surfboard, rifle, pistol, canoe, microscope, football, basketball, bow and arrow, lariat and boomerang,”) as of today he’s checked off 111 of his 127 goals, and some are partially complete.
Why did that 15 year-old boy’s list go on to define a lifetime of achievement and adventure, while most life lists are eventually forsaken?
Because he really meant it.
The Two Keys: Intention and Integrity
Everyone has a purpose in life. Perhaps yours is watching television. ~ David Letterman
The most important rule:
Make this a list of intentions, not wishes. Most life lists are wish lists. They’re a joy to make, but most are only good for an afternoon of giddy daydreaming. This is because the authors have no real intention to do the things they dream about. For the few hours it takes to draft a list it almost seems like these goals really are going to materialize out of thin air. It’s like you’re at a grand buffet of experiences, taking whatever you want for free. I’ll take a Harley Davidson here, a Tuscan getaway there…
Making the list is easy. But ten years later, the hike in the Pyrenees, the Boston Marathon, and the million-dollar business never happened, because they were only what you wanted to happen, not what you wanted to do. A person can accomplish an incredible amount in one lifetime, but only what they actually intend.
Make sure the list has integrity to you. A list with integrity is one you take seriously. This is essential. You have to revere this list, working from it for years to come, rather than just drawing it up and slowly forgetting about it. So don’t add items on a whim. Think about what they entail. Do you actually want to go through the ins and outs of learning Italian, or were you just daydreaming after watching The Godfather?
Make sure each item has real, personal significance, and isn’t just “This would be kinda neat.” Anyone could add “see Mount Fuji” or “learn karate” to their list but if you aren’t prepared to pay for a trip to Japan at some point, or spend months in karate class, then these experiences aren’t personally significant enough for you to make them happen. Let them go. Pick something better.
Filling your list with frivolous, “hey why not” fantasies is the perfect way to make sure you don’t follow through. If there are too many items that don’t inspire you to act on them, you’ll stop working on the items that do, and the list will be doomed.
Keep the list pure: important items only.
Here’s the litmus test for potential list items: imagine yourself actually going through with it, including all the legwork. Imagine as many physical details of the experience as possible. If the thought doesn’t fill you with enthusiasm, if it doesn’t make your soul grin, it doesn’t belong on the list. Would you honestly enjoy reading the entire works of Shakespeare? In reality, few would, and few do.
Be audacious, but not unrealistic. Dream big, but know that at the end of the day consideration must be given to the amount of time and money each goal will require. “Own an NFL team” requires eight or nine figures of capital to make a reality, so unless you intend to spend years of your life striving to reach that astronomical level of income, leave it off. It won’t happen.
If you want to read Modern Library’s 100 best novels of all time, be aware that you are committing to thousands of hours of reading books that you may not like at all. Maybe tone it down and make a short list of classics that really do interest you. It’s far better to check off a big accomplishment than give up on a humongous one that you don’t really want.
Remember, every item you add to the list is going to make the rest more difficult to some degree. You can accomplish a lot in one lifetime, but there is only so much time and money (and patience) to go around. The smaller your list, the more likely you will honor it. After all, unless you want relatively little, you can’t do everything you want to do. If you aren’t sure you want to do it, leave it off until you are.
Whittle it down to the truly important, and try to picture what kind of lifestyle is going to be required support it. Cost-versus-benefit really is a factor here: it would be cool to stand at the North Pole, but the thrill of it probably isn’t worth the time or effort for the vast majority of people.
There’s more to the post. Click the above link for the rest. There are some great tips on how to make a Life List. I’m ready to get started on mine. Are you?