The Bucket List: And Why Sometimes You Should Ignore It

There’s something about reaching a milestone age that makes you reflect on your life and wonder whether you’ve achieved what you thought you should have by now.

Ignore The Bucket List

I’m turning 30 in a little over a month, and my feelings as the date draws closer and closer have been a bit mixed. The other day I had a flashback to some Chinese lanterns and patterned robes and I realised that I remember my Mum’s 30th birthday party. Yikes. When she was my age she had three kids, two of whom were old enough to remember the event. And when I was younger, I thought I’d be at that stage of my life by now, too.

I’ve always been a list kind of a girl. When I was about ten I created a list of things I wanted to achieve each year for the rest of my life (working on the assumption that I’d live to be 100, of course). I predicted that when I was 13 I would start my first job (I actually began working at 15). I envisioned myself getting married at 21 (I wasn’t far off at 22) and I thought that I, like my Mum, would have three kids by the time I turned 30. I’m pretty sure that my list, now only good for comedic value, is floating around in a storage box in Australia somewhere.

Ignore The Bucket List

My life is nothing like what I once thought it would be (mostly because travel ruined all of my plans) but I still find myself making lists. It seems that all bloggers (or perhaps it’s not just a blogger thing) have a list of sorts, whether it’s 30 things to achieve before turning 30, 12 destinations to visit in a year or some other variation of these.

I wrote my very own 30 before 30 list once; a bucket list of sorts, which turned out to be so ambitious that in the end I stopped looking at it, because I knew there was no way I could complete everything in time. I did manage to achieve a few things I intended to, but ticking items off didn’t make me feel any more accomplished.

And then I realised something that should have been obvious to me a long time ago: life is about so much more than ticking items off lists.

Ignore The Bucket List

If all I’m focused on is trying to cross off achievements from a self-imposed list, when am I actually making time to appreciate the things I’m doing and the people I’m with? And, more importantly, there’s no way to quantify the things that really matter in life. I can’t tick a box that says I’ve been a better wife. That’s something I have to work on every day. And keeping in touch with friends shouldn’t be a task, or something to complete and move on from. It should be a daily ambition.

Don’t get me wrong: lists are great.

I still love them, and my days are often structured around them. There are, of course, plenty of things I want to see, do and achieve but as I turn 30 and reflect on my life, I want to take a moment to pause and celebrate the things I’ve done and the person I am working hard to be instead of dwelling on those empty squares; the absent ticks that just make me feel inadequate.

Instead of constantly striving for the next achievement, I am going to focus on celebrating the things that I have already done. Rather than wishing for the Instagram-worthy life that I foolishly envy in other people, I want to stop and appreciate the small, private, real moments that make my life what it is.

And on that day, in 6 weeks’ time, I will focus on all of the blessings in my life: my friends around the world, my family that loves me unconditionally, my husband who makes every day so much brighter, the career I still can’t quite believe is real and so many more things that a list just seems too small to contain.

Ignore The Bucket List

So here’s to turning 30, and to every year beyond that. May each milestone be measured not by a series of checked boxes but by the quality of friendships, depth of relationships and integrity of decisions that truly defines a life as one that’s being well lived.

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  • Jessi says:

    Great post Elle – I agree that while lists can give a good focus, sometimes they just get in the way! I definitely have ideas about what I want to achieve but now I try not to tie myself down to a list or strict timeframe :)

  • kate says:

    You seem to have led a very privileged life so far! I’m pushing 50 and spent most of my adult life just surviving, I was in a marriage for 13 years where my husband beat me up regularly, then left him after he beat me up i n front of the kids and spent the next 12 years trying to bring them up and make ends meet, got into debt, got out of it again, learnt lots of lessons. It’s only now I feel I’m beginning to get my life into shape and begin to do some things for me. Foreign travel has been a dream, but one that’s been unattainable, I couldn’t watch travel shows on tv for bout 20 years because they just made me incredibly sad. Don’t get me wrong, my family have had good times and we’ve learnt so much about adversity and the generosity and support of those around us has got us through. We have a lovely home and a car and food in the cupboard, but I’ve had to scrub toilets and other peoples kitchen floors to make ends meet. I’m doing a degree at the moment to try and make a better life for me and mine, another challenge. But having to push through and strive makes you so grateful for the simple things in life. I know hen I reach a place when I am better off I will be so mindful of looking after those who aren’t as lucky. I want to go into social work. Life is for living and there is so much more to it than making lists. It’s good to have dreams and ambitions, but that can distract you from being grateful for what you have in the here and now.
    Today I am grateful for my health, for three amazing kids, for food in the cupboards and the love and support of family and friends.

  • Monica says:

    Ahh I love this. Yey to a life well lived :)

    I’ve actually just started my 30 before 30 bucket list so I don’t 100% agree. I really like having lists and the sense of achievement you feel when you tick things off. My main problem is that when I don’t have a list, I don’t seem to get anything done. This is mostly on a day-to-day basis with work and chores but also on the bigger life scale too. I guess it’s important to find the balance between living in the present and appreciating the things that matter but also achieving some big things too.

    • Elle Croft says:

      Yep, I definitely still love lists, and I have plenty of things I want to see and do – but I suppose I just don’t want my life to be defined by it. So a balance is for sure the key :-)

  • tam says:

    Amen to that! Excellent post :)

  • Jayne says:

    Hurrah! I love this post and have nothing to add except that I whole-heartedly agree with your way of looking at life/turning 30. Have a very happy celebratory birthday :)

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