We all know what a regular bucket list is.
It’s a list of things you want to do before you, well…kick the bucket. And they can be really inspiring because they encourage you to leave your comfort zone and outline your life goals. But sometimes, they can make you feel a little bad about yourself, can’t they? You write them when you’re all motivated but then you lose steam when you see all those things you haven’t accomplished. That’s where the reverse bucket list comes in!
It’s not at all bad to have a list of things you want to accomplish. But, in order to counteract all the bad feelings that might come with not achieving those goals, you should have a reverse bucket list as well. A reverse bucket list is a powerful exercise in gratitude that reminds us what we’ve already accomplished. It helps us practice being able to call on good thoughts. That trait comes in very handy for solving problems or being the force of light in dark situations. You can check out this study by The Journal of Positive Psychology for more information on how “grateful recounting” can enhance well-being.
A reverse bucket list also calls on nostalgia, which researchers have recently started seeing as more positive than they originally thought. An article by The New York Times in 2013 states that, while it can be a bittersweet emotion, nostalgia makes life seem more meaningful. Participating in this exercise where you literally look back on all the wonderful things you’ve done fosters that warm and fuzzy feeling.
So, here’s how you make a reverse bucket list.
First, I’d suggest looking at some other ones for inspiration. You might not realize how many awesome things you’ve done until you see what other people think is awesome! Personally, I live a 30-minute train ride from New York City, so it seems a little silly to get excited over Broadway, Rockefeller Center at Christmas, etc. But those places are a dream for some people! So if you’re feeling uninspired, check out someone else’s reverse bucket list for ideas.
Beyond that, just let the inspiration flow! For people who practice gratitude often, it may be easy to think of a list. If you’re new to this, associative brainstorming may help. That’s when you come up with some obvious ideas, and use those to come up with new ones. For example, one of my obvious reverse bucket list items was graduating from college. I associated that with other accomplishments such as being on the dean’s list or being admitted to graduate school. Mapping them out visually might be helpful, too.
So, that should be enough to get you started! Use my list below for inspiration, and feel free to chat with me in the comments abut it. I love instilling hope in others, and I really believe in the power of this exercise. Good luck!
Nicole’s Reverse Bucket List
- Went to prom (it was terrible)
- Graduated from high school (it was great)
- Graduated with honors from college- the first person in my family!
- Was accepted to graduate school- the only one I applied to!
- Earned the votes to be president of a school organization
- Worked on several academic research projects I’m passionate about
- Had drinks with my favorite professors- this was on my regular bucket list!
- Presented research at two national conferences
- Paid for my own classes
- Was inducted into Psi Chi, the psychology honors fraternity at West Chester University
- Crashed a fraternity formal
- Paid my LAST tuition bill– now it’s time to get started on those loans!
- Graduated from my master’s program. Literally just the other day!
Career and Passion Accomplishments
- Started a blogging business that made a profit
- Started a second blog (this one!) to focus on therapy
- Published a short story in a magazine
- Began working in my field of marriage and family therapy
- Made a difference for a family in need
- Worked at a Head Start pre-school, where I learned more from the kids than they learned from me!
- Survived an entire summer day in a giant Subway sandwich costume. Not a passion project, but an accomplishment nonetheless.
- Learned to use a DSLR camera
- Learned to edit photos using Photoshop and Lightroom
- Practiced my photography skills at The Met in New York City
- Saw Grease on Broadway
- Ate lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square
- Saw the Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center (haven’t ice skated yet though!)
- Visited Boston- I’d take it over NYC any day!
- Saw the breathtaking Lincoln Memorial (and lots of other good stuff!) in Washington D.C.
- Was disappointed in the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia (it’s smaller than you think!)
- Knocked 12 states of the “to visit” list!
- Saw the Hollywood sign and visited Disneyland in California
- Road tripped with my friend to by a tax-free camera in Delaware
- Visited Disney World in Florida
- Ate alligator meat in Florida. It tastes EXACTLY like chicken. Freaked me out.
- Drank at Seacrets in Ocean City, Maryland, one of the most famous bars in the USA
- Was absolutely eaten alive by no-seeums in the Outer Banks, North Carolina.
- Lived in another state on my own– Pennsylvania
- Attended a creative writing conference in Houston, Texas
- Visited five other countries
- Rode the Maid of the Mist in Niagara Falls
- Took cruises where I was able to feed fish, snorkel, and ride a wave runner
- Gambled in Atlantic City (and met Dennis Rodman, but that’s a story for another day!)
- Learned to crochet
- Held a skunk
- Experienced heartbreak
- Fell in love again
- Became friends with someone I thought I’d hate
- Kissed a stranger
- Sang on stage alone
- Went paddle boarding in the ocean
- Learned to speak Italian
- Completed a genogram of my family and learned about who I am
- Got in touch with relatives who live in Italy
- Found an amazing group of girl friends after resigning myself to being better with guys