I want to talk about bucket lists. And not in a cheesy, dreamy, make-a-film-with-Morgan-Freeman way. I want a bucket list ‘real talk’ addressing why business owners need a bucket list – and how to go about making one. Hint: do it before you kick the bucket!

Building a business takes hard work, commitment and passion. It requires long hours at the office (you know it!), regular battles to balance the books, and laser-beam focus to produce small incremental improvements.  In fact, a recent report from Bank West confirmed that small business owners work longer than any other sector in the business community with an average of 51 hours per week clocked up. This helps explains why many business owners struggle to achieve a work / life balance.

Although no owner sets out to make the business his life, a business owner can easily become consumed by his work. This gradual imbalance happens over a period of time – occurring especially when you enjoy running your business and you are good at it. After a while, it becomes hard to image what you would do with your life if you didn’t go to work. You become fixated on driving your business and improving its performance.

What is a Bucket List?

Simply put, a ‘bucket list’ is a list of the things that you want to do before you ‘kick the bucket’ or die. This term became part of popular culture in 2007 with the release of the Bucket List movie. This charming film features Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman cast as two terminally ill men who meet in hospital and decide to go on a road trip together to complete their wish list before they “kicked the bucket”. The results are both hilarious and heartwarming.

Why is a Bucket List valuable?

A bucket list is valuable because it assists you to claw back balance in your life. It provides perspective. Not only can will you derive great satisfaction from achieving your ‘bucket list’ goals, you’ll find that the ‘bucket list’ provides a meaningful focus for your life outside of work.

Bucket List benefits include:

Staying in touch with your purpose

Having a list helps keep you in touch with what you want out of life in a broader sense, as what you note down is likely to reflect what is most important to you. When the daily routine of life sets in, it can be easy to let days pass without having much thought about your goals and desires. When you review the items on your bucket list, you keep yourself focused and energised.

Achieving your goals

Having a bucket list helps you to achieve your goals via the accountability of mortality. Identifying and planning to achieve your goals puts you a good way towards achieving them.

Living a full life with no regrets

As you complete the items on your bucket list, you are filling your life with memorable events. When your time comes to die (it’s a downer, but it is coming for everyone), you will be much more likely to have no regrets. Whilst this doesn’t mean that you will do everything you want to do – but even achieving a small short-term goal will give you a sense of satisfaction.

Bucket List Examples

Here are some things that I’ve managed to tick off my own ‘bucket list’.

#1 – Join the Circus

Joining the circus was an impulsive activity to put on my bucket list, but one I was ready to embrace when the opportunity arose.

I have always loved the circus and I have fond memories of my family taking me to the Moscow Circus whenever it was in town. I loved the animals, the clowns and most of all the high wire acts. Years later, I took my family to Cirque du Soleil. – things in the circus world had changed as there were no longer any animal acts, but there were still amazing clowns and high wire acts. From a young age I had thought about the excitement of being part of a circus somehow – but as an adult it always seemed too difficult a dream. This all changed four years ago when my daughter Eliza asked whether she could attend a trapeze training clinic. Upon further enquiry, I found out that adults could also attend the clinic – and here was my chance to enter the world of the circus and fly on the trapeze!

The adrenalin rush from swinging on the trapeze was fantastic – it helped me to let go, to trust myself and the clinic instructors. I had four goes at flying in three hours, and it was such a buzz trying something new and pushing my limits.

#2 – Climb a Mountain

Climbing a mountain was a planned activity on my bucket list, which required research, preparation and training.

A few years ago I was in rut. Each year seemed to be passing quickly and I felt as though I was treading water. I needed to get out of my comfort zone, to do something incredible. My neighbour John is very keen hiker and had been looking for others to join him on some advanced treks. I enjoy hiking and in my twenties I travelled to Nepal to climb mountains. Together we decided to climb Mt Kilimanjaro, which was highest peak in Africa at 5,895 meters (19,336 feet). It is also one of the highest points in the world that can be reached without mountaineering equipment – ropes and crampons.

Our summit trek took 7 days with 5 days of climbing and 2 days of descending. The key difficulties that we faced were the extreme height and the cold. On the climb to the summit, the temperature can fall to minus 20 Celsius; so good protective clothing is a must. At this height the air is so thin that your body can struggle to adapt, leading to altitude sickness.

The first few days of our trek were gentle climbing designed to assist with acclimatisation. By the end of Day 4, we arrived at the base camp – 4,700 meters. It was here that one of our team was forced to descend after an extended bout of severe headaches and vomiting caused by altitude sickness. We rested for a few hours before being woken at 23.00 for the 6 hour, 1200 meter climb to the summit. We put on our boots, thermal leggings, three pairs of trousers and as many socks, fleeces and gloves as would fit.

We started off on our climb using head torches to illuminate our path. After 2 hours of climbing I felt exhausted and could no longer keep up with the group. Somehow I persisted by climbing 10 steps up and then stopping to catch my breath. This continued for several hours until I finally arrived at the summit thoroughly exhausted. It really comes down to how you find the motivation to keep going. As I sat on top of the mountain, I felt transformed. What seemed impossible in my life might just be doable now. The mountain top is a place for vision, inspiration, and a new beginning.

Three Steps to a Great Bucket List

Step 1 – Create Your List

This initial step is a creative process where brainstorming occurs. Think of the activities you want to do, the places you want to visit and people you want to meet. Write them down on paper to create a permanent record – include some easily achievable bucket list items for easy wins, too.

Remember – there are no right or wrong entries here.

Step 2 – Review and Prioritize

When you review your entries, think about how achievable your entries are. While you can put “go to moon” on your bucket list, you’ll get more out of the process if you choose achievable items so you can visualize them happening.

Make it a living document by reviewing and updating regularly.

Step 3 – Action Your Bucket List and Reward Yourself

Make steps to move you closer to your goals. For example – if you want to go to India but can’t afford it currently, take steps to move you closer to your goal. Consider going to an Indian festival, cooking your own authentic Indian meal at home, or seeing a Bollywood movie.

Consider using ‘bucket list’ items as rewards for achieving significant personal or business goals. As you complete your important goals, reward yourself from your bucket list. Remember to build in accountability by sharing your list with others such as your family.

Start your bucket list today with an open mind.

Thing big and think small, and your bucket list will develop naturally.

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This blog is brought to you by Rob Jagger.