Do you have a Life List? Can we talk about it for a while?

Graphic depicting a snippet of a numbered list with 'travel, hike, learn...'Do you have a Life List? A Bucket List? Whatever you call it, do you have a master list of things you'd like to accomplish before you die?

I didn't. Actually, I don't, if you want to get technical. But I'm working on it. Started a couple of days ago after I found myself reading Maggie Mason's Mighty Life List. I've peeked in at such lists several times over the years. It's hard to say why this time felt different, but it did. Suddenly I was overcome by this feeling that I'd wasted way too much time and I'd better get on it. "Better late than never!" Right?

Did you know that making a list of 100 Things To Do Before You Die is harder than it sounds? But not necessarily for the reasons you might think. Actually, after discussing it with sis and another girlfriend on Friday night, it became clear to me that the complications behind compiling such a list might be more personal than I'd realized. While I was struggling to get my list back down to 100 things, they were both like, "Uh, I don't know if I could come up with a whole 100 things!" Oh. Okay.

It's probable that part of the reason my list is so long is related to my recent trip. Being away from home for 6 weeks brought me in contact with so many different things I'd like to try, so many new possibilities. Meanwhile, I can imagine that if I had a 4 or 5 year old and was maintaining a career, marriage, and household, making a list like the one I'm working on could be on a way 'nother priority level. Of course my theory has holes all up in it: Maggie Mason of the aforementioned inspiring list is doing the mommy thing. Still, blogging and public challenges like this are all wrapped up in her career proper. So maybe it's different, I don't know. Or maybe there are just Likes To Make Honkin' Lists people and there are Doesn't Like To people. Enough. Back to my discoveries while making the list, then?

I'm intrigued with the whole process. And I'm intrigued with the fact that what seemed like a straightforward activity has turned into this... this multi-limbed obstacle. Still, I have this feeling that making a list like this could be a game changer, if approached as such.

Since starting my list, I've encountered more curiosities than expected. AKA, Questions:

  • 100 might be a nice, tidy number, but isn't it really sort of arbitrary? What if I have 124 things I want to accomplish before I die? Shouldn't they all appear in my list?
  • If I had created this list 15 years ago, I would have written "learn to throw pots," and "learn to develop film and print photos in a dark room." I've accomplished both these things already. So what's the rule on things I've already done? In or out?
  • What about the things that can only be accomplished before other goals on the list? If an item is really a multi-part entry, do they both make it onto the list? Or just the final biggie?
  • What if I do change my mind about some of the items in a year? Then what?
  • What about private goals? I realize that lots of the people who might read this aren't bloggers and therefore the question of privacy is perhaps a non-issue. But in a world with Facebook, lots of my friends post tons of things on Facebook that wouldn't be put out into the wider world. So the question still stands - how does one handle goals that are absolutely worthy but which it's not really necessary for everybody and their momma to know about?

I'm still working through these and other emerging questions, but I've decided on a few rules of thumb for my own list-making process. AKA, Answers:

  • It's my list and therefore I get to decide how many items make it on and how many don't. 100 IS, in some ways, pretty arbitrary. But I'm thinking about using the number, still. We have to have some sort of limits in life, right?  A sort of framework within which to work? Makes things manageable, right? Plus, just because something didn't make it onto my list doesn't mean the experience will be unimportant or insignificant.
  • What does your Life List look like?I'm creating a couple of sub-lists, which will make the last statement easier. :) First, I have a separate list for "Things that would have been included if I'd made my list 15 years ago," and yet another list for "Things I'm still on the fence about; maybe I want to do this and maybe I don't."
  • I'm handling the multi-layered ones on a case-by-case basis. I started to write a goal about taking sailing lessons, because I've always thought that sounded like something I'd really love to do. And? I've never actually been sailing. So maybe "go sailing" is a good one for the list, and "take sailing lessons" is a good one for the "maybe list." I can always add it later if I want.
  • Because it's my list, and I realize there will always need to be room for anything related to my own goals to evolve and shift, I'm perfectly fine with keeping room for things to fall off the list later, and be replaced by something else. However, to make sure there's no corner cutting or blatant "cheating," if something falls off the list, it must be replaced either by something on the alternate list, or something new that has equal level of difficulty.
  • There is no legend gauging level of difficulty. This ain't a science project. I'm a smart woman. I know that "Walk a labyrinth" is not an acceptable replacement for "Hike to the top of Machu Picchu."
  • There are also no external judges as to whether or not something is an appropriate replacement. It's my list. I make the rules. But I like to think of myself as someone who conducts her life with more than a modicum of authenticity. Plus, I think that working through a Life List will give me all sorts of growth opportunities and room for learning and expanding the quality of my life. If I were to blatantly "cheat," I'm the one who loses in the end.
  • Regarding privacy, there are scads of personal things that don't ever make it into my blog. That's why we're given boundaries and filters. I can handle this on a case-by-case basis. Some things may not make it onto the list at all. Others might be published in partial format. For example, "Meet my personal financial goals" might be sufficient, without declaring, "Become a squillionaire before I die." (Incidentally, my financial goals don't include vague statements like this, regardless of the made up number. Just sayin.)

There's a lot more to be said on this topic. in fact, I can see my blog getting a new lease on life, now that I've decided to create this list. Something about having a sort of road map to follow just opens things up in fresh new ways.

Also, when my list is finished, I do intend to publish it on my blog. It and its companion lists, along with "the rules" - possibly refined by then - for reference. Then I can link to any related blog posts, as they emerge.

I'd love to hear from other people writing their own lists, whether yours is of this magnitude, even longer, or otherwise. Any lessons to pass on? It will be fun to get other perspectives on this topic! Until then, here's to creating more conscious, deliberate lives, no matter what your methods...