It’s that time of year when people take stock of their lives and set new goals. Did you accomplish what you had set out to do, in the early days of 2019?
The tasks and setbacks of daily life have a way of eating up time, often leaving us, in the end, with a laundry list of regrets, or things we wish we had dared to do.
A study in the Journal of Palliative Medicine found that a bucket list—a list of things to accomplish before you die—is a simple framework that can be used to engage patients about their healthcare decision making.
Researchers conducted an online survey of 3,056 participants across the U.S. in 2015-16, and used the responses to identify six key bucket-list themes.
Around 91% of participants had a bucket list. Those who reported that faith, religion or spirituality was important to them were most likely (95%) to have a bucket list, compared with those who said it was unimportant.
According to the paper, the bucket list can serve several purposes: It is a tangible recognition of our mortality and the transience of our lifespans, and it allows us to reflect on our personal values and identify important life milestones and experiences that we want to have before we die.
The primary bucket list themes identified were:
- the desire to travel,
- desire to accomplish a personal goal,
- desire to achieve specific life milestones,
- desire to spend quality time with friends and family,
- desire to achieve financial stability, and
- desire to do a daring activity.
To get you inspired, here are some of the specific bucket list items researchers identified as examples of these themes.
Popular Bucket List Items to Inspire You in the New Year
Desire to Travel:
“Go to Japan.”
According to the study, the desire to travel, within the nation or internationally, was the most prevalent theme on the bucket list (78.5%). These are some of the places they listed.
“Backpack through Europe.”
People most likely to put travel on their bucket list were college-educated women (84.3%) followed by men under 65 years of age for whom faith was unimportant (80.6%). Pictured is Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
“Go to Hawaii.”
Unmarried men over 65 years were least likely to list travel (52.3%) on their bucket list.
Respondents also listed Australia as a desired travel destination.
“Cycle in Italy and France.”
Above, long-distance cyclists visit Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, France.
“See Niagara Falls.”
About 30 million people visit this geological wonder annually, according to Marriott Hotels.
“Visit presidential libraries.”
There are 13 presidential libraries around the U.S. Above, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.
“See Anne Frank House & Corrie ten Boom Museum.”
Pictured is the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. The ten Boom Museum is a museum dedicated to The Hiding Place, the subject of a book by Corrie ten Boom, who with her family helped Jews escape the Nazi Holocaust during World War II.
“Travel to see the pyramids.”
“Drive across the country.”
Pictured is Capitol Reef National Park in Utah.
“See Auschwitz & Bergen-Belsen.”
Anne Frank died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, which is in northern Germany. Pictured is the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial in Poland.
Other travel goals listed were “Go back to Hong Kong” and “Go on another short-term mission trip to distribute Bibles.”
Desire to Accomplish a Personal Goal
About 78% of the participants identified this desire, such as acquiring a master’s degree, on their bucket list. Some of the specific goals were:
“Fly on a private plane.”
“Be a backup singer for the Indigo Girls.”
Indigo Girls duo Amy Ray and Emily Sailers sing on stage at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, N.C., in 2016.
“I want to drive a Porsche car.”
Other personal goals included:
- “Get my license.”
- “Meet father's side of the family.”
- “I like to be able to swim in spite of age but first I need to know how to swim.”
- “Finish writing my book.”
“Run a marathon.”
Other goals participants mentioned included: “Become a tycoon,” “Pass my 1964 Sting Ray to my daughter” and “Visit my country of birth.”
Desire to Achieve Specific Life Milestones
This theme was cited by 51% of respondents. This category was most prevalent among women under 33 years and least common among unmarried people over 59. They included:
- “Marry my boyfriend.”
- “Take entire family on a trip overseas.”
- “Have a daughter.”
- “Grandkids graduate.”
- “Reach our 60th wedding anniversary.”
- “Get back together with my kids.”
- “See kids get married and have kids.”
- “Reconnect with some old friends.”
- “See my grandchild in Iowa.”
- “See my oldest son have children.”
- “Watch my nieces grow up.”
Desire to Spend Quality Time With Friends and Family
This was the fourth most common bucket list theme, at 16.7% of responses to the survey. Participants who were older than 63 were most likely to list this desire. Some of the responses included:
- “Spend time with family.”
- “Spend more time with family not in my area.”
- “Spend time with kids.”
- “Spend time with grandchildren.”
- “Spend time with beloved pets.”
- “Spend time with old friends.”
- “Spend time with all of my children together at the same time.”
- “Bring my seven siblings together and spend time.”
- “Open a gallery.”
Other life milestones cited were:
- “Stay with my husband through everything.”
- “Become a grandmother.”
- “Take in a foster child.”
Desire to Achieve Financial Stability
This desire was the fifth most common theme in the survey, with an overall prevalence of 16.1% across all ethnic groups and significantly higher in African Americans at 24.3%. Variations of this included:
- “Be financially stable.”
- “Have enough money where it is not stressful.”
- “Earn enough money so as not to have to worry in my golden years.”
- “Retire comfortably.”
- “Be financially at peace.”
- “Pay off all my debt,” or “Debt free by 45 years of age.”
- “Give all my savings to my ex-wife and kids.”
- “Save enough money for kids college.”
- “Pay the mortgage off.”
Desire to Do a Daring Activity
Wanting to do a daring activity was the last theme with a prevalence of 15%. Respondents under 26 years were much more likely, at about 30%, to report this bucket list item, compared with older participants over 61 (7.6%.)
Some of these items included:
“Run with the bulls.”
Above, the running of the bulls during the festival of San Fermin in Pamplona, Spain.
“Swim with the sharks.”
This is a thing, according to Conde Nast, which lists some of the best places to swim with sharks, in a cage or freestyle (depending on the type of sharks.) Shown here are tiger sharks in the Bahamas.
“Tackle a grizzly.”
This is not a thing. Unlike shark swimming, there’s really no tour guide that will take you out to tackle a grizzly. There are places, though, such as in Alaska, where you can observe them in the wild.
“Go on a zipline.”
Pictured is a zipline in the Philippines.
“Fly a P51 Mustang.”
This American long-range, single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber was invaluable to the Allied victory in World War II, according to the National WWII Museum in New Orleans.
This bucket list item is quite doable: a quick search will yield you results for taking a tour in a P-51 or even getting your P-51 Mustang flight training certificate.
“Surf 20-foot waves.”
The surfer shown here is on the north shore of Maui, where the big wave break is known as “Jaws.”
“Skydive and survive.”
Also listed: “Do bungee jumping”
“Dive off a bridge.”
This historic old bridge in Mostar, Bosnia, is famous for its bridge divers. Jumping or diving from the 79-foot-high bridge is a tradition that goes back 400 years.
“Go deep sea fishing.”
“Swim with humpback whales.”
“Do hang gliding.”
Above, hang gliding off Kobala mountain near Tolmin, Slovenia.
“Fish for sharks.”
The paper, written by Vyjeyanthi S. Periyakoil, MD, Eric Neri and Helena Kraemer, was published in the Journal of Palliative Medicine, May 1, 2018.