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In my digital journal, I've kept a page called "Bucket List", but I've kicked it out in favor of a new title: "Goals".

I've learned that the language you use and the story you tell yourself is fundamentally important to what you actually achieve and do. And maybe it goes even deeper than that. Maybe it's not just the language you use, but the personal meaning that you've ascribed to the concepts in that language. The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a bucket list as a list of things that one has not done but wants to do before dying. That's how I think of it too, but there's something about the concept for me that is far more forgiving than a list of goals. I think of the bucket list as a list of frilly things or nice-to-dos - just icing on the cake of life, which you never have to eat. Nobody's going to hold it against you if you don't do the things that are on your bucket list - not even yourself. Death is your deadline, after all.

I don't think that works for me, so instead, I've decided to change the title of my Bucket List to "Goals". The meaning of the two concepts are entirely different to me. Goals are much more real. For me, a goal implies a stronger intent to achieve it. A goal begs an action plan. A goal begs to be SMART:

  • Specific (and Significant)
  • Measurable (and Meaningful)
  • Attainable (and Action-oriented)
  • Realistic, Relevant (and Rewarding)
  • Time-Based (and Time-bound or Trackable)

To me, the things on a bucket list are just ideas. Possibilities. Opportunities. I'd rather think of them as "draft goals". They're worth writing down. But give them any careful thought and they might just as easily fall off the list as get prioritized and planned. So, now I have my list of goals - some prioritized and planned. Some SMART. Some, just draft ideas. But I don't have a bucket list anymore.

There are simply things I've done, things I will do, and things I might do - goals I've achieved, goals I will achieve, and then all the things that might or might not become goals. If they become goals, they'll get an action plan and evaluation against the principles of SMART. If they don't make it to that point, then they probably are just frilly ideas that don't deserve to stay on the list.