Last Updated on March 3, 2021
Welcome bucket lister! So you’re looking for things to put on a bucket list huh?
This post has some interesting, unique, suggestions but it’s more than just a list of ideas, it includes a crash course on how to choose bucket list items that will steer you towards your best life, a life worth living.
The science of Positive Psychology studies the life activities that contribute most to happiness and life satisfaction. In this post, we lean heavily on their scientific insights as we try to help you choose items for your bucket list.
A good life to-do list will include some typical bucket list items and some of the most popular bucket list items, you know… the “cool things to do bucket list”.
But don’t forget to include stuff that will enrich your life and have a more special meaning to you.
Life Is Short So Think Carefully When Choosing What To Pack Into Yours
We don’t think it’s helpful to overwhelm our readers with 10,000 bucket list examples so you’ll find fewer suggestions here than other places. We’ve been more choosy, exactly like you should be with your list!
A meaningful bucket list is really a packing list for your life, you need to decide what is essential and what you can leave out.
Some cool bucket list experiences might be short-term fun but in the grand scheme do little to contribute to your overall life satisfaction. Simply packing your life with cool experiences can ultimately feel kind of hollow. There is more to a life well-lived than pleasure-seeking.
To answer the question ‘What makes a good bucket list?’ we must also ask ‘What makes a good life?’.
Good bucket list goals will contribute to your flourishing as a human being and not just be empty trips to overhyped tourist attractions or a box-ticking exercise designed to give you something to brag about to your buddies.
We want to go deeper than that.
The 5 Types Of Bucket List Ideas You Need To Know About To Help You Live A Good Life
Perhaps younger readers will not immediately grasp the significance of this section.
After all, a bucket list is just a list of awesome fun things to do right?
Well, it can be, but perhaps this list won’t be the best bucket list you could have made. Perhaps you will have packed all your snazzy dress clothes and forgot your wooly sweater.
Pleasure is just one reason something could be added to your list, there are other reasons and we’ll take a look at them now.
According to leading psychologist Martin Seligman, there are 5 elements that contribute to a life of fulfillment, happiness, and meaning.
- Positive Emotions – This is the oblivious category and includes good feelings such as peace, gratitude, exhilaration, satisfaction, pleasure, hope, curiosity, inspiration, or love. Most typical bucket list items are experiences aiming to increase positive emotions like these.
- Engagement – When we are fully engaged in a situation or a task we experience a state of flow. When we are in flow states, our attention is concentrated on the present, we lose our sense of self, time seems to stop. The more easily we are able to enter into flow states the more we will experience a sense of well-being. Some good bucket list goals aim to bring more flow into our lives. An example of a goal that might increase flow could be ‘learn to play a musical instrument’ since musicians are able to enter meditative flow states and forget their troubles by simply playing their instrument.
- Relationships – Studies show that strong social bonds contribute to the core of our well-being. Compare ‘ride in a hot hair balloon’ to ‘ride in a hot hair balloon with my son’. The first is a potentially thrilling experience. The second is a thrill and a bonding experience. Sometimes thrills can be short-lived with little long term effect on life satisfaction. This ‘relationships’ element is why a ‘bucket list for couples’ or a ‘family bucket list’ could be a good idea and why ‘get married’ is an evergreen popular idea.
- Meaning – Is your bucket list all about you? Or does it in any place serve a cause larger than yourself? We all need meaning in our lives to have a sense of well-being. Adding some bucket list items to your list that help others or support a cause you believe in will be a good idea. Perhaps this is why ‘donate blood’ is a popular bucket list idea. Meaning isn’t only about being charitable. It’s a feeling that what you are doing matters. It’s a feeling that your existence has some significance or value. Does your life have a purpose? And if not can you make it your goal to find a purpose? Meaning can be found in religious or spiritual beliefs or connecting with nature. A good plan will have activities that have meaning or bring meaning to your life.
- Accomplishments – To achieve well-being and happiness we need to be able to look back at our lives and say ‘I did it, and I did it well’. There is a difference between being a passive consumer and an active producer. Too much time simply consuming experiences with little attempt to ‘make something of yourself’ can be negative.
We suggest that a well-balanced life plan will include ideas that contribute to all 5 of these categories. Some of your goals should be about simple fun of course, but some should also help change your state of mind, build solid relationships, involve you with a cause larger than yourself, and help you pursue achievements you can be proud of.
We have arranged our bucket list items into the following categories and we discuss each item with reference to the above PERMA model of happiness:
Bucket List Ideas
To illustrate a balanced plan we’ll list 10 bucket list ideas from each PERMA category. Everyone’s bucket list should include activities from each category.
Bucket List Ideas That Cultivate Positive Experience
- Travel The World – Many goals relate to travel. Go here, see this, see that. That’s okay but traveling without purpose can’t leave you feeling empty. Try to connect your travel bucket list goals with other life goals for a greater impact. The united states is full of awesome places to go, there is a national park in almost every state.
- See The Northern Lights – The Northern Lights are renowned as one of the most beautiful spectacles you can see on planet earth. This alone makes them worthy of a place in your plans. But could you do this bucket list item with an important person in your life? The shared experience of seeing the northern lights with a friend of loved one tops seeing it alone.
- Visit The Grand Canyon In The United States
- Take A Hot Air Balloon Ride
- Eat Pizza In New York – This is a popular goal but I can’t help but feel that it’s framed in a rather low keyway. Will simply eating pizza have such a big impact on your life? This type of target is perfect for improving using some of the ideas in this post. Might I suggest ‘learning how to make new york pizza in new york’ and a goal that will have more of an impact.
- Visit Machu Picchu
- Snorkel The Great Barrier Reef
- Go To Carnival in Rio de Janeiro Brazil
- Go On A Cruise – Going on a cruise features highly in many people’s plans. Perhaps if you feel like adding this one to your list it might be possible to modify it slightly. Some people have ‘Go on a cruise with my best friend’ or “Go on a cruise with my family”. Vacations are great opportunities to “spend quality time with my family”.
- Engage In A Random Act Of Kindness – Pay a stranger’s restaurant tab, give a stranger a compliment, shovel a neighbor’s drive, bring in donuts for your co-workers. There are many many ways you can spread kindness around and it feels good. It feels really good.
Bucket List Ideas To Help You Get In The Zone
- Paint Your Masterpiece – Painting is a skill that requires a great deal of concentration. People find that if they a hobby that engages them it can help to relieve stress and anxiety. Learning to paint gives you a skill you can use to find peace of mind throughout your life.
- Start a Journal -Writing your thoughts down in a daily journal is thought to be therapeutic so letting it all pour out might improve your life. A gratitude journal is like a mind gym for happiness. The more you practice being thankful the more you will see good things in the world to be thankful for.
- Learn A Musical Instrument – Music is a language without words. Instead of the constant chatter of your monkey mind wouldn’t it be great to go to a place where there is not silence but peace. Musicians who change the focus of their attention from daily troubles to sweet melodies. Or release built-up tension with some doom metal. Whatever works for you. Music can also be a fantastic bridge between people, would Lennon and McCartney have been such great friends without their music to bind them together as brothers?
- Learn To Meditate – Everyone understands the benefits of physical health and it’s not unusual to go to the gym and work to improve your body. Meditation is a practice designed to improve your mind, if you don’t workout to control your mind it will control you.
- Develop A Daily Yoga Practice – The word ‘yoga’ means union. The stretching exercises are good for your physical health but they also give your mind something to focus on. Many people live with inner turmoil in the form of a worrying verbal monkey mind. Yoga is one practice that can quiet this internal chatter and bring peaceful moments to your life. And more peaceful moments adds up to a more peaceful, tranquil life with less suffering.
- Learn To Surf – Apparently time slows down when you are riding a wave and you don’t think about anything else. That sounds like a flow state to me.
- Learn To Play Chess – Learning to play chess to a decent standard would be an accomplishment, It’s also a social game that could lead to you making more friends or be a way to spend time with old friends. Lastly, playing chess well requires some serious thinking. Someone who is absorbed in a game of chess is less likely to be worrying about their personal problems. So learning to play chess is an excellent way to get more flow states into your life.
- Take Up A New Sport – Many sports offer mental and physical health benefits. They can be social and help to build relationships and there is an opportunity for accomplishment too. Many sports tick all the five boxes for living the good life so they make great bucket list goals.
- Go White Water Rafting – You won’t have time to think when you are rafting down the rapids, your awareness will be totally in the moment and you’ll be engaged in life as it is happening directly. A potential way to find bliss?
- Take Dancing Classes – When I dance I experience the opposite of flow. I freeze, I’m socially awkward and I hate it. But I can imagine a talented dancer being totally engaged with the music and forgetting themselves are they move gracefully across the floor. It that appeals to you perhaps you might take dancing classes.
Bucket List Ideas That Build Relationships
- Have A Food Fight – I included this idea as a representative of just having fun with groups of other people. Having fun with other people is the foundation of good relationships.
- Get Out Of Debt – To be a functioning member of society we need to be able to contribute. Financial debt is a weight around your ankles that makes it harder to function as a person. The same goes for addictions and negative behaviors that make it hard to form bonds with other people.
- Fall In Love – Falling in love is one of the most wonderful positive emotions we can have. Romantic love can fade and it takes serious work to build a relationship that stands the test of time.
- Get Married – Getting married and making a commitment to another person is a dream of many people.
- Start A Family – The strongest relationships are often family ties.
- Join A Choir – Singing in harmony with a group of people is a real bonding experience. It’s also fun and healthy.
- Say I Love You – Words and actions can build bridges between people. The more connected with other human beings you are the richer your life will be. How many best friends would you trade to ‘Swim with dolphins’? That’s right zero!
- Be A Bridesmaid – Being a bridesmaid or a best man is a great honor and one that you need to earn. If you want to put being a bridesmaid on your list then make sure you put being an awesome friend too.
- Own A Dog – They don’t call dogs “man’s best friend” for nothing.
- Start A Blog – A good blog can be an online community of like-minded people. Depending on your approach it can also be a business that helps people at scale and a meaningful way to earn a living.
Bucket List Ideas That Increase Meaning In Your Life
- Volunteer – People that volunteer experience how they can help just by giving some of their time.
- Teach or Mentor Someone – If you have knowledge that you can pass on it won’t cost you anything and it might make a real impact on someone’s life. Teaching or mentoring is immensely satisfying and if you help the right person you’ll feel it was time well spent.
- Get A Tattoo – ‘Get a tattoo’ is a popular bucket list idea in the united states. If this item appeals to you, then perhaps it’s also an opportunity to choose a tattoo design that reflects what is important to you in life. It will then serve as a constant reminder of the meaning of your life. Being aware of what is meaningful in your life, your ‘why’, can have a positive impact on your quality of life. Can a tattoo strengthen a relationship? Sometimes people also get matching tattoos with friends or partners. It would be a real mark of an important bond between two people to have matching or complementary tattoo’s.
- Start A Charity – Or help a large group of people in need.
- Help Out At A Soup Kitchen – Being part of a team working to solve other people’s problems will give you something back.
- Become Carbon Neutral – Perhaps we should all be thinking about what world we will leave behind to the next generation. This could be a goal that makes a difference. Change starts from within.
- Sleep Under The Stars – This is a common bucket list idea and I think it’s because the outdoors connects us with nature and the universe. The more you are able to see your life as an expression of nature the more you will feel in harmony with the universe and you will feel less disconnected. So visit as many national parks as you can, ‘swim with dolphins’ or ‘go on safari’. Try to deepen your sense of connection with the natural world.
- Find A Career That Matters – Like it or not you are probably going to spend a lot of time in your life working. Wouldn’t it be great to have a job that mattered? Actually, most jobs matter, but we don’t always see it or appreciate it. Take the time to really think about your role and what purpose it has beyond earning some bucks.
- Figure Out My Core Values – Do you know what you believe in? Have you found yourself yet? This can be a project of a lifetime. People who really know themselves and know what they stand for report greater feelings of life satisfaction.
- Believe In Myself – Do you feel deep down that you’ve got that it takes? Are you always trying to prove something to somebody? What if you didn’t need to? What if you felt secure in yourself?
Bucket List Accomplishments That You Can Be Proud Of
- Become Fluent In Another Language – Learning new languages changes how you think. As well as being a great achievement becoming bilingual can help you to make new friends. Studying a language can be engaging if you are interested and motivated enough.
- Learn to Code – In this day and age learning to code makes you employable. And if you are employable you can contribute and also take some great vacations with the money you will earn!
- Get A Degree – Educating yourself is a fine thing to do, but perhaps more important than earning the degree is the experience you’ll have at college or university, the friends you’ll make, the things you’ll learn about yourself, and the good times you’ll have on the journey.
- Buy A House – Rather than buying a house, how about making a home? A house is a cold empty building, a home is much more meaningful.
- Run A Marathon – Running a marathon would be a great accomplishment, runners also report increased states of flow and engagement in the present moment so that’s good too. Could you combine your marathon with raising money for a cause close to your heart? Could you rope in a good friend and train together?
- Start A Fire Using Only Sticks – There is something very satisfying about starting a fire. It appeals to our instincts to protect and shelter.
- Achieve Your Ideal Weight – A lot of people are in a lifelong battle to read their ideal weight. That’s great because your health is important, but be careful it does not become an unhealthy obsession. You’re beautiful as you are.
- Write A Book – Writing a book alone could be a great accomplishment. Writing a book that in some way connects with and helps people could be a significant experience in your life.
- Get My Drivers Licence – Ahh freedom! It’s a wonderful feeling to be at the wheel with the open road ahead of you. What will you do once you can drive? Other than the accomplishment what good will you use your license for? These are important questions to ask.
There is no such thing as a ‘best bucket list’ or even ‘best bucket list items’.
Life is too short to get involved in a box-ticking exercise. If you don’t have any interest in visiting The Taj Mahal then kick that right off your list.
At the end of the day, you don’t need to impress anyone, and life isn’t only about seeing sights or having experiences.
That type of hedonism can start to feel empty quickly. You can improve many bucket lists experiences by making sure you do it with a friend or loved one. That way you’ll have positive emotions and experiences and build deep friendships at the same time.
Some people are too busy chasing accomplishments to stop and write a bucket list. For example, they are working long hours and chasing that promotion. In a way, they have a bucket list of achievements they are chasing.
Others, take some to stop and think about awesome positive experiences they want to have and cool places they want to visit before they die. But they forget to include the relationships, meaning, and engagement that makes a life special.
Hopefully, this post has given you some food for thought about the types of things to include in your future plans and will help you plan some more balanced life goal…
Before you kick the bucket!