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How a Bucket List Can Help You Reinvent Your Life Over 40

Looking to reinvent your life over 40? Creating a bucket list can be a surprisingly useful tool, even if you think you’re putting down crazy and impractical ideas. But I’ve got a secret for you. Simply adding an item to your list can help it come true. Here’s how making a bucket list can help you manifest the life you’ve always dreamed of.

This post may contain affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

On Sunday, December 11, 2011, at 10:14 P.M., inspired by a book I no longer remember, I created a note in on my phone in the Evernote app called 100 Things Before I Die. On Saturday, January 11, 2016, at 11:02 A.M., I finally completed Entry #100.

I don’t remember the name of the book but I vaguely remember the anecdote in the book that inspired me to start the list. The author (a motivational speaker of some sort) talked of conducting a multi-day seminar where he gave his students the assignment to return on the second day with a list of 100 things they wanted to have done before they died without worrying about how they might accomplish any of these goals or whether the goals were even possible. Just let your mind go free. The next day, the author said, very few people had completed the list which he knew would happen. Only the true go-getters, the author explained, can open their mind enough to even see what is possible in life.

Well, challenge accepted, sir! And I got maybe 25 items listed that first night before my mind went dry and I couldn’t think of a single more thing. I probably stopped around here:

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I am not, it would appear, a true go-getter.

If I had started my list on a notepad or in my journal that would be the end of this story. I would have lost the list the next day. But I started the list on a note-taking app because I had the idea that I would check off any of the goals that I met. I actually use Evernote to keep track of a lot of different information so, over the year, I came across the list fairly frequently.

And every now and then, I would catch myself having the thought. You know the one. “Someday, I would like to…” And when I did, I’d put it on my list.

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I’m sure there were months when I didn’t touch the list. But I updated it more consistently than you would think considering it took me five full years to finish it. And now that I’m finally done, I’ve discovered that the complete list of goals paints an interesting self-portrait that is uniquely my own.

That’s why creating a bucket list can be such a powerful tool for growth, particularly if you want to reinvent your life after the age of 40. Completing the exercise taught me several things about myself I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t taken the time to write down all my crazy goals.

I discovered something else along the way that I don’t think would have happened if I hadn’t taken the time to make the list. I actually started accomplishing some of the items on my list. Would I have the life I have now if I hadn’t opened my heart enough to dream that someday I might? I honestly don’t think so.

So I encourage you to make your own bucket list! Here’s why a bucket list can be a great tool for you too.

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You’ll Start to See Patterns in Your Desires

I don’t know that I would have realized how important travel is to my happiness if I hadn’t put so travel-related entries on my list: visit Eastern Europe, climb Machu Picchu, travel the U.S. in an RV, etc.

Once I saw those patterns, I started to prioritize travel and, as a result, I’ve crossed 5 items off my bucket list: travel to Europe, travel to Hawaii, visit the Badlands and Mt. Rushmore, visit Hot Springs, AK (I don’t know why I put that on the list but I enjoyed the heck out of it) and take my kids on a special vacation (we went to England for two weeks).

I don’t know that I would have done any of these without my bucket list. But I do know that crossing these items off the list gave me a feeling of sweet accomplishment.

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You’ll Be Motivated to Accomplish Some Wild Goals

I’ve actually accomplished some improbable things in the past five years.

Of my 100 items, I have accomplished and crossed off 22 of them. That’s actually pretty good considering most of the items I put on the list are very long-term and extremely improbable. Obviously any list of personal goals is, well, really personal so I’m not going to share all 100 with you (and do you really want to read all 100 of my goals?), but I’ll share with you the first five that I wrote on that night in 2011 when I was a single mom struggling to make ends meet. I would have told you Goal #3 was the most improbable of all.

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So maybe I will get to see the Northern Lights someday. Maybe running a marathon in 5 hours is possible (if I trained.)

You Can Track How Much You’ve Changed – and How You’ve Stayed the Same

I’m constantly removing and replacing items in my bucket list. For example, I have no idea why it was so important to me to own a Roomba (a goal I accomplished by the way.) But, on the whole, I’ve found that what I want from life has pretty much remained the same. Most of the items on my list contain experiences I’d like to have and my wishes for a happy, stable family and home.

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Your Bucket List can be a Highly Effective Way to Practice Gratitude

It’s so easy to forget the good experiences we’ve had and what we’ve accomplished. When I review my bucket list, though, I see the items I’ve crossed off and I remember how much I wanted to visit Hawaii, for example, and how wonderful it was to finally visit there. I feel grateful all over again that I was able to have that experience.

I even feel gratitude for the things that haven’t happened yet because I’ve seen what a powerful tool this list has been in achieving my wildest dreams and goals.

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Your Bucket List can be a Map of Your Ideal Life

When I started my list, I expected that my goals wouldn’t necessarily have much in common since I was just writing down random thoughts as they occurred to me. Instead, when you read the list as a whole my list presents a fairly detailed picture of the type of career I’d like to have, how I’d like to spend my time, who I want to spend my time with, what kind of mark I’d like to leave on the world, and yes, the amount of money I’d like to have.

Writing down your hopes, your wishes, and your desires for your life can change your life in so many ways. It’s something I would recommend to everyone.

Have you ever created a bucket list? Let me know in the comments if you have and if you’ve achieved anything on your list.

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Katy Kozee | Midlife Rambler
Katy Kozee | Midlife Rambler
Hi! I'm Katy and I started Midlife Rambler when my youngest child was a senior in high school. I was staring at the coming empty nest and wondering what was next for me. Does that sound like you? Then you'll love our community of fun, feisty women. We're looking forward to the next phase of our lives and talking about all the exciting (and sometimes a little scary!)Keep the conversation going! Hook up with me at my other hangouts.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I’m a total list maker and planner addict. I have made some life lists, I will have to dust it off and see what was on it! I started taking Elite Blog Academy and one of the exercises was to make such a list of our huge goals, not 100 per se, but our ideal life in various aspects. It’s a great exercise to go through. I hope you’ll stop by and linkup with our Small Victories Sunday Linkup, goals, blogging tips, food and book talk are great topics to share with us!

    • I love looking at old lists – it’s so revealing to see what’s changed in priority and what hasn’t ! I will definitely drop by your linkup on Sunday. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. I use Evernote too but find that I do better just using the notes on my iphone. My list isn’t at 100 but I need to add more. I also looked back at old lists and a lot has changed. You are right that these lists are a guide to what kind of life you want!

  3. My girlfriend and I made bucket lists while on a car trip over 20 years ago. I wish I had kept that list! I completed all the ones that I remember! I need to make a new list! I will call Danielle tomorrow!

    • That’s so awesome. I just started a new one for myself. I’ve accomplished a few things on the last one and my priorities have shifted regarding some other items.

  4. Yes! Writing it down puts it in focus, powers intentional living and makes it real. I have actually taught two Bucket List lessons in my Adult ESL class and it is so interesting to see people seriously reflect on what they want from life. Of course, number one on the list of every one of my students is “learn more English!” 🙂

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