Don’t Keep Your Dreams in a Bucket–Live Now!


Following is a guest post by Rachel Heslin

Back when I worked for an organization affiliated with the local school district, my boss would hold annual team-building retreats.

Unlike some of the clichéd corporate “team-building” that’s had a bad rap for being superficial and boring, these retreats were small and intimate and truly did help those of us who worked at different school sites get to know each other better. There were fun little ice-breakers and silly games that lead to honest sharing and discussion with some wonderful people about how we help those whose lives we touch.

During one of these retreats, the very last “assignment” was to write a list of 5 things we wanted to do before we died.

I was surprised to discover that I had no desire to participate.

These so-called “bucket lists” sound really great

You think of all these amazing things you’d like to accomplish then make plans to actually do them. It can bring a sense of adventure and expanded possibilities to your life, and who wouldn’t want that?

It’s not that I have done everything I want to do, even though, on paper, I actually have done a lot. And there are most definitely still a lot of things I’d like to experience! The reason I didn’t want to write out my Bucket List is that my focus has shifted from Doing to Being.

I am assuming that everyone reading this has seen the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. If you haven’t, please consider this a spoiler alert. In a nutshell, the plot is about a guy who is a really decent human being but life keeps throwing him curveballs that consistently derail his plans.

The first time I watched it, I found it to be one of the most depressing films I had ever seen. I couldn’t figure out why it was touted as being such a heart-warming movie, because from my perspective, all I could see was a guy who never had the chance to pursue his dreams. I found that idea heartbreaking.

And yet, years later, I get it.

Let go of expectations

A lot of what I have been doing the past couple of years is learning how to let go of expectations of what I think my life “should” look like. I like the idea of exploring, of seeking new experiences, of stretching beyond my comfortable boundaries.

But it seems to me that framing interests in the form of a Bucket List implies, “If I do these specific things, I will be happy.” Which also implies the reverse corollary: “If I don’t do these things, I will die unfulfilled.” And it is this potentially corrosive assumption that I dislike.

Because, like the journey George Bailey experienced in his own Wonderful Life as he looked back and saw with new eyes and an awakened heart the meaning of all he had previously thought pointless or wasted, what I have learned is that happiness isn’t about specific things you may or may not have done in your life.

It’s about how you live it.

Rachel S. Heslin has been fascinated since childhood by how we reconcile the thoughts in our head with the lives that we create. Her warmth and compassion are fueled by a delighted curiosity about ever-expanding possibilities, and she loves to help others identify and deeply connect with their true strength in order to have a powerful impact on the world. Her upcoming book, The Obstacle IS the Path, is scheduled for release in early 2015.  For more information, visit her at

Photo courtesy of hotblack

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  1. Darlene Cary says:

    And why being mindful is so important. When action comes from within, it’s inspired rather than a “to do” list. Thanks for the post!

  2. lynne says:

    Material things will not make us happy but being aware of all your blessings, and how we lived a good life is very important. Thanks for sharing.

    • Beth says:

      For some, material things equate success, but i suspect you live outside that material box, Lynne. I also suspect you live a life that blesses others. Thanks for writing!

  3. Francesca says:

    Thank you for this beautiful and wise post.
    I totally agree that Being holds the key to a fulfilled life. Lists are only a tool, and we don’t need to check all the boxes in order to be truly happy.

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