Some thirty years ago, before ‘Bucket Lists’ were even a thing, we came across an advertisement for The Maldives in a wedding magazine. We were engaged at the time and we fell in love instantly with the romanticism of white-washed huts on pristine private beaches.
Committed to a simple wedding, and even simpler honeymoon (a boat on the Hawkesbury River), we duly put it aside. Years go by and The Maldives again popped into mind last week – this time prompted by one of Byron’s colleagues who insisted we must ‘Bucket List’ this destination.
The Bucket List thing is an interesting modern talking point. Adopted from the slang term for dying (‘to kick the bucket’) it plays nicely into contemporary values for personal autonomy and living life fully.
When used well, a Bucket List can help us identify priorities and give our life focus. When misdirected, it can be destructive. Here are our tips for optimising your Bucket List through the lens of marriage and family.
- Must-do vs Nice-to-do. At its simplest, the Bucket List can have two types of goals: those that are self-indulgent (like holidaying at The Maldives) and those that are arguably more purposeful, like further studies or a pilgrimage to the Holy Land (that was on Francine’s Bucket List and is now accomplished).
Sometimes they have a bit of both and so discerning your Bucket List is important. Pining after a Bucket List of impossible indulgences just leaves one’s life unsatisfied (Byron’s list of white-beached tropical islands is rather long and unrealistic). It can become the equivalent of focussing on everything we haven’t got, as opposed to appreciating what we have – a recipe for discontent and depression.
Rather, a good Bucket List should be something that grows us as individuals and as a couple and will leave us with more than just a faded postcard or a distant memory. So categorise your Bucket List into the ‘must-do’ and the ‘nice-to-do’ items and treat them accordingly.
- Flexibility. Many of us compile our Bucket List in our early twenties when we are usually single – a time of big dreams and limited wisdom. In our case a good number of things we thought were really important in our younger years, with the passage of time have been seriously downgraded. Learning to hang-glide was one of these, abandoned not long after we started instruction when we reflected on the responsibilities we had to our soon-to-be children.
Yet there is an unspoken code that Bucket List items are sacrosanct, that to remove something from it would be to betray our dreams and trigger a cascade of compromises on our deepest values.
Bucket Lists need a measure of healthy flexibility so that we can capture the benefit of our evolving life and our growing wisdom. Just as we need to be able to add items in later life, so should we also be able to subtract them without regret. The Bucket List should serve us, not enslave us.
This is especially important for new couples who will benefit immensely from crafting a new and joint Bucket List rather than trying jam together two independent ones. Indeed, many of our individual Bucket List items can, and should, give way to our priorities for marriage and family.
- When’ is as important as ‘what’. One of the things we observe in younger people is that FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) can drive them to compact all their life goals into their early decades.
So, if they want to travel, for example, they might defer their studies and career to pursue this. By age thirty, they’ve been to every continent and experienced diverse cultures, and are left with an empty bank account and a ‘what’s next?’.
There’s an empowering and liberating perspective when you consider your Bucket List being comprised of life-long goals – they don’t all have to be accomplished immediately! And indeed, having something to look forward to in later life helps us to tolerate seasons of difficulty.
Equally, some things on our Bucket List don’t translate well to a later age. Hang-gliding is one of them. Though our family is mostly grown now, taking up a dangerous and physically demanding sport like this is not really a consideration. It’s been displaced by hot-air ballooning on Francine’s Bucket List.
Starting a family is another one that is age-dependent. While it is theoretically possible to begin a family in one’s late thirties and forties, pregnancy complications and infertility are more likely the older we are. We would strongly advise any couple against delaying a family for anything other than very serious reasons.
- Marriage adds rather than detracts. It’s common practice among some dating couples to put marriage and starting a family on hold while they pursue their personal Bucket List. They believe that marriage is somehow the enemy of personal fulfillment, or a restriction on their freedom. Our experience is just the opposite. Marriage is the cradle, not the cemetery, for our dreams and personal fulfillment. Yes, marriage will change you, it’s supposed to! And therefore, it will likely change your goals. But this is a good thing! Bucket Lists that serve only you at the expense of your spouse or children won’t bring you together and will ultimately lead you into a life of emptiness. Build your Bucket List around each other and your family and you will have one that enriches both yourself and those you love.
Remember, there is a bigger bucket awaiting us
Finally, it’s important to remember that as Christians, life doesn’t end at death. For Christians, the items of highest value are the ones that focus on the next life.
We are called to be saints, to grow in holiness and love for the God who created us. We get one life on this precious earth to do that.
It isn’t just about what we can achieve in this life, but how we prepare ourselves so that we can achieve much in eternity.
At the end of our life, it really won’t matter if we’ve achieved everything on our Bucket List. All that will matter is whether we faithfully lived our life in pursuit of the God who loves us.
So, The Maldives can wait, and you know what? We are okay with that!