In my latest book, Your Room at the End: Thoughts About Aging We’d Rather Avoid, I included a section about a realistic life list. Until the popular Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman movie “The Bucket List”, came along, the term Life List was more common; that list of things that you wanted to do before you died or perhaps reached a certain age. Learn to bake bread from scratch, Take an RV trip to California, or Watch the sun set from the Eiffel Tower; plans that are as varied as are individuals. These are good lists to make since most people won’t strike up an acquaintance with a billionaire who can provide funding for exotic adventures. Retirement planning takes these goals into mind and whether or not you have the resources of time, money, and physical ability to complete your Life List depends on many factors, some that will be utterly out of your control. Situations with your own parents, grown children, or grandchildren can easily affect your plans; the death of someone you love certainly has an impact,
unforeseen economic downturns, and other events can arise.
The length and content of your list isn’t as important as if the items are realistic. At some point, you need to address how you intend to work through your list. Mastering the intricacies of growing African violets is a different dream than going white water rafting down the Grand Canyon. Physically and financially speaking, you might want to
plan the Grand Canyon excursion earlier than joining the local horticulture club. On the other hand, you may also decide that you can achieve satisfaction by taking a less intense trip through the Grand Canyon, or for that matter, there’s an IMAX theater presentation that is pretty thrilling. Is it the same thing? No, but it may fulfill your desire for the experience and if so, then it doesn’t matter that you diverged from your original idea.
“I just don’t have the desire to travel anymore,” an elderly friend confided when the subject came up. “Long car trips are tiring and flying is more trouble than I want to mess with. The kids and grandkids are close by. I’d much rather have a crowd gathered around the dinner table than take another cruise.”
Examining your Life List is a valuable exercise because the feeling of having “lost out” and been deprived can easily escalate in your later years. Even if you don’t intend for it to, the very real human reaction can be bitterness toward others who may still have the ability to pursue their dreams. This can be especially true if you’ve had to make more
sacrifices than you expected to in order to help out family and therefore had to give up things that you wanted to have/do. Most of us live in the real world where time, resources, or both have limits. Rearranging or adjusting your Life List can help you focus on what you genuinely can check off and what you may need to keep as a pleasant, but unfulfilled dream.