One of my favorite movies is “The Bucket List“ with Jack Nicholson & Morgan Freeman. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you do. The movie points out in a very effective way the fact that we don’t take the opportunity to do the things we truly desire or that are important to our families or ourselves. Why? We’re so busy with our careers, making money or going from day to day checking off the “stuff” on our “to do” list that we never seem to take the time to check and see if we are doing the things that really matter.
The Bucket List
Quite awhile back I had a conversation with a very good friend who wasn’t in a good space. She was out of work and struggling to find her purpose. I found myself offering this advice to my friend (and myself) at some point in our conversation. I thought it would be interesting if I shared what I had to say.
When we find ourselves between opportunities, we spend most, if not all, of our time looking for the next big thing. Our profession becomes looking for another opportunity. This, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.
However, with all our efforts focused on this goal there comes a point when we have done all we can do, and we find ourselves with a lot of free time on our hands. When this happens we do one of three things. We freeze in place and do nothing. We try to force things to happen, or we relax and do something fun and interesting.
Freezing in place means we do nothing, and we hide from the world. We find ourselves withdrawing from our friends. We stop doing the few things we enjoy, and wait for something to happen causing us to feel even more alone. Sadly, this isolates us even more and could potentially plunge us into a deep depression.
When we try forcing things to happen, we reach out to our colleagues, friends or contacts one to many times. We call the friends who will talk to us to discuss our problems. In other words, we complain A LOT. We spend no time listening to what these friends have to say. Instead, we whine about our situation. The truth of the matter is our friends, colleagues and family members have problems and successes of their own. They’re looking to us to be good listeners when they need it and tire of worrying about us or listening to our problems. Many times we’re so wrapped up in our situation that we can’t see outside of ourselves, which doesn’t allow us to see what others are seeing. We’re just too busy wallowing in our own self-pity spewing out a diatribe of complaints. Phew, what a negative space to be in. In the end, we wear out our welcome with the very people who could offer some valuable guidance.
Then there is the last (and rarest) thing we think to do. If we can get past feeling guilty, we relax knowing we have done all we can for the time being. We finally realize that it’s a “wait and see” game regarding our efforts, so we go do something that is productive and fun. Doesn’t that sound like a better option?
If we can just step outside of our problems and ourselves by doing something (anything) different, we’ll find ourselves in a much better space. We’re much better prepared for the opportunities that will inevitably come, and we’re much easier to be around. When we relax and let go of our problems and worries for a little while that’s when marvelous things happen. Ideas and/or the right opportunities just seem to appear out of nowhere. When we put ourselves in a positive space, we are in a better frame of mind, which allows us to see all our possibilities.
Now here is the hard part. The big question is what to do with unexpected free time. I know what you’re thinking. So how in the heck do we get into a habit of doing things that are interesting, fun and useful when we feel so bad? How do we avoid getting into a cycle that pushes the very people we need away from us? It’s really hard because we feel guilty and unworthy when we do something that’s fun and non-opportunity related.
I ask that we look at this free time as an opportunity to do all the things we didn’t have time to do when we were blazing away in our careers or daily activities. These things are usually not costly or difficult to do. They’re things we put off because we didn’t have the time or were too tired or frustrated to enjoy doing them. At this point, we really do have a clear idea of what you want. I would say that this is the best time to create our bucket list.
After that conversation with my friend, I decided to create my own personal bucket list. I found I had two. One was a small list that I could do now with my current block of available free time. The other was the big list of all the things I wanted to do in my lifetime. Much to my surprise the small list lead to the big list. It also pointed out what I was missing and what I really wanted to do in the next phase of my life. The fact is we really do know what it is we want, but for some reason we find ourselves feeling guilty if we act on it and we do the things we think should do instead. This prevents us from spending time on the things that really matter.
While working on my bucket list, I found myself thinking about all the things I‘ve missed in my life, such as events with the family, the simple act of taking a walk with my husband, having lunch with a friend just for fun or more simply put “taking the time to smell the roses”. When I started acting on the simple things on my bucket list I was able to let go of the “negative me”. I then started to enjoy doing things that were useful, purposeful and fun. I’m not suggesting that we should abandon our careers and avoid doing the general maintenance of life. What I do propose is when we’re presented with free time or, better yet, take free time for ourselves then refer to our desires (The Bucket List) and do something that is fun and interesting just for us.
When you think about it, it really is very simple. Create a bucket list. Move the guilt aside with the knowledge that you deserve to have a full life that includes things that make you happy. Just do one thing on your bucket list with a small bit of time. Know that you’ve worked hard for this time with the knowledge that you need to enjoy it while you have it regardless of the circumstances. After all, time is our MOST valuable commodity, one we often take for granted until it’s too late. Soon we’ll be blazing away in our careers again, and we’ll regret and lament the time you had and didn’t use. It’s so important that we use this time to the fullest, without guilt or regret, doing our best to make the most of every minute.
So what happened to my friend? She has since gone on to become a very successful award winning artist, a dream she has had for a lifetime. Dreams can come true if we allow them the space and time to germinate and grow.
It’s so interesting to me that we need to hear what we already know from different sources before it finds a way to hit home. In this case, she needed to hear me say it, and I needed to hear it from myself for both to got the message. In closing, my hope is, and always will be, to be there when a friend or someone is in need and to offer help in any way I can. By doing so, my desire is to learn to heed my own advice.
What about you? How do you manage the between times in a career or opportunity? What are you lamenting at years end? Do you have a bucket list?
Life’s journey continues…