If you’re in search of more meaning in life, crossing off a few extra items on your bucket list can be the very thing that sends you on a journey of self-discovery. For some of us, bucket lists contain our longings for far-off adventures and are springboards for our imaginations to roam wild. They spotlight our craving for connection with people and nature; they uncover our inner desire to make our mark in the world. In between their numbered lines dwells a path toward change and a recipe for thriving in our seasons of life.
Bucket lists act as the catalyst that propels us forward, both as an instigator and a guide or sherpa in the self-discovery department. Every item on our lists—from the adventures, destinations, experiences—holds the limitless potential to reveal parts of our deeper, truest selves. As our journeys of self-discovery widen and expand, we derive more meaning from life.
If you want to jump-start yourself on a journey of self-discovery, consider adding these 7 things to your bucket list:
1. Go somewhere completely foreign to you.
Okay, for someone who once lived vicariously through Anthony Bourdain’s (RIP) globetrotting, I know plenty of you do this religiously. However, for someone like myself—who’s not a huge fan of flying and has some pretty intense food allergies—traveling to the unknown can send anxiety coursing through my veins. But, some of the most unforgettable moments of my life have taken place when I pushed through fear and stepped onto foreign territory. I came alive and more awakened to the wide, expansive world around me and walked away from those moments forever changed.
Don’t limit foreign experiences to only include flying halfway across the world so you can drink the blood of a Bangkok python or take a hot air balloon ride above the Nile. But rather embrace the idea that foreign territory could mean just across town—it’s totally subjective to you!
I’m a firm believer in the power of identifying yourself as a lifelong student or seeker. Learning something new quells stagnation, is an antidote to boredom, expands your mind, and is…well, fun! Dying to learn how to decorate cakes, knit, launch that new business, or master public speaking? Go for it! There’s no prerequisite for becoming a lifelong student except curiosity and an open mind.
3. Discover where you came from.
Why should digging into your ancestral roots make it on your bucket list? Because researching your family’s past will uncover historical, geographical, and cultural aspects that might give you more insight and understanding of yourself. It can open connections with distant relatives who reside all over the world and reveal the unheard stories of your ancestors, where you are sure to find similarities, surprises, and points of intrigue. Check out sites like Ancestry or 23andMe to delve into your family tree.
4. Give your time toward a noble cause.
In an age where productivity and busyness can run you into the ground, it may seem counterintuitive to add one more thing to your to-do list. But, devoting your time toward causes and people who need assistance will enable you to look outside yourself and see firsthand the struggles others face. Maya Angelou’s poignant words about giving ring true: “I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”
There are countless organizations and individuals who could benefit from your help, so consider getting involved at local homeless shelters, childhood mentoring programs, or in foster care, among countless other ways. Your capacity for generosity will multiply, and your empathy will enlarge because giving has the power to change the life of another person, as well as your own. (For more ideas on how to do this and for inspiring stories of women who are, visit our Purpose category!)
5. Record your moments.
Sometimes we forget about the untold power and meaning found in our individual stories. By recording the trials and triumphs you’ve encountered along the way, you can glean meaning through the profound and complex aspects of your life. Journaling (which I highly recommend for all its emotional benefits!), photography, voice memos, and scrapbooking are just a few ways you can keep track of all the moments that make up your life. Looking back at where you once were and reflecting upon the growth that’s taken place is a fascinating exercise that will motivate you to press forward.
How do diverse relationships enable you to derive more meaning in life? Befriending people with different worldviews, backgrounds, and beliefs that differ from yours will widen your perspective, dispel stereotypes, silence dehumanization, and increase your ability to understand others’ points of view. As you embrace the beauty found in diverse relationships, you’ll not only gain more compassion and acceptance of others but discover those same qualities in relationship to yourself (what a beautiful thing self-friendship is!).
7. Seek whole health.
This item makes it onto the bucket list simply because everything in the aforementioned will be difficult to achieve if you’re not living from your healthiest self. So now’s the time to make changes to your physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional well-being. You don’t need to feel inclined to make wild changes all at once; instead, try making small tweaks to your daily routine; sign up for new exercise classes, devote time to your spiritual practices, join a recovery group, or focus on your emotional health. As you seek to honor your whole health, every step will lead you to live more fully and discover your truest self.
Bucket lists remind us that we have a limited amount of time on earth, and we want that time to count. Add these 7 things to your list and be prepared to discover more of your extraordinary and strong self along the way!
You’ll love this podcast episode from This Grit and Grace Life: How Do I Know What Defines Me? – 078