As anyone who has recently had to wait in line for a treadmill at the gym will attest to, this is the season of resolutions. For many of us, our New Year’s traditions include coming up with a list of self-improvement resolutions.

We begin the year by focusing on our shortcomings, and despite the best of intentions, these attempts at self-improvement are frequently unsuccessful, which this infographic from USC’s online masters in social work illustrates. By the time summer arrives (if not sooner), we’ve put aside our resolutions until next year.

This year, I’ve decided to avoid the feelings of failure that are inevitably associated with New Year’s resolutions. I’m trading in my old resolutions for a bucket list. Instead of taking myself to task for my faults, I’ll approach this year as if it were my last, and try to fill it with as many new experiences as I can. With bucket list in hand, I’ll approach each day as a unique opportunity to fulfill my dreams.

Draft Your Bucket List

Even though the name implies that a bucket list is for those who are about to “kick the bucket,” it’s never too early to think about the dreams and goals you’d like to realize during your lifetime. A good bucket consists of very specific actions, such as “complete a 10K,” instead of generic things you want to change about yourself, like “get more fit.”

Including actionable items that you can cross off in this way will improve your chances of actually completing them. After all, visiting a list of museums that you’ve chosen is easier to conceptualize and follow through with than a vague commitment to “become more cultured.”

Writing down your bucket list items and creating a tentative schedule for crossing items off the list can also help you stay motivated and accountable.

To make sure that your list covers every aspect of your life, it may help to add items by category: adventure, fun, travel, family, career, new skills, education, etc. This means that, in addition to fun items like “travel to every U.S. state” or “go skydiving,” your list might include some serious goals like going back to school.

Make it Social

This year, I plan to enlist the help of family and friends by making my bucket list public. Working on New Year’s resolutions is a lonely, one-person job, whereas knocking items off your bucket list can be a social activity.

Tumblr is a great platform for compiling a list that you can share with the world, and allows you to cross things off as you go. Check out this great example, and inject more fun into it by taking photos and writing a re-cap every time you tackle something, sharing what was most memorable about the experience.

Have Perspective

As I create my bucket list, I plan to add some attainable short-term goals, as well as some challenging long-term dreams. This will give me something to strive for while still allowing me to feel like I’m getting somewhere by crossing items off the list.

Nikki Little shared a great example of a long-term goal in her post about ditching New Year’s resolutions: establishing a scholarship in her name for a student attending her alma mater. A short-term goal may be to commit one random act of kindness per week, or perhaps plan a trip to Paris for the latter half of 2013.


I have a feeling that simply creating the list will help me satisfy my perennial resolution to become a better person by helping me focus on what really matters in my life. Approaching the next 365 days with vigor and purpose (cemented by the goals on my bucket list), I think, is a great way to ensure that this year is the best one yet.

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