Many of us have an official, or sometimes unofficial ad-hoc Bucket List of things we hope to do, accomplish, or experience before we die. It’s a cute name and an interesting concept, but let’s take a closer look at what a bucket represents and the exact nature of the list it contains.
There are many things we want to do in life, but what exactly qualifies something for inclusion in the proverbial bucket? There are typically two distinguishing characteristics. First, each item must be significant, large, and impressive or noteworthy in a big way. Going to the grocery store rarely qualifies. Going on a tour of Europe more likely would make it into the bucket. Jumping feet first into the deep end of your neighbor’s pool? Fun, but not likely bucket material. Jumping out of a small plane wearing a parachute? Yes, that works.
Your Can’t-Do-Now List
The other essential trait for Bucket List qualification is that for one or more reasons, you are unable to complete or maybe even start the item today. If any items on the list could be accomplished right now, then you should and would just go ahead and do them, check them off the list, and move on to the next one. More to the point, if something is easy and has no obstacles preventing you from tackling it whenever you choose—even now—there’s really no reason for it to be on the list. Your Bucket List includes only what you cannot do now but hope to do in the future when the obstacles—time, money, opportunity, physical fitness, etc.—have been removed. In effect, it is a can’t-do-now list.
A Bucket List is, if nothing else, an interesting conversational tool—yep, it’s on my Bucket List—but not a very practical mechanism to help live life. In fact, if bucket items are rarely completed, as is the case by definition, then the whole concept can actually become depressing. Yeah, sure, I have a Bucket List, and it just keeps growing and growing and growing. How sad. But wait! There’s a better approach.
Introducing the Can Can
A bucket has a handle so you can hang it on a doorknob or nail and forget about it; a can has no handle, so you can’t hang it up …Compare a bucket to a can (think: empty soup can). A bucket is big enough to hold a few large things; a can is smaller, so large items won’t fit. A bucket has a handle so you can hang it on a doorknob or nail and forget about it; a can has no handle, so you can’t hang it up for another time. A full bucket is hard to carry; a full can will fit nicely into one hand. You probably can’t even see everything in your bucket, but you can easily poke around to see what’s in your small can.
Why not use your can to keep those things you can do now—those requiring little time and having few obstacles? Let’s call it your Can Can, as compared with your Can’t-Bucket. Doesn’t that sound more appealing?
Your Can Can Contents
What should you put in your Can Can? Anything that will bring you a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction if completed by the end of the day tomorrow, and has no insurmountable obstacles standing in your way. A can item must require little more than your decision and commitment to do it.
Small trade offs may be required. You might have to rise-and-shine an hour earlier than usual, or give up your nightly hour of TV to make time. You might have to ignore all electronic devices for a period of time. You might have to skip a meal. Unwillingness to pay these minuscule one-time prices represent not reasons, but excuses for not tackling what you’ve put in your can, and misses the point: if you won’t pay the small price of accomplishment, just take that item out of your can rather than delude yourself. Put something doable in its place.
Wouldn’t it be fun to finally call that special friend or relative you’ve been meaning to call for months? You can make that call today or tomorrow …Go ahead, fill your can now. Wouldn’t it be fun to finally call that special friend or relative you’ve been meaning to contact for months? You can make that call today or tomorrow, so put it in the can. When is the last time you packed a lunch, went to the park, and watched the wonderful world around you? Weather permitting, could you do that tomorrow? Could you take your dog for a just-for-fun drive in the truck, or to an exciting new trail to explore? You’d enjoy it, Fido would love it, so put it in your can can and do it. Have you been meaning to send your spouse flowers for no particular occasion? Tomorrow would be good. When is the last time you took forty uninterrupted minutes to relax in your easy chair and listen to a James Taylor album? You could easily make that happen by trading just one episode of reality TV.
Don’t confuse your Can Can with a to-do list. It should not contain a list of chores, but there can be overlap. If completion of a specific so-called chore would bring you a feeling of relief, liberation, peace of mind, less guilt, or greater joy, then fine. If you can do it tomorrow, put it in your can.
How the Can Can Works
These four simple steps are mandatory for your Can Can to work effectively each day:
Step 1Fill your can today with at least three items. If you can’t remember them, write them down.
Step 2Before you go to sleep tonight, choose and commit to completing just one item at a specific time tomorrow.
Step 3When the time arrives tomorrow, do that thing from step 2. Do not stop to reconsider which, whether, or when. Just do it.
Step 4Repeat steps 1-3.
Step 3 is particularly critical. It allows you to sleep better, lets your subconscious focus on achievement, and gives you a feeling of specific purpose each morning. You’ll know from your first waking moment that you will accomplish something meaningful.
Your Can Can will be more effective and bring you greater satisfaction than new year’s resolutions you won’t keep or Bucket List items you can’t do. It can be a tool to give you a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of satisfaction every day of your life.
What will you put in your Can Can today? I’m really curious, so please send me your list!