When I saw it, we were out skiing, having a great time. We had knocked another item off the bucket list, skiing in a resort we hadn’t been to before.
Then we reached the next chair lift.
It was flimsy looking, old, but that wasn’t what made it so terrifying.
It appeared to dive over a dizzily terrifying drop to nowhere.
I shuffled towards it, feeling more and more insecure. I told myself that I, like hundreds of other people that day, could just get on it.
As the people in front disappeared into the void, I flunked out, sick with fright, like a horse refusing a jump.
I froze up with fear. Why would anyone want a bucket list if the things on it made you feel so scared you can’t function? Is this what bucket lists are all about?
Bucket lists these days seem to be for people who want to die sooner
It all started with a great film about two old guys who thought that they were about to kick the bucket.
They vowed to have all the experiences they’d miss out on during their lives and so off they went to have hilarious adventures in fabulous places before it was all too late for them — and they succeeded.
But from all that I’ve been reading, bucket lists these days have to be higher, faster, crazier, more dangerous, more death-defying — scary!
The adrenaline junkies want to go bungee jumping, sky diving, volcano surfing, swimming with sharks and more.
A little bit of scary can turn you into the person you want to be
We were talking about scary things one night and my friend Annie told us how scared she had been going sky diving.
Boy, did she make it sound awful!
The fear, the inability to move, to take that desperate step out of the plane. Shudder and horror!
I asked her if, after that first awful time, she’d done it again and she said she had. ‘How many times?’ I asked innocently
How could she if it was so awful?
Annie said she’d learned to overcome fear itself. She experienced the highs of accomplishment.
She became a skydiver.
Overcoming fear itself changes your life
It shows us our limitations, that we are fragile and that life can be short. But it shows us what we can do.
Annie said that it not only gave her a sense of identity, it also changed her life.
By overcoming fears in one field, it gave her the strength to make more life changes — she moved to Brussels by herself and started a new life.
Your bucket list isn’t all about frightening yourself silly
I don’t think I could ever jump out of a plane, but I have overcome my fear of heights sufficiently to be able to go skiing — well mostly.
I don’t have to go down that really, really scary chair lift.
I can go up another one that’s not so scary. And maybe I can work up to the scary one.
We can all achieve those highs from pushing ourselves a little bit further. We can do it in our daily lives.
Like toddlers learning to walk, we can take the risk and push ourselves just a little bit more each day and in the end, we’re walking!
We can exercise a little bit longer. We can be proud of ourselves for eating the right things, trying something new or going down a scary chair lift.
We can experiment by doing things a little bit differently. We can take up new hobbies, go to new places.
We might fall down and get it wrong from time to time.
But practising taking small risks gives us the ability and resilience to do more. We learn to pick ourselves us when we fall down, to take the steps to get us where we want to be, to run into our new identity. We become that courageous person we think we are.
Then we’ll gain that glow of happiness we all get when we’ve achieved something.
That amazing feeling of “I did it”!
The most incredible feeling in the world
It was Carl Lewis, the 9-time Olympic track and field gold medallist who said that the joy that comes from ‘going beyond’ is the most incredible feeling in the world.
It was Olivier Bernhard, world champion and ironman winner who said that the finish is not about winning but about reaching your full potential, making progress and becoming a better person on the journey.
Each of us can achieve that incredible feeling, even if it’s not running faster than anyone else in the world or jumping out of an aeroplane.
We can be like toddlers, falling over but getting up and taking another step forward.
We can write our own bucket list of things we want to do, then start doing the smaller items and move on up to even greater heights to realising our own potential.
We’ll still get that incredible feeling and it will push us towards reaching our full potential.
Your very own bucket list to take you beyond
So here’s how your bucket list will help you reach that incredible feeling of going beyond.
Imagine that you’ve written your bucket list including all the things you’ve ever wanted to do. You’ve been brave enough to include a few things that are just a teeny bit scary.
You’re working your way down your bucket list, slowly maybe, but steadily. Lots of things you did weren’t scary at all. But you plucked up the courage to do a few of the slightly scary things on your bucket list.
Now, you are braver, more resilient.
You’re on top of the world.
So, you know you can add more scary things to your bucket list.
You realise that you’re changing. You’re becoming that person you wanted to be.
There it is, that incredible, life-affirming high. You realise that right at that moment, you are really deeply happy — you’ve gone beyond scary, beyond your bucket list.
This article first appeared on Medium.