Bucket List in Reverse: Expressing Gratitude for All You’ve Done

Aspiring to do and see things is healthy. But unfortunately, once we’ve done or seen them we have a tendency to move right on to the next desire. We tend to cast away our past experiences into a ‘been there, done that’ box. The key to happiness is to compare ourselves not to those more fortunate, but those less fortunate. I think we should apply that philosophy when it comes to our “bucket list” desires. Rather than (or in addition to) list all the things we want do and see, we should list all the things we have done and seen. By creating a bucket list in reverse, we can see just how full our lives have been and how much we’ve done. Then we can look back with gratitude, rather than ahead with longing.

Bucket List in Reverse

I wrote a sixty item long bucket list in April, 2010. Following are the items I accomplished; my bucket list in reverse if you will:

23. Get my Bachelors degree (achieved May, 2014 – was also the commencement speaker.)

bucket list in reverse

27. Own a hammock. Use it all the time. (Purchased in 2014. I adore laying in it.)

29. Run on a beach during low tide. (I’ve done this several times and always love it – it’s the little things.)

31. Stay at the Bed and Breakfast Angels by the Sea, with my mom. (We went for the weekend in December, 2011.)

bucket list in reverse

33. Have a compost pile. (I love that I listed this as an actual bucket list item. We purchased a compost bin after we bought a home and it is full of beautiful compost.)

39. Learn yoga so that I can practice independently. (I have learned enough that I am comfortable practicing independently. I also finally have a regular and consistent yoga practice, something I have wanted to achieve for years.)

41. Go on a vacation with just my best friend. (I have done two overnight trips with two different best friends and loved it.)

42. Sit in a tube and float down the Delaware River. (I did this with my husband, Mike; brother, Doug; and sister-in-law Kristin in July of 2014 and it was a lot of fun!)

44. Adopt a sick or unwanted dog. (I am amazed this was on there since I never cared for dogs. But just a few months later in August, 2010 I found a dog dying of heat stroke in a park. That dog is our beloved Cooper and you can read all about how he came to be with us in Chicken Soup for the Soul’s “My Very Good, Very Bad Dog.”

45. Stop smoking forever. (FINALLY achieved July 23, 2016. It hasn’t been “forever,” but it has been 212 days as of this posting, which feels like forever.) Here’s a photo of me taken on February 7, 2017:

48. Eat lamb, duck, foie gras. (Done! And no, not all at the same time!) 

58. Own a home. (Mike and I purchased our home in June, 2011 and I am grateful for it every day.)

59. See Pearl Jam live. (I saw Pearl Jam in October, 2013. It was an incredible show. Crossing that one off the list was huge.)

I’ve yet to achieve many items on the original list. Some have simply fallen off as my priorities have changed. I could also probably write a whole new 60-item list right now. But there are also many incredible things I have done in addition to the list, because I pursue life and living. I will continue to do so.

This quote has a double meaning to me: “I’d rather look back at my life and say “I can’t believe I did that” instead of saying “I wish I did that.” Yes, we should live our lives and do the things we wish to, so that we don’t die with regret. BUT we must also appreciate the things we’ve done so that we die with gratitude for our experiences, rather than lament the things we didn’t get a chance to do.

And that is why I intend to keep reverse bucket lists… so that I never forget how fortunate and full my life has been.

What items are on your reverse bucket list? What have you done that continues to bring you gratitude and joy? I’d love to hear from you.







Through a bucket list in reverse, we can see how full our lives have been and look back with gratitude, rather than ahead with longing.

What do you think?