Reverse Bucket List

Recently, my friend mentioned a book or a podcast she had listened to that introduced the notion of a “reverse bucket list.” My ears perked up because a bucket list was never on my agenda, but this sounded interesting. So, I went looking.

I didn’t find exactly what she heard, but I did find a great little article on this idea from Angela Labonte, who wrote a post in the Hebrew Senior Life Blog. And I learned more about Hebrew Senior Life, the only senior care organization affiliated with Harvard Medical School. Moreover, it is where they conduct influential research and train more than 1000 students each year.

My curiosity was piqued, and I had to keep reading. Honestly, I was blown away by the variety of living communities and the diversity of incomes that they accept. But I digress. I really want to write about the reverse bucket list. Yikes!

Let’s start with the definition:

A “reverse bucket list” starts with the gratitude we find in examining our previous accomplishments and fulfilling experiences. “ As opposed to a bucket list that is full of “aspirational experiences you hope to accomplish in your lifetime. There is nothing wrong with bucket lists; many people have them, and I, too have things I would love to do.

A reverse bucket list is a different idea. Rather, like Oliver Burkeman suggests, we keep a done list rather than a to-do list. I like that too. Both of these, paradoxically, can remind us of our important purposes in day-to-day life.

When I asked my mother what her best birthday was on her 80th birthday, she unhesitatingly said, “This one.”

“Why,” I asked.

“It’s all been so much better than I could have imagined,” she replied.

And that is one of the benefits of looking back at things you have done and accomplished and seeing them with fresh eyes. Imagine all that we got to do up to this very moment – this or this or this… gratitude bubbles up, along with those memories.

Simon Sinek, a well-known author, speaker, and thought leader, has a short video I just discovered on a reverse bucket list, and for him, it is the gratitude aspect that makes the difference.

Reverse Bucket List

To write a reverse bucket list, we might need a little reflection time to recall important events, milestones, people, moments, travel, volunteering, and accomplishments we are proud of and that we like.  But I decided to jump in right now with you.  Whatever comes to my mind in these next few minutes, I will write it down.

  1. I took an unannounced 45-mile (72 Km) bike trip when I was 13/14. I was in big trouble with my parents, but still look back on it with pride and pleasure.
  2. I received the entire collection of Carolyn Keene mystery books at Christmas when I was 10. I was over the moon.
  3. I am lucky to have had the sweetest and best teacher on earth, a nun, Mother St Janet Marie.
  4. Being introduced to poetry by my mother at a very young age and having one teacher after another who watered and nurtured my predisposition towards poetry, which continues to be a source of significant inspiration and solace today.
  5. I fell asleep in the car while my father drove long distances on holidays. I recall loving the sensation of drifting off.
  6. I loved being old enough to walk to midnight Mass at Christmas with my family on a cold, crisp winter night.
  7. My medical team, when I was diagnosed with cancer and was lucky enough to know a significant number of things that would help me go through it.
  8. Learning to fly a plane – imagine – ( a Cessna 152, and I did my solo.)
  9. I cycled the 300 km Cabot Trail two years after my last treatment. I could challenge myself at 65 in an unlikely way, yet I did it. And it was significant.
  10. I moved to Ottawa to be part of the everyday life of my youngest grandchildren. I could never have predicted it, and I will always be grateful that I did this.
  11. Walking the Nakasendo Way in Japan with friends. Hard to imagine.
  12. Meeting Dr. Itami and Japanese friends in Asia and on this continent. Thanks to whom I have my life’s work. Unimaginable what had to come together for that to happen.
  13. Getting to see the sunrise on Haleakala.
  14. I saw the sunrise on Gabriola Island for my son’s birthday last July.
  15. Getting to live where I live is a miracle.
  16. Flying to Vancouver last Dec to bake cookies for my son and daughter-in-law. How lucky that I got to do that.
  17. Seeing the full moon from my bedroom window and the red cardinal through the window in my study.
  18. Most days I have owned my Toyota – 5475 days, it starts when I turn the key. Recently, it didn’t because I left my flashers on for two full days. But that was an operator error.
  19. And friends and family peppered across the world. People I cherish and I am in touch with. People I love, and they love me. What it has taken for me to know all these precious humans?
  20. I saw and held my twin great granddaughters in Calgary last month while I watched my grandson and his wife as parents. Mind-blowingingly wonderful.

You can see there is no end to this, both big and small. I won the Mother lottery the kid and grandkid lottery. I am still breathing, standing, walking, thinking, writing, teaching, laughing, getting to participate and contribute in life, and meeting people I could not have imagined in advance. All this beauty and wonder and significance. I meet amazing people in my workshops and programs and through this blog. I could write for days and fill tablets with everything I have seen and done. It is unbelievable. And this is just a first look.

What this short exercise does for me is show me, with just a sprinkling of my life moments, how amazing it has been.  And it reminds me that I want more of this. The desire for life is strong. And it goes fast. I don’t want to waste it doing the things that aren’t meant for me to do.

And yes, there are things that I would love to do,  but if they don’t happen for reasons out of my control, it will be ok. I get to enjoy, now,  thinking about the possibilities. And I get to see how so many unexpected and unremarkable tiny events brought me to where I am right now, exactly where I want to be.

Now that I have done a dry run, I will do this a few times. It was a lovely exercise in remembering and a reminder that I still want to do things while I am still breathing. And that I can do them right where I am.

Maybe some of you will try it? It is a heartwarming thing to do. Even the little I did with you has inspired me – how I want to spend my time.


1:) Simon Sinek short video

2:) “Everybody is Talented, Original, and Has Something Important to Say” Brenda Ueland

3:) “We’re just humans: flawed and beautiful and longing for love. ” Susan Cain, from her book Bittersweet

4:) The photos are from a recent stroll in my neighbourhood. The more unusual one with grays and blacks caught my attention because it looks like the outline of a woman with a hat and a gown. It was part reflection in the remaining water in the canal after they drained most of it, coupled with the discolouration of the canal walls. It intrigued me.

5:) Thank you a thousand times for stopping by. It is a gift to me. May you all have moments of joy, meaning and love.  Warmly, Trudy


14 replies
  1. Mary MacKenzie
    Mary MacKenzie says:

    So enjoyed this post Trudy! Blaine has been using this idea, or a version of it, for years … usually when people ask him “what’s on your bucket list?” he replies “nothing really, I’ve done so much, had so many opportunities already “; so it is fun to see your promotion of it. Writing this down on paper is amazing (as you know) … thanks once again for your reminders about living well on a daily basis!
    Hugs from PEI and presently Van. City. I will think of you as I stroll through the Van. public library tomorrow!!

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Oh Mary: How lovely to hear from you on the other side of the continent. Happy to know you are visiting the Vancouver library. Libraries are still one of my favourite attractions when I visit a city. And I was thrilled to hear about Blaine’s use of the reverse bucket list even if that is not what he calls it. Great to hear from you. I wish you safe travels and lots of good surprises – may they be yours. Warmly, Trudy

  2. Jean
    Jean says:

    Thank you Trudy for my Wednesday bed time story.what a lovely thing to focus on as I go off to dreamland.i feel truly blessed to say I mostly live in gratitude.have so much to be grateful life has been quite the ride with the good outweughing the bad.thanks for reminding me as my dear freind taught me. I GetTo do it ,not I Have to do it.

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Hi Jean: I feel that it is a huge compliment that my blog puts you to sleep on Wednesday nights. I love it. Thanks so much. Warmly, Trudy

  3. Patti+Morris
    Patti+Morris says:

    Trudy … this post touched me beyond belief. Having just celebrated a bit of a milestone birthday, I was sort of questioning again my lack of bucket-list aspirations. There are things that I want to do! But, more than that there is so much I am so happy and grateful for … and that I feel blessed to do more of! I LOVE the reverse bucket list! I will be writing mine tomorrow with immense gratitude … and you will be on it. 🙂

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Dear Patti: I am sorry I missed that “milestone” birthday of yours.And I am delighted to know that life is good. Enjoy the reverse bucket list. It makes more sense to me and I am glad you like it too. Big birthday wishes coming your way. Always, Trudy

  4. Janice+Falls
    Janice+Falls says:

    Guess who is at the top of my reverse bucket list?? You of course, for all the ways you enlighten and brighten my life. Truly I need no bucket list when I consider all I have been given in this life.
    many thanks and love to you, Jan

    • T Boyle
      T Boyle says:

      Dearest Jan: Thanks for your sweet note. It works both ways and I am very grateful for you, my poet friend. As always, Trudy

  5. Jayasree Srivastava
    Jayasree Srivastava says:

    Thank you ever so much Trudy. I came across your blog site just now in googling about Yutori. Then decided to read more and arrived at this wonderful post. I’m 62 and for several years now have felt no need to have a bucket-list anymore as I’m so grateful for all that has already been given to me. You write so beautifully about it. Now I’m going to plunge into more of your heartfelt words.


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