The problem with bucket lists

Psychotherapist, Hilda Burke, talks about the dream vs the reality


The problem with bucket lists

1. ‘People often make a bucket list if they’re feeling stuck, or bored,’ says Burke. ‘If you’re in a dead-end job, it’s great to think about climbing Everest – but it doesn’t change your situation, and it can be a distraction from making changes that affect the present.’

2. Can a list make your life better? ‘If this planning is to fill an internal void, there’s no end to the activities you can pursue – but what difference are you really making? Are you changing or learning, or is it simply a hamster-wheel of items you’re ticking off?’

3. So, what would be more constructive? ‘Part of it is being honest with ourselves about why we want to get away from the present. What are we unhappy with? Meaning is created by taking responsibility for the reality, and doing what we can to change it – so, leaving a job we’re unhappy in, or staying, but speaking up about being dissatisfied. It’s about changing our attitude.’

4. Is the reverse bucket list a good idea? ‘In our society, there’s such emphasis on what’s next but, if we don’t reflect on what we’ve done previously, we’re missing the point. Taking stock slows us down and makes us mindful of the things we have enjoyed. Being mindful of what has fulfilled us in the past can give us insight into what might be fulfilling in the future,’ she says.

Find out more about Hilda Burke at

Photograph: iStock

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