Bucket List – What is it really about?

When people are asked what they would like to accomplish or do before they die, most people state the conventional “go to the moon”, “skydive”, or “travel aroSkydivingund the world.” But why are these activities so impactful or interesting to people? Are these actions different from normal play or do they fit a different criteria? Do they really make one feel content with their lives?

2012 Summer Olympics Parade of Nations

Whether its “swimming with dolphins” or “playing in the Olympics,” these bucket list goals all consist of the same characteristics as Huizinga’s characteristics of play:

  1. Play is free
  2. Play is not “ordinary”
  3. Play is distinct from “ordinary” life
  4. Play creates order
  5. Play is connected with no material interest

These goals are free, especially not ordinary, stay away from ordinary tasks, create order and peace in people, and are accomplished for a bigger purpose than martial gains. So, are bucket lists really just ways for people to truly play before they die?

Bernard Suits in The Grasshopper: Games, Life, and Utopia believes that playing is a central part of the “ideal of [human] existence”. Bucket lists not only solidify this idea, but also clarify this notion. Suits notes that playing is a necessary part of life and without life as an “ideal is either incomplete or impossible”. Bucket lists fill this void that Suits is alluding to.

Many people assume a “bucket list” is accomplishments that give your live purpose, satisfaction, and closure; however, a “bucket list” is much more. A bucket list can motivate people towards goals that otherwise feel irrelevant. Several goals on my bucket list are to make an impact on the world, to influence someone’s life, and to be happy.

Even though these goals are not specific and do not truly describe play, they all give the same effects that games or playing give to a person. Many people pass away without making any contribution or impact on society and the world. To me, this is a life wasted. Whether people have a purpose on this planet or not, everyone to some extent should impact the world. Developing a new technology that changes transportation forever, leading a movement that upstarts a new political ideology, or progressing the education in this country through innovation and novelty, we can all influence the world. This important part on my “list” will not only motivate me towards advancement, but also influence the world around me. Like “leveling up” in a game or in GradeCraft or practicing a sport, this goal is a way to continue to improve and truly develop a passion.

The most prominent way one can put their mark on this planet is influence. Remembrance for my life is the most important thing that I wish to accomplish. Whether I change the lives of many or aided to a few, my main goal in life is to progress and advance not only myself but also the people around me. Life is much more than just taking care of yourself, and an influence on someone’s life is a crucial aspect of “life.” Play requires the collaboration of other people and creates a place for teamwork. Whether on a team sport or playing a board game with your sibling, games are influenced by everyone playing and that’s how life should be.

Happiness is an overlooked emotion by many people. For many, money, power, and family bring this sensation. When asked on the deathbed what many people’s biggest regret was, most people say they “wished they were more happy.” Life is about the moments and happiness should be a regular part of these moments. Happiness brightens our lives and adds hues to monotony. Overall, happiness gives a sense of fulfillment in life. Instead of focusing on petty drama or meaningless social ranks, you will look at the larger picture, which is very much essential to lead a meaningful life. A bucket list should not be finished right before your death, but throughout your life. This is the only way you can feel content and gratified. Like Suits’s novel, a balance between your play (goals) and work will help find meaning in your life.

Whether your bucket list is vague, like mine, or specific and descriptive, bucket lists have a strong correlation to playing . As we have learned in this class, playing can be many different activities or have many definitions. Likewise, I think that bucket lists truly help people understand why play is such an important part of life and accordingly, death.


3 thoughts on “Bucket List – What is it really about?

  1. I think your article is great! It is well thought out and I agree with almost everything you have written. However, if there is one thing I would respectfully disagree with, it would be about your point concerning the purpose of a bucket list. While I do believe that goals or activities on one’s bucket list are typically games, I don’t think they are put there just to have one more opportunity to play before you pass away. I think bucket lists are filled with ideas of activities that you were too afraid to do throughout your life due to fear of death. But with death fast approaching certain members of our society, they realize they don’t have to be afraid of doing things like skydiving anymore. With your death all but inevitable, people seem to relinquish their fear of once terrifying games or activities in order to go out with a bang. That is why so many people have a “mid-life crisis” and do activities like this. They realize that their time on Earth is almost done, so they want to make the most of the remaining time that they have left.


    1. I think your blog post is really interesting but I think I disagree with what you claim a bucket list is. Your goals, such as having a positive impact on the world, are laudable, but as I suggested, I think they’re “just” goals. I feel like a bucket list is supposed to be a bit more basic than this, such as eating at Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor before graduating. I think it’s supposed to get you to do things you wouldn’t normally do. Having a positive impact on the world is something incredibly long-term (usually) and isn’t exactly something quantitative that you can “check off.”

      I love that you compared bucket lists to play, since that’s exactly what it is; doing something that is not required whatsoever and solely for personal pleasure and sense of accomplishment. Great blog and great read. 🙂


  2. This is a really great blog post and brings in the course material in an interesting way. I really liked your point about how balancing work and play in life can lead to a more meaningful life. I do agree with rjablon’s point about bucket list’s purposes and how the items on this list are mainly things that we are too afraid to do or don’t have the opportunity to do at that moment. This type of play is very subjective and as a result, I do not agree with the point in this post that if you do not make a contribution or impact on society, your life is wasted. Since everyone has their own fears and obstacles to face in their lives, not everyone will have the same successes and failures, which leads to different levels of achievement. These levels of achievement and personal satisfaction cannot be measured by the level of success in a person’s life and as a result, only that person can evaluate the value and worth of their time on earth.


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