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If you don't have one of these, why in the heck not?

I can't think of anyone who shouldn't have a "life list." (I prefer to not call it a "bucket list" – things you want to do before you "kick the bucket" – because, A, that term is horribly depressing and, B, it suggests desperation.) A decade ago, it was unusual to have even heard about such a list. Today, even though the concept isn't fresh (The Bucket List, a major motion picture starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, was released in 2007), a lot of people – probably most people – have never taken the time to create one. Prior to me assigning it, the vast majority of my students didn't have a life list. But they should, so I assign it. They need one. We all do. The leading cause of suicide is a lack of hope. An idea file that includes a life list is the antidote to hopelessness. Ideas electrify the future. Everyone should have at least one! Seriously, we need to teach kids to make a conscious effort to come up with ideas, record them (like da Vinci, in words and/or sketches), then work at converting them from dream to reality. Not only do ideas make life more exciting, they give us a reason to live.

I'm skeptical when motivational speakers preach that writing down goals and hanging them up in a conspicuous place is magical – as if that's all we need to do to make our dreams come true. There are conflicting studies about whether or not writing down goals does any good. Still, I'm in love with the concept of formalizing and organizing ideas and goals, and it sure can't hurt. Writing down ideas forces us to think about them.

Therefore, the first and most important file in the idea file should be a "life list" bursting with ideas including

o Places you want to go o People you want to meet o Things you want to learn o Things you want to try o Things you want to start, change, fix or eliminate o Things you want to buy o Things you want to achieve o Things you want to do for others

A life list is essentially a list of goals and resolutions. Gretchen Rubin, in The Happiness Project, draws an important distinction between the two. "You hit a goal, you keep a resolution." A goal is typically a one-time event. Once you accomplish it, you can check it off your list. It may be repeated, but often it's not. "Complete a triathlon," "Visit Florence," "Earn a bachelor's degree" are examples of goals. Resolutions are ongoing, such as establishing (or breaking) a habit or improving your life style. "Exercise," "Write in a journal," "Watch inspiring videos" are examples of resolutions.

Ten years ago, at the peak of my newspaper journalism career, I wrote a column that included my (then) life list. Some of what's on it were accomplished. Others, I'm still working toward. And, disappointingly, there are several that are never going to happen, but it's OK. The most important thing about having a life list is to HAVE a life list.

If you don't have one of these, why in the heck not?

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