Recently, a friend asked me what’s on my bucket list. He began to name some things on his, mostly travel to various places. I couldn’t think of a place I need to see in my lifetime, though there are a few places I’d like to go. Go or not, I’ll be happy.
I no longer have a specific career goal on my bucket list either. Over the last few decades, I wanted to be a noted psychologist, a bestselling novelist, and a nutritionist. I imagined changing people’s lives with my insights and ability to motivate my clients to live in healthy ways.
A more recent career goal (before I became a freelancer writer), was to be a great teacher to a special population of kids I really understood. Let’s say politics got in the way of that goal.
But like I said, I no longer dream of accomplishing a specific career-related goal. I now see how all these pursuits fit together.
There are a lot of things I’d like to learn—or relearn—before I leave this planet. I’d like to sing and play tennis again, and I’ve always wanted to learn to draw. I have to learn about technology and digital publishing.
Still, none of that is on my bucket list. I’ll be fine if I accomplish any of these things or none of them, as long as I stay engaged in something.
Finding Meaning is My Bucket List
So what is on my bucket list? What do I need in order to feel like my life has been worthwhile?
Well, it’s simple. I need to know—or believe, because we never really know anything, do we?—that my life has had meaning and that I’ve somehow made a positive difference. Isn’t that what most of us want?
Can I ever know for sure that my life — or anyone’s — means something? Maybe not. It may be enough to trust that we’re all here for a reason.
In many ways, I have yoga thank for knowing what’s enough. Yoga has taught me to be myself and use my gifts without attachment to the outcome of my efforts.
It’s hard though. I won’t lie.
Making a Difference Without a Bucket List
I suppose some people are more or less certain they’ve made a difference in the world, and it must feel good to know it. Respected doctors, best-selling authors, Noble Peace Prize winners and the like get some kind of tangible feedback that more or less proves their lives have meant something.
Do I need to be famous or remembered in history books? No. Does it matter much that I may not be personally remembered by many once I’m gone? Not really, though it would be nice.
But I do want to believe I made a small difference somehow, because a small difference can have a huge impact. It can be part of a whole movement toward the development of good. I believe this is true, though I can’t point to any scientific evidence to support my belief.
It’s Not What You Do, But Why and How You Do It That Matters
The other day in yoga class, my teacher, who always seems to know exactly what I need to hear, read a passage from Marianne Williamson’s bestseller, A Return to Love. The book is a classic for good reason. It’s simple and brilliantly poetic. It’s about love.
The passage my yoga teacher read was about, of all things, careers. (How did she know I’d been wondering about the direction of mine?)
My friend who asked me the bucket list question is struggling with a similar problem. He’s at a career crossroad himself. The career thing is very different for him than it is for me in many ways. But in others it’s not. We both want to make a difference.
How to Make a Difference, Bucket List or Not
How can we make a difference in such a complicated society? We have so many choices. On the other hand, as we explore each possibility, we often find our choices are really remarkably limited. They often lead us down dead end roads until we hit a wall.
And then what?
Simply using our gifts is not always enough because of the competition, the bills, the tax laws, the stock market, and information overload. Every day my inbox is bombarded with the latest “secret” for finding clients and well-paying writing gigs. Most of them slightly different versions of the ones I received the week before. And at this point in my career, few of them are useful.
But I shift through them all to find that needle in the haystack, because there are still needles to find.
My Point (I do have one)
Every job worth doing can be done with love. Even if your job is selling carpets, you can do it with love. I mention carpets because I once knew a salesman who was joyfully helping people pick out carpets well into his eighties. That kind of thing can be inspiring.
Whatever you do, you can be kind, honest, and friendly while you do it, and your goal can be both making a profit and helping someone else, whether that person is a customer, client, or coworker.
My goal as an editor and writer is to help people communicate. For the most part, I work in a niche that is easily about love: well-being. But I’m also a technical editor, and I spend a good amount of time pouring over copy about digital imaging products. How is that about love?
Well, the team I work with is a great group; for most of us, the work is about supporting each other’s efforts. Our collective goal is to communicate an accurate message.
Before I launched myself as a freelance writer and editor, I was a teacher, an administrative assistant, a nutritionist at an upscale gym, a financial aid counselor, and a research editor.
Yes, I’ve had many jobs. In Return to Love, Marianne Williamson says the same of her life.
Marianne also says she’s had many jobs but only one career. I say the same.
The reason I’ve had many jobs (and clients) is I’m continually tweaking my work life to align with purpose. I’m looking for the best way to use my gifts to do what I’m here to do—what we all came her to do—spread love and make a difference, no matter how small that difference seems.
If I can do that, I don’t need a bucket list.
I’m Maria, devoted yogini and author of Yoga Circles. I’m a writer, editor, and content marketing creator. I help small businesses, wellness brands, teachers, and authors publish books, develop marketing strategies, and communicate effectively in writing. Visit my website (link below) to learn how I can help you connect with more readers, clients, and students!