The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

What’s On Your Life List?

Do you have one? I don’t. Or at least not one that I thought about until I read this Lifehack post (one of several similar blogs I’ve been reading since I starting trying to implement a GTD system) about how the author’s seven-year-old started his own life list.

About two months ago, on a rainy Saturday, my seven year-old son (who is enjoying his budding ability to write) came to me with a small, yellow pad of paper and said, “Daddy, I want to write a list. What should I make a list of?” Suddenly, I recalled reading about John Goddard and the life list he wrote at age 15. His list consisted of 127 things he would like to do or see during his lifetime (for example: Climb Mt. Everest, run a mile in under five minutes, land on and take off from an aircraft carrier, and circumnavigate the globe). Goddard is now 75 years old and, at last count, has accomplished 109 of the goals he wrote as a teenager.

I hadn’t heard of John Goddard or his life list, at least that I can recall, but I was impressed with the idea that he even started one at age 15, let alone knew what he wanted to do. I can’t imagine doing that at 15 or at seven.

Well, maybe at seven. That was when I still daydreamed about things I wanted to do or what I wanted to be, and even still believed many of them could come true. Before I started a long period of struggling to keep my head above water, in my twenties, and had little time for dreams. Before I found myself staring my 38th birthday in the face in a couple of weeks, and wondering if there’s still time to retrieve at least a few of those dreams, dust them off and do something with them. Or reevaluate what I have managed to accomplish (which might even include things I couldn’t have dreamed of back then.)

I’ve heard of people who have “five year plans” or “three year plans” for their lives and/or careers. Whenever someone’s asked me about mine, or whether I have one, my eyes usually glaze over and I can only mumble “I’ll have to think about that,” in response. I continue to be mystified by people who actually know what they want to do (especially people who’ve always known what they wanted to do), and can actually manage to chart a course to get them there, and follow it. I never even saw a path, so much as I seemed to be perpetually at a junction of many paths, and unable to decide which one to take, because my mind wandered won each of them, again and again.

At least I can think about it now, with less regret than previously. And I take a little solace from the lyrics of a song I listened to during my commute this morning.

Don’t feel guilty if you don’t know what you want to do with your life. The most interesting people I know didn’t know at 22 what they wanted to do with their lives. Some of the most interesting 40-year-olds I know still don’t.

… Whatever you do, don’t congratulate yourself too much, or berate yourself either. Your choices are half chance. So are everybody else’s.

Hey, I’ll take comfort where ever I can find it, especially if it means it’s not to late to start thinking about my own life list. Even my list at 43 Things is pretty bare (I managed 6 before I got distracted), but perhaps it’s a good place to start.

So that’s what I’ll do. Here’s the beginning of my “life list,” with things crossed off that I’ve already accomplished (included if only because it makes me feel better about the list). And I’m not censoring myself from imagining “wild success.”

Never stop learning

Learn to play the piano

Become a better singer

Find my purpose

Meditate more often

Learn yoga

Find love

Have a job that uses my talents and that I enjoy going to

Be the best father I can be

See my kids grow up to live happy, successful, productive lives

Write a novel

Become a published author

Become a published poet

Give a reading of my own poetry

Sing with a jazz trio

Make a record (i.e. musical recording)

Start acting again

Perform on stage

Appear in a movie

Win an Oscar

Win a Grammy


Travel to Paris

Travel to London

Travel to Egypt

See the Pyramids

Participate in an archaeological dig

Learn to hand-glide

Go to law school

Get a graduate degree in history

Get an MFA

Write a mystery novel

Win a literary prize

Live in New York City

Live in San Francisco

Live in Europe

Learn to swim

Be on National television

Live to be at least 99

Help make marriage equality a reality

Get legally married to my husband

Take a real, two-week vacation

Learn another language

VIsit a writers’ colony

Go on a meditation retreat

Organize my desk

Not worry about money

Experience a past-life regression

Be hypnotized

Learn graphic design

Help design a computer game

Learn to ski

Learn to play guitar

Be an expert in something

Die with no regrets

I could go on, and I suppose I will. But there’s one more thing I want to add to that list, based on the questions in the post that inspired it.

1. To what degree do you think a young person increases his chances of a fulfilling life by seizing the freedom to dream big, imagining what he wants to achieve, and writing it down?

2. Which habit would you wish for your child more than that of creating exciting mental pictures of the future with a spirit of expectancy?

I think dreaming big, and being encouraged to reach for and work for those dreams increases the chance for a fulfilling life immensely. And the only habit I would want my child to develop, other than dreaming big and believing in his ability to accomplish his dreams, is the habit of seizing opportunities to do so when presented with them, and seeking or creating opportunities where none are apparent. Oh, and judging himself by his own standards, rather than what I or anyone else thinks he should be or should want.

So, the other item on my list is to sit down with Parker and our next kid when they’re old enough, and encourage them to think about their own “life lists,” and start filling them up.

That’s my list for now. What’s yours? Got one? I didn’t when I started writing this, but I do now.

If you started writing yours today, what would you put on it? What have you put on it and immediately cross off? What have you already done that you never dreamed you would?


  1. Interesting :)..I wrote up a list of a 100 things I wanted to do in my life when I was 16

    I started transfering all 100 to my blog just a month ago. Some of mine overlap (like write a novel, but I haven’t completed mine like you have :).

    It’s been a VERY interesting exercise for me over the decades (three now), to look at them, reconsider them, modify them. Hmm, someday I should write a book about that experience..

    then I could mark off that goal 😀

  2. Very interesting. I have never made a life list, but there one thing jumps up from my past as one which would have made it up there.

    When I was a kid, I always dreamed about living in a foreign country. I would look into becoming an exchange student. I wondered about being au pair for a year. I swooned over advertisements about studying chinese in china.

    But life happened. I went to college, got a good job, got married, had kids. I knew my life dream wouldn’t happen and was mostly ok with that.

    Until one day, I got a phone call, with a job offer for a company in the USA (I grew up in the Netherlands) Suddenly my dream could come true, and six months later I lived in a foreign country, with my husband and my kids.

    That was one of the big things in my life which I wanted pretty badly, but thought wouldn’t work out. I am so glad it did anyway.

    I’ll have to sit down my kids and see whether they want to write a life list, will be interesting to see what they come up with.


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