Why every family should have a bucket list

Is having a bucket list a key ingredient to a happy family?
Is having a bucket list a key ingredient to a happy family? Photo: Getty

The term bucket list is a popular way to describe the magical list of things that you want to do before you die, or 'kick the bucket,' which makes it sound rather bleak. But there is nothing morbid about having one – in fact, experts say that having a bucket list can make life more meaningful.

In a recent study for Red Balloon, researchers surveyed 2034 Australians to unveil their level of happiness. They asked questions relating to everyday life in work and play. They concluded that Australians are more than satisfied with life. They also discovered that the people who have a bucket list are more likely to be happy than those that do not.

So what is it about having a bucket list that makes people happy? Dr Timothy Sharp is a clinical and coaching psychologist and the author of Live Happier, Live Longer. He says that bucket lists make people happy because they allow people to "do more of the things that they love."

"A bucket list is similar to setting goals and we know from research that the act of setting and committing to goals increases our chances of achieving them and, therefore, of enjoying happiness," Dr Sharp explains.

If bucket lists can make individuals feel more fulfilled, can they also bring happiness to families?  Dr Sharp says that the principals of bucket lists can be applied to any area of our lives.  He suggests that for family bucket lists to work well, it is important to review them on a regular basis.

"I would suggest that families regularly set and review their purpose and values," he explains. 

"Set long and short term goals, then live your daily lives guided by those goals to enjoy each moment and work towards something meaningful over the longer term."

When Lauren Ivens* and her husband Matt started looking at schools for their 4-year-old son they realised that life was moving fast. "We knew that once Max started school it would be harder to have the adventure that we'd always planned," says Lauren.

The couple decided to sit down and brainstorm a list of things that they wanted to do as a family, asking Max to join in too. The result? A family bucket list that incorporates travel, fun and learning.


Of course to make your bucket list effective it needs to be more than a wish list. Life Coach Lee Alexander says that for your bucket list items to work as effective goals they need to be 'SMARTER.'

"That is, they are specific, measureable, achievable, realistic, time limited, exciting and rewarding," she explains. "For example, the goal 'we're going on an around world trip' is less potent than, 'we will spend a week in New York before the baby turns 5'."

Lee suggests that you start by discussing what your core family values are and thinking of goals that are in line with them. She also notes that goals should challenge and excite you.

However, Lee also notes that it is a good idea to include some goals that are quick and easy to achieve as that will create a sense of mutual accomplishment.

Luke Sheedy author of the book Discover Your Path, Your Life is Worth Living, agrees. He says that creating and working through a family bucket list will "help build strong foundations and deeper connections between family members."

"These days we are so busy existing that we sometimes forget to live," explains Luke. "By letting go of monotony and embracing spontaneity we get a new zest for life."

* Names have been changed