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Life’s bucket lists are made to be emptied

Each piece of pottery, painting or kitchen utensil she collected had a story. So did the special golf shirt or the shoes that carried him through a successful career. Now, looking at all this in their beautiful home was not so easy. How do you take a lifetime of “stuff” and narrow it down so it all fits in the one-bedroom, assisted living apartment? Which things can you part with and which feel just as connected as an arm or a leg?

We are helping my parents pack to move from Prescott, Ariz., back to Denver. Like so many of my generation, our parents now need us in ways nobody ever instructed us about. Oh, sure, friends have all been through this move and have wise suggestions, but it isn’t until you sit in that closet, helping sort through your parents’ lives, do you really understand just how hard this must be for them to leave what they thought would be home forever. What strikes me most is the anticipation and hope attached to so many objects. The projects they thought they’d get around to. The items they used to use and can’t deal with any longer. The general narrowing of life. The reminders of places, activities, friends and entertaining that represent the past just underscore the shrinking of the present and the future. And that exercise reminds me of all my friends who talk about their bucket lists.

That movie created conversations, and now it seems everyone has a bucket list. I know my dad and his wife did, but it is too late to execute on many of those items, so they have become lost hopes. A friend of mine recently found out, in a casual conversation, that his wife has a bucket list and he has taken on the task of making as many of those items happen as he has control over. These examples are the two extremes – one of fulfillment, another of regret.

So what are you doing with your bucket list? Is it a holding tank or a launch pad?

Having a bucket list is really just a cute way of setting goals that you want to achieve before you are too old or too dead to reach them. So why do so many just have the list and never plan steps to make anything happen? Could it be that in some cases a bucket list is merely a dream sequence? That is fine, if you know that’s what you have created. But listening to Dad and his wife talk about the things they wanted and thought they would do with that hint of regret makes me wonder just how much we truly want to reach the goals in our bucket lists.

In our businesses, too, we can get so busy working each day that we miss sight of what we want to achieve, like our bucket lists. Unless we have a clear set of steps and a plan to reach the profit, stability, success or other achievements that we want, we will only get there by chance, and that kind of road map is marked with regret. How did we end up here so quickly without getting to where we really wanted to go? How did it get to be March already?

What often keeps that bucket list in life or business from launching is waiting for things to be right – the economy, the staff, the kids reaching a specific age, financial goals, time constraints, getting caught up in day-to-day life and never shaking up the rut, etc.

Sometimes you just need to get a bit uncomfortable and make things happen. Yes, take a risk and just do it. Start small and you will find comfort in the achievement. What we most regret are the chances we did not take and the choices we did not make. When you look back as you leave your desk or this life, how do you want to feel? Are you doing things now to make that moment all you want it to be?

Jan Quintrall is president and CEO of the local Better Business Bureau. She can be reached at