Burn The Bucket List: 5 Ways To Take Back Your Freedom And Control Of Your Dreams

by Victoria Reitano

What happens when you reach your goals early, achieve what you want and realize there's much, much more to life than some item on a bucket list? You feel untethered, hopeless, lost... and then, free.

When I was 19, a professor asked me what I wanted to be when I finished college. I confidently told him: the city desk editor of "The New York Times." I was a New Yorker to the core who knew exactly what she wanted and exactly what she had to do to get there.

I still haven’t made it to "The New York Times," but I have accomplished almost all of the goals I set for myself as I made that long walk across the quad four years ago.

Graduation was the day after my 22nd birthday and I knew that by 25, I wanted three things: a 401K, an apartment in Manhattan and a job that fulfilled my ambitions.

Thanks to my New Yorker-ness, a little luck and a lot of hard work, I made it. As I approached my most recent birthday that propelled me into my “late” 20s, I was startled to realize that my goals are all long-term goals now.

There aren’t any items on my current bucket list that can be accomplished in the next six months. Hell, many of them probably won’t be accomplished in the next few years.

I felt lost, afraid and ready to run. I wanted to bolt, start over and find a new set of goals to forge forward with. I loved my apartment, enjoyed my job, was dating and working on finding a routine that I could handle with my schedule.

But, I felt like not having a bucket list that I could tick off on December 31 meant I had become complacent.

And then, one morning in the middle of an incredibly intense SoulCycle session, I realized that completing the bucket list isn’t a bad thing -- it’s liberating. Now, you can truly go wherever life takes you. How can you feel that freedom?

Here are the five tips that help me when I'm feeling lost:

Write It Down

Once you write something down, it’s out of your head. Write down what you’re feeling, write down what you’ve accomplished and write down what makes you want to run.

You know that feeling: You want to fill the gas tank, take the essentials, throw away your cell phone and bolt. For anything, anyone, anywhere that will take you away from what you’re feeling.

BUT that’s the flight we all have in us; it takes true strength to fight. Success is hard, but it is almost always worth the fight it takes to have it. So, write down what you want and stop looking for problems (like with that adorable pre-war apartment you found for a song) where there aren’t any.

Find Another Ball

I believe life is a juggling act. When the life ball, work ball and the home ball are all in the area and being moved around at a good pace, I find myself waiting for one to drop out and send me into a spiral of despair.

That isn’t always the case, and in order to truly redefine your goals (and maybe, burn the bucket list all together), you have to focus on the one that is a little lower than the others.

An example is if you’re loving your job, apartment and daily routine, but feel like you don’t see your friends enough or feel like you’ve gotten into a “work, sleep, gym, shower, repeat” cycle.

Schedule things for midweek to break up your time or plan one night a week for yourself. It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have something liberating to look forward to.

Find New Goals

Don’t make them concrete or set in stone, just find a small goal that you can accomplish. Maybe you want to up your workouts from two days to four or maybe you want to save cash by bringing lunch at least three days a week.

Whatever it is, when you’re feeling like your goals are so far from being attained, set smaller goals to help you feel that sense of accomplishment you felt when you first tackled your biggest goals.

Get Out of Town!

Travel or take a weekend trip. Hell, you could take a day trip out to Long Beach, Long Island for goodness sake! Changing up your scenery, even for a day, will help you feel renewed and refreshed.

Maybe you’ll see an ad for a class you’ve always wanted to take or meet an interesting stranger who will redefine your entire life plan. Take a trip and see the world from different, less focused eyes.

Be Gentle

A wise person once told me, “Stop should-ing on yourself.” Stop saying, “I should have X” or “I should do X by X date."

Take a deep breath when you feel overwhelmed, write your to-do or want-to-do list and figure out your next move. If that doesn’t work, don’t judge yourself. Life has a funny way of working out how it’s supposed to, even if it’s not the way you want.

Look back at your goals two years ago, or four years ago. Did you think you’d be where you are now?

Maybe your life isn’t everything you thought it’d be, but I can guarantee you that some areas are even greater than you could have ever imagined.

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