How To Create A Reverse Bucket List And Why You Need One

I’m turning thirty this month and I’m in the midst of reflecting on not just this last year but my entire life up to this point.

I know I'm not old but somehow this feels like a milestone birthday and I find myself asking, "What have I done with my life so far?"

This question has inspired me to take a break from social media. Lately, I have been getting overwhelmed with everything everyone else seems to be doing while I have felt a bit stuck for almost a year now. 

I feel a need for inspiration and I can't seem to get it anywhere so I'm turning inward.

In lieu of reading every journal I have ever kept, I have a simpler method to reflect and reminisce and it's called a reverse bucket list. 

A bucket list is a compilation of all the things you want to experience and achieve in your lifetime, right? 

Well, a reverse bucket list is made up of all the things you have already accomplished. 

Think of it this way: A bucket list says, “I’m thirty and there are still so many things I want to do that I may never get to.”

A reverse bucket list says, “I’m thirty and I have already done so many incredible things with my life!”

It's essentially a practice of gratitude, and The Journal of Positive Psychology says that gratitude magnifies positive emotions. 

Basically, when you reflect on happy memories, you're emotionally reliving those moments.

What greater inspiration could a person possibly find? And the best part is, it comes from you and no one else.  

Now, Instagram is fun and it’s full of great ideas and opportunities for human connection, but when was the last time you truly felt inspired from seeing other people live their lives? 

For me, scrolling someone's highlight reel makes me feel pressure to measure up rather than inspired to make my own way. 



Your reverse bucket list is basically a highlight reel just for you: something that, when you see it, can spark a bit of joy and lead you to genuine inspiration.     

A reverse bucket list is partially comprised of the things you have crossed off your bucket list, but more often, it’s the things that never made it onto your list in the first place. 

It’s whatever has made your life beautiful in your eyes from accomplishments big or small to sweet experiences that just sort of happened to you.

Writing and reviewing your own reverse bucket list can lift you up when you are feeling down and break you out of the comparison cycle. 

It helps you see how far you have come and what matters most to you regardless of what anyone else is doing with their life. 

And no reverse bucket list is “too average.” 

It doesn’t matter how many people have done the same things, this list is unique to you. And it won’t work if you go into it with the hopes that your list will be more impressive than someone else’s.

And this is the reason why I won’t be sharing my own reverse bucket list in this post. 

I’ll give some examples throughout but not any from my own life because that would detract from the focus of this article: You.

Related Post: 

How To Actually Do Things On Your Bucket List


Your reverse bucket list doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it can be. It can be something you want to frame and hang on your bedroom wall, or a quick list you jot down in a notebook or in your notes app. 

It can involve photos, washi tape, calligraphy. It can be a letter to yourself in an open envelope that you can reference and add to from time to time.

My reverse bucket list is simply scrawled in a notebook in my awkward penmanship and I love it. 

If you don't know where to start, you could try writing memories in categories such as:

• Breathtaking moments you have experienced in nature like that time a butterfly landed on you or that sunset you watched at the Grand Canyon

• Vacations you have taken and all the details you can remember

• Concerts you have attended

• Life events such as weddings and births

• All the people you love

• Service/volunteer work you have done

• Service you have received (my favorite)

• Memories you share with a specific person such as your best friend, child, pet, or spouse

• Milestones in your education and career

• Your favorites: books, movies, songs, foods, ice cream flavors 

• Favorite dining experiences whether at a restaurant or in your home

• Interesting places or situations where you have been kissed

• Thrilling experiences like flying in a helicopter or cliff diving 

• Things you have created such as crochet animals, stories you wrote, pastries you have made, pictures you have painted.

• Life lessons you are grateful for

You could choose a time frame to help you as you contemplate your experiences:

• By season: write down all the things you can think of that you experienced last summer, for example.

• By five year increments: write down fond memories you had between the age of 15 and 20, between 20 and 25, and so on.  

• Try holding an annual review for yourself around the time of your birthday instead of New Year’s Eve because your birthday is a day that is unique to you (more so than NYE anyway), and no one else has lived your life.

Of course, the most important aspect of the reverse bucket list is that it fills you up with joy for your life. 

These suggestions are only intended to get you started. If it feels like a chore, it’s not doing you any good. If it makes you feel happy, you're on the right track.


Your reverse bucket list can ignite gratitude and show you what you truly want more of throughout your life. 

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. at the University of Berkley says that “gratitude shifts one’s attention away from negative emotions such as resentment and envy."

“…Gratitude makes us appreciate the value of something, and when we appreciate the value of something, we extract more benefits from it; we’re less likely to take it for granted.

In effect, I think gratitude allows us to participate more in life. We notice the positives more, and that magnifies the pleasures you get from life. Instead of adapting to goodness, we celebrate goodness. 

We spend so much time watching things – movies, computer screens, sports – but with gratitude we become greater participants in our lives as opposed to spectators.” –Robert Emmons, Journal of Positive Psychology 

Using a reverse bucket list as a gratitude practice can shift our perspective from "I wish to live a beautiful life someday" to "My life is so beautiful! And I want to add even more to it!"

Maybe you really would rather binge Netflix with your best friend every evening than plan vacations and spend a lot of time in airports and cramped planes. 

And that's wonderful! It has to come from you though, not what other people are doing, not what you "should" be doing with your life. This is about what you value.

If you’re not sure what you value, review your life so far and pay attention to those memories that make you feel alive. See for yourself if a reverse bucket list inspires you. 

That's the beauty of a reverse bucket list. It fills you with gratitude and shows you what you love. I encourage you to utilize that; prioritize, and live a full life that is unique to you. 

Now I want to know your side of the conversation. Share one thing from your reverse bucket list in the comment section below!

Hi! My name is Kait. Follow this link to learn more about me and my blog.


  1. Love this idea! I'm going on 30 this month too, so I'm right there with you. One thing on my list that we share: serving a mission in Korea! It seems like forever ago now, but I'm so grateful for that experience

    1. I love it! It really does seem like a lifetime ago and I'll forever be grateful for the experiences both beautiful and not, as well as all I learned. And I'm grateful to know you because of it!


Post a Comment

Popular Posts