Why Bucket Lists Are So Last Year

Shout out to lessons from a leadership class by Mel Fugate, management and organizations professor at SMU's Cox School of Business, on what's more important than a bucket list.

by Mary Wilson, contributor

It’s on the big screen. It’s all over Twitter. You reference it on Facebook, your online dating profiles. It drives you to finish those marathons (I still don’t get this one), to learn French, to swim with sharks, to take up cooking. It’s such a phenomenon, it’s even got it’s own “.org” now.

It’s the Bucket List.

It’s not a revolutionary concept. It’s just catching like wildfire, that’s all. We’re all fascinated by the thought of finishing monumental, important, spontaneous to-do’s that we truly believe will make us feel satisfied on that last day we spend on earth....

I took a leadership course at Southern Methodist University once, with a professor and employee performance expert who got me thinking.  Mel Fugate spent a significant amount of time instructing and observing the minds of those sleep-deprived MBA candidates (you know the type, you very well may have been one), and their reactions to a little thing he likes to call ‘Bucket List vs. Obituary’. (Okay, so that’s what I like to call it – but that’s beside the point.)

In that course, Fugate asked us to complete two assignments. The first, a bucket list (you know the drill) and the other, to write our own obituaries. “Imagine standing at the end looking back. What do you see?,” Fugate asked us. He did this to encourage us to find our own forward-looking vision that is the true expression of our “higher level intrinsic motives.” The obituary exercise all came down to a personal vision and imagining the ultimate destination for your life and what you want to leave behind. Something powerful happens when we take ourselves out of ‘the now’ and focus some serious brain power on the words that would hypothetically sum up our existence when we’re long gone.  Remember – “You can’t connect the dots looking forward,” as Steve Jobs said. “You can only connect them looking  backwards.”...