bucket lists resolutions habits

Bucket Lists vs. Resolutions vs. Habits

As you may have noticed, I have been away from my blog for a few weeks now. Trust me, I didn’t forget about you. Recently, I just went on a 12-Day cruise from Sydney, Australia to Auckland, New Zeland. This cruise has resulted in an amazing experience and fantastic future blog posts, but it also resulted in forming a tenuous relationship with wi-fi. Now that the cruise is done, I should have a reliable wi-fi source to continue my weekly Wednesday WordPress blog posts. Although this post may be a little bit late (as it’s February), I still consider the material that follows to be relevant for everyone as we continue on into the new year. So, with that introductory note established, continue forward.

Before I went on my cruise, I had a discussion with my friend about her New Year’s Resolutions. I had asked her if she had any resolutions, and she had responded to me that she already told me about her resolutions and that she keeps them in a journal. She reviews it once per week and sees if there is anything that she can accomplish in that now. She mentioned that resolutions to her were a daily thing and that she doesn’t wait until the New Year to start them, citing the fact that many people wouldn’t put on their resolution list for 2019 “I want to get in shape” and then in 2020 put “I want to get fat.” They would continue that journey of personal well-being.

This conversation prompted me for this blog post. What is the difference between our Bucket List, our Resolutions, and our Habits? Do these differences matter or are they virtually just synonyms of one another? Well, I believe that how we look at our goals does matter quite a bit because it affects how we manage our time and it also affects the list of our priorities.

Bucket List

First, the easiest one to distinguish from the others is the idea of a “Bucket List.” Essentially, these are things that we want to do before we die. These things would make our life complete having accomplished them.

Everyone has some form of a bucket list, for a bucket list gives our life a sense of purpose and meaning. Unless we are the walking dead, we are ultimately working towards something, some great goal, that will give our lives a sense of fulfillment and purpose. A resolution also does this same thing. However, where they differ is the fact that resolutions are more immediate and bucket lists are typically long-term life accomplishments. Generally, these will probably take more than one year to complete. For example, some people have the bucket list of visiting all seven continents. Unless you are incredibly rich, this one bucket list item may take you your whole life to complete, hence the reason why it is a bucket list.

My bucket list is as follows:

  1. See the aurora borealis in Iceland
  2. Go to Australia and New Zealand
  3. Go on an African safari
  4. Teach Creative Writing at a college level
  5. Have a family
  6. Have my book turned into a movie

The idea with a bucket list is that, for the most part, they will require you to complete multiple resolutions until you finally fulfill the desire that you have. For example, in the list above one of my goals is to teach Creative Writing at a college level. First, this means I need to be good at creative writing and have experience and probably have a few published works (check). Second, I will most likely need some teaching experience or be extremely successful at my work (check for teaching experience). Third, I will need at least a Master of Fine Arts, but more likely than that, I will need a Ph.D. in Creative Writing.

Currently, I do not have the last one. Also, it is advisable I get a master’s degree first, so that is why this year one of my resolutions is to get a Master’s Degree in order to prepare my mind for a Ph.D. This is the reason why I say in my previous blog post on how to write resolutions (here) that you should “begin with the end in mind.”

The only one I have finished on my bucket list is “experience an African safari.” I did that in 2018 with my mom in South Africa. The other ones will require patience and perseverance (Creative Writing), money (Iceland + Australia), and sometimes our bucket list requires a little bit of luck (family, movie.)

As you may have recalled from my introductory note, I have just finished a cruise from Australia and New Zealand!!! (More about that experience in future blog posts!) In a word, though, this cruise was a fantastic solo experience for a few reasons. Firstly, it provided me with a new experience, Secondly, it was quite the unique experience for what happened during that time (the spread of the Coronavirus). Thirdly, it allowed me to cross off an item of my bucket list and has provided me with a sense of accomplishment now that I can continue with throughout the rest of my travels before I / if I return to China.


If bucket-list items are our long-term goals and dreams, then resolutions are goals we have for ourselves that are relatively short-term. My friend mentioned that resolutions like “getting into shape” don’t change from year-to-year and that someone who gets into shape at one point will probably want to continue to get into shape. While that may be true, I’ve also explored in the blog post in tips on how to write resolutions the why in failed resolutions. See that here.

To have a resolution is one thing, to complete it successfully is entirely different. The idea of completing a resolution also is different than that of a habit. While it is possible to successfully complete the resolution of “getting in shape,” what does that mean? I’ve already looked at the reason why resolutions fail is because people are not specific enough in crafting their resolutions. In the same vein, what does “get out of shape mean”? For a bodybuilder this may mean gaining a certain percentage of fat and for someone else it may mean your jeans no longer fit you. The point I’m trying to make is that our goals are subjective until we make them objective, and that is what a good resolution should do: it should be objective.

My resolutions for this year are as follows:

  1. I will finish writing the first draft of my fourth novel in the Guardian of the Core series by June 29th, 2020.
  2. I will begin my Master’s Program in Digital Media Strategy online starting the Fall of 2020.   
  3. I want to read a minimum of fifteen new books in the year of 2020.
  4. I want to get into better shape in the gym and be able to lift 220 kg in deadlift, 150 kg in bench press, and 180 kg in squat.

To learn about them more in-depth check out the blog post here.

When someone completes their goal of “getting in shape” and then continues that goal, it no longer is a resolution. Instead, I would argue that the idea of the gym, taking care of your body, watching what you eat (all factors that helped achieve the resolution of “getting in shape”) are now well-established, or at least semi-established, habits that we carry with us day-to-day.

In fact, I believe by creating specific resolutions and completing them we will more than likely build foundational habits that will continue to shape and mold us. Habits allow us to accomplish our resolutions, and it is also these habits that allow us to continue to grow.


So, what, then, are habits? Habits are the little things, our internal alarm clock in some instances. For example, I wake up at 7:30 or so on Saturdays just because my body is so conditioned to waking up at that time for school. Sometimes I eat just because it is “time” to eat in my eyes. I may not be actually hungry, but I’ll put something in my stomach because I feel that it’s right. In general, habits make us or break us. It is my natural gravitation towards the gym five days a week, or what makes me pick up the Bible in the morning and start to read.

To use an analogy, imagine the resolution is like a test and habits are your study guide. You need to complete the study guide (or at least look at it often) in order to increase your odds of doing well on the test.

In the discussion with my friend, she mentioned that she keeps multiple journals that serve various purposes. In general, this is actually quite a fantastic idea in establishing good habits. This is something mentioned in Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey. Not only does she go back through this weekly (repetition is always good), but it seems she is also very organized with it (having different journals for different purposes). This reminds me of how we should be organizing our time: weekly and accordance to our different hats that we wear. To read more of that post, click here.

While I know this is how things should be done, cognizance of the idea and implementation of the idea are two entirely different things. However, I wouldn’t be quick to put it as a resolution: to be better organized. Again, how do I measure that? Well, I could change it to be something like this: “I will be better organized by keeping a weekly planner with all of my activities and times listed for the week.”

bucket lists
No matter if it’s a bucket list, resolution, or habit they all require a to-do list

Okay, this would do. Actually, this is quite good and something I would definitely want to put on my resolution list. However, it isn’t realistic. Chances are I won’t do this continually for the whole year, but perhaps I can start to form this habit by taking it one month at a time and completing it more often than not. If this eventually becomes a habit, I have no doubt that it will lead to great success in my future long-term resolutions.

To Wrap Things Up

To go back to the question that I originally posed: What is the difference between resolutions, habits, and bucket lists? I’ll leave you with this final point. Imagine bucket lists as your goals, the things you NEED to accomplish. Resolutions are your priorities, what you NEED to accomplish right now. Finally, we have habits which are how we arrange our time to fulfill those priorities to eventually lead us to accomplish—or have the chance of accomplishing—those goals.

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