Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words.
Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions.
Be careful of your actions, for your actions become your habits.
Be careful of your habits, for your habits become your character.
Be careful of your character, for your character becomes your destiny.”
– Author unknown
Be Careful of Your Thoughts
If you know me even a little bit, you know how passionate I am about my Bucketlist. I love to travel around and help others create, develop, and accomplish things off of their Bucketlist…and hopefully for them to eventually “Live Their List” on an everyday basis. You might be asking me, “Eller…who cares about a Bucketlist? I have too much to do and more important things to worry about than a silly list of things that don’t really matter in life.” After all, there is validity in that statement, as everyday life can absolutely consume our needs to a point where their isn’t time to learn new skills, travel to new cultures, or do something new and challenging. I strongly believe, however, that this leads to the necessity of a Bucketlist. Not only does it divert from the monotony of the day-to-day, it challenges us to change the paradigm in which we view the world by helping us define our purpose in life.
I created my Bucketlist in 2004 on the way back from NYC. I was sitting on the plane processing all of the amazing things I had seen and done over the previous 4 days…we had ascended the Empire State Building, went to Wall Street, rode the subway, navigated through Central Park, and viewed the Statue of Liberty. I pulled out my reporter’s pad (I was there for a journalism conference), and decided that I needed to record some of these events so I wouldn’t forget the sights and sounds of this unbelievable trip. It was at this moment that I decided I need to accumulate a list of things I wanted to do before I died…my Bucketlist. Some items were fun and arbitrary…#63. Meeting Someone Famous Randomly…and some were more meaningful and life changing…#96. Give my Daughter Away at Her Wedding to a Man who Deserves Her. Either way this list got me to thinking about all of my dreams, ambitions, and goals (small and large) that I had for my life. I was a young man with a life full of potential and opportunity. I decided at that moment that regardless of my stage of life, I would always actively be pursuing my dreams. It has truly changed how I think about myself and my dreams. I started to think about my purpose in life…what things really mattered to me, and why I was put on this earth.
Be Careful of Your Words
When I got back from NYC I slowly got back into the routine of being a college kid. I spent time in the newspaper office, had fun with the fraternity, and tried to attend class (I just am being honest here). I got back into the monotony of everyday life. After a particularly long day I felt like I should pull out my list and review some of the things I wanted to accomplish. I saw a perfect opportunity to check off an item on the list…#71 Take a photography class. I decided that it was a great time to take this class…I needed an elective and it was something I wanted to try out, so it was win/win. I began to tell everyone I knew about the photography class, trying to recruit some of my friends to take it with me, telling them, “You can add it to your Bucketlist and then check it off later.” I talked about my Bucketlist so often that people started suggesting things for me to add, and I became known as that guy with the Bucketlist (which was better than most of my other nicknames). Since I was thinking about all of my dreams, goals, and ambitions, I started to almost speak words of affirmation over my life. I began to believe that I could do anything on the list. It boosted my self-confidence and made me more aggressive in pursuing an adventurous life. These powerful and affirming words, which stemmed from my thoughts, truly began to guide my everyday actions. Life was not monotonous anymore. Sure, I had things I had to do, class to attend, and real-life responsibilities, but I attacked them with more vigor and purpose than ever before.
Be Careful of Your Actions
In the Fall of 2005 I was asked to be the host of the annual Miss NSU Scholarship Pageant. This was not something on my list, but it is rare that I turn down an opportunity to be cheesy in front of a group of people. I was finishing up my victory lap (5th year of college) at NSU, and I was having a great year. My recent change of mentality and new-found confidence had led me to some new avenues on campus, and allowed me to start taking action towards Living My List. The day before the pageant, I found out that Miss Oklahoma was going to be able to attend and crown the new Miss NSU. This excited me because, well, she was Miss Oklahoma, and I was going to be sharing a stage with her. A few years before, my current personal assistant, Jerrod Murr, had hosted the pageant, and had asked that year’s Miss Oklahoma to join him on stage and dance. Inspired by his courage, I ad-libbed from the program’s script and asked Miss Oklahoma to join me on stage to teach me how to dance…her pageant talent. Needless to say, I didn’t dance well, but we had a great time and it gained me some credit from the fraternity guys. Little did I know that this Miss Oklahoma, Jennifer Berry, would only two weeks later compete for Miss America, and win the crown. Therefore, I had danced with Miss America, and you better believe I added it to my list retroactively (#4 Dance with Miss America) and walked around with pride for a couple days.
Just a year before this pageant, before my NYC trip, I would not have attempted to dance with Miss Oklahoma. I probably wouldn’t even had emceed the event. I would have been too concerned about my faults or inadequacies, or just too busy with everyday life to have the courage to actually make a fool of myself in front of the entire school population. Fast forward a few months, and because I had started to focus on my Bucketlist and my goals, I had started thinking differently about what really mattered in life. It wasn’t that I forgot about my other responsibilities, I did graduate college, but that I realized that living life to the fullest everyday was my new priority. I began to share this with others, and started taking action towards living a fulfilled life, full of fun and challenging activities. This then turned from random happenstances to a lifestyle that became focused on appreciating the short time we have before we kick the bucket.
Be Careful of Your Habits
When Kristin and I first moved to Tulsa, I was like a fish out of water. At this point in my life I had just recently finished some major goals in my life: Get a Job, Get Married, Get a Master’s Degree, etc. My new-found actions had helped me achieve many new things, but I needed new challenges. This was the first time I had ever lived in a large city, and I knew almost no one in town. It was strange for me to go to a restaurant or gas station and not see someone I knew (or was related to). Kristin was studying for the CPA exam, and it took up about 97% of her free time, leaving me to sit around with nothing to do and nowhere to go. Instead of sitting in our tiny apartment and bugging her senseless, and instead of eating all the food in northwest Tulsa, I decided to accomplish something off of my Bucketlist…#42 Run a Marathon.
When I first wrote the list in 2004, I called my dad and told him about it. I distinctly remember telling him that it would be nice to someday run a marathon, but in no way did I ever think I could actually finish one. In 2008, the running started off slow, but I made a goal of finishing a half-marathon. I started running in August, during the hottest time of the year, where Tulsa can seem like the hottest place on the planet. For the next three months I ran mostly by myself, or with Kristin, up and down the flat trails on Riverside until I built up enough endurance to run 3, 4, even 5 miles at a time without stopping. I talked with people who had finished marathons before and learned from their expertise. I went to a running store and bought new shoes for my new cause. I went online and read blogs and perused a couple of books about running (surprisingly…it’s more than one foot in front of the other). I started to run for 60, 70, or 80 minutes at a time as my health improved and I found new strength. The big day came when I ran the Route 66 Half-Marathon…and I finished! This started me on a four-year journey where I not only checked off my marathon Bucketlist item, but I developed habits that have stuck with me to this day. It started way back in 2004 when I was riding back from NYC…my mentality changed, my words became more positive and encouraging, my actions started backing up my thoughts and statements, which ultimately led to me challenging myself to run a marathon. I had developed a purpose to do more with my precious short-lived life.
Be careful of your character.
Life happens fast, and whatever you spend your time doing can start to define who you are, it can even sculpt your character. There are many different implications when taking about one’s character, but I think it is explained best when character is described as the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of a person. Character is more than your everyday actions, even though your actions are the fruit of your character. When you start to Live Your List and develop into someone who strives for more than the status quo, to become more than the average person, you start to define your character as someone who knows there is more to life than work, making money, and expense reports. Spend time with your family as you check off Bucketlist items together. Pursue a career that allows you to follow your dreams and develop your passion. Travel the world and learn about new cultures and meet new people completely different than you. Practice a new skill or talent that makes you a better, more well-rounded person. These things do matter…they help define your character which in turn becomes your destiny.
Your character becomes your destiny.
I was watching Jack Hanna’s Into the Wild with Jane the other morning and it got me to thinking about Living Your List. Here is a guy whose main purpose in life is to raise animal awareness, and through his life’s work he has done many amazing and wonderful things. He could have been a regular zookeeper (no shame in that), instead he wanted more in life and started doing things that no one else had done before. On this one episode we were watching, he went to 6 continents, and went deep-sea diving on the ocean floor. Talk about Living Your List! I don’t know Jack Hanna personally, but I would have to imagine that he started dreaming big dreams, which led to taking the talk, which created opportunities for action, eventually those actions became his habits which now define his character. Think of those people in your life who are achieving great things…they know their purpose and live a life that defines their destiny.
My goal in life is not to check every item off of my Bucketlist…I know that there is so much more to life than that. I hope to live a life that is positive, encouraging, loving, thoughtful, and adventurous. I know it starts with a daily purpose-filled process that turns into something much greater over time. I strive to be a man of big thoughts, concrete words, meaningful actions, structured habits, and unbreakable character. I hope that a Bucketlist, as silly as it sounds, can encourage you to reach your goals and achieve your dreams by helping fine-tune your purpose and giving you the confidence and ambition needed to accomplish anything…
I would love to help you create a list and brainstorm some ideas. Check out my Bucketlist and leave a comment below with your #1 Bucketlist item, or at least a couple of your favorites, I love hearing them!