Little Progress With Your Bucket List? Here’s What Got Me on the Move

The 52 tiny dares that made my life magic again

Phoenix Huber
Nov 19 · 7 min read

Almost 27, I lamented that years had passed and I’d still not done much on my bucket list.

Self-growth books had gotten me giddily listing my dreams at just 16. The problem was that 10 years later, every big goal remained a far off fantasy:

  • Publish a book. (I’d yet to publish a word.)

I was 26 and proud of my achievements. But I was dissatisfied that the course I’d taken in life had hardly scratched the surface of my original vision. I felt disillusioned from 10 years of always “doing things” but never doing it.

So I got an idea.

I made a short-term bucket list. The list featured 52 truly exciting experiences I could create whenever I wanted to, most of them in as little as 5–30 minutes. No plane tickets required.

I chose the number 52 because it was 27 x 2. By my 27th birthday, I would “double my potential” by improving my tendency to take action.

The short-term bucket list was perfect for my state of mind at the time. I was unclear what passion project to pursue on the side of my Brand Ambassador job, which had gotten repetitive. I just knew I wanted to expand myself with fresh experiences. A diverse mix of baby steps was just what the doc ordered.

You can apply the short-term bucket principle wherever you are in life. Simply turn your big ambitions into tiny, fun steps you’ll never forget. Here are a few of the memories I created before I turned 27.

I connected with nature and animals.

Have you ever taken a sunwalk? Just follow the sun and see where you end up. I’d had this idea years ago and I finally did it!

City blocks prevented a direct path, but I let Sun decide my general direction. After a half-hour of vitamin D, I turned back and my shadow took me home.

Then I spent 30 minutes at the park just exploring the elements, plants, and animals without distraction. My bare feet felt Earth’s textures for the first time in months.

Another challenge was taking 30 minutes to connect with the cats I was catsitting.

How long had it been since I’d breathed in the natural world for longer than a minute? How often had I given full concentration to an animal the same way I’d pay attention in a human conversation?

The next time I make a short-term bucket list, I’ll include a moonwalk. It’s sweet to reconnect with everything that surrounds us.

I broke through with productivity.

I went for a whole day following an exact plan. And I couldn’t believe it.

For me, doing every task just as I’d scheduled it the night before was revolutionary. Normally my plans never worked; I had the self-discipline of a hungry parakeet tempted by dragon fruit.

As an unexpected bonus, part of my plan for that breakthrough day was to fast. It had been years since I’d gone a whole day without food. Many people use intermittent fasting for productivity (and other benefits). That single day got me started with a personal tradition I call “Meal-less Monday!”

Another short-term bucket list item was publishing my first article. Game Quitters accepted my submission: “Addicted to Neopets: How I Turned My Life Around.”

That baby step came in handy later, when I was newly 27 and a friend introduced me to Medium. Step 2 was easier thanks to having done step 1. Here I am now, with 100 articles and counting.

I played like a kid again.

When I was a kid, I had a book of English idioms on my bedroom bookcase. I’d had the clever idea to wear an “ace up my sleeve” to school and make an unexpected joke of it. But I never did.

So for Halloween 2019, I made my pun dreams finally come true by being an “early bird.” I showed up 10 minutes early to my friend’s party. I was dressed like a blackbird with a giant clock necklace!

Here were some other ways I played while I was still 26:

  • My friend and I traded bedtime stories. On separate nights, we helped the other fall asleep by inventing an interesting tale over the phone.

I’m not normal. Few adults aspire to act as silly as I do. I still blush when I admit that I play like a kid again. The power of a short-term bucket list is it lets you reconnect with who you are.

I reached out to my favorite people.

Important people I reached out to included family members I wished to be closer with. I apologized for things from the past and I bared what was on my heart. After all, the game was to pretend I might die when I turned 27! It was now or never.

I missed my best gamer friends from Neopets, so one of my short-term challenges was to log back in and say hello.

Next, “become real friends with someone well above my level.” I remembered that a leader in the animal rights movement had said I could call him anytime. I took him up on that offer. Our conversation sparked my spirits.

Regardless of whether we stay in touch, I’ll always think of him as a “real friend” to both me and the animals.

Meanwhile, I emailed a controversial figure in the social justice world. I told her what her brave work meant to me. While I didn’t get a reply, writing her reminded me: We all have the power to choose truth over fear. You are as worthy of leaving this world a better place as your idols.

On a long walk with an Asian-American friend, I remembered yet another dare: “Have a conversation with a person of color about their experience of race.” I floated the idea and she was interested! Hearing her life stories and perspectives opened my white eyes that day, and I knew I had a lot more to learn.

If the world was ending on your next birthday, who would you reach out to?

I meditated deeply on important parts of my life.

I get the sense deep concentration could resolve many of my life’s “loose ends.” Meditation feels amazing, but for some reason, we’re restless and resist doing it.

Meditations comprised several of the dares on my list:

  1. Visit my “inner trophy trove.” I imagined a deep-sea cavern where all my accomplishments were represented by trinkets. I thought about which trophies would belong here next.

How would my life change if I more often visualized? If I closed my eyes each evening and centered my thoughts on a set subject for a length of time?

I don’t know yet. But having crossed those meditations off the list informs my future efforts to focus.

Above all, I got moving again — I’m 27 and I’ve never been better.

My short-term bucket list was a momentum reboot. Every area of my life that had been dormant, I awakened.

I posted a YouTube video again. I brushed up on Spanish for just 90 minutes. I did a cardio workout again. I shopped for clothes again. I cuddled again.

I spent quality time with a non-binary friend because I remembered I need people like me in my transgender life.

Writing that short-term bucket list was extremely exciting. I felt motivated the way I would in a video game. You needn’t travel far before you find a gem and “+25 points!” flashes colorfully across the screen.

When my 27th birthday arrived, I was still living inside my Toyota Corolla. I remained a misfit in my social circle. I didn’t have enough real friends to host a birthday party (that’s on my long-term bucket list).

Nevertheless, what I had done leading up to that birthday felt truly special — a birthday gift to self. I calculated, and found out I completed 78% of the bucket list items! A huge improvement from my typical self-growth attempts.

I had turned 2019 around. I was optimistic about what I could create next.

Almost a year later, I picked up that crinkly old Short-Term Bucket List. I squinted to read the faded pencil font.

Instantly the memories flooded back. My playfulness at the park… following an exact plan for a day… listening to my friend talk about race… the “inner trophy trove” visualization.

First the list had first served as a commander of positive action. Now, it’s a reservoir of beautiful memories that inspire me onward and upward.

December 11 is fast approaching. I’m going on 28 now. I’m ready to make a new list of tiny dares. Dares that will once again upgrade my potential, and keep life magical!

I hope this helps — and I wish you an enchanting day!

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness and fulfillment.

Phoenix Huber

Written by

An effusive Pollyanna and vegan trans woman. I’m passionate about making life joyful and kind. Get in touch with a private note on an article you liked.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 138,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

Phoenix Huber

Written by

An effusive Pollyanna and vegan trans woman. I’m passionate about making life joyful and kind. Get in touch with a private note on an article you liked.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment. Join 138,000+ others making the climb on one of the fastest-growing pubs on Medium.

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