What I Learned From Having a Bucket List

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This post is long overdue.

Back in 2013, I created a list of 101 things to do in 1001 days. It pushed me to really think about what I wanted to accomplish in my life – from new skills I wanted to learn to more meaningful experiences I wanted to have. And I’ve had a lot of fun crossing things off.

But my deadline for finishing the list actually passed several months ago on September 27, and I’ve been meaning to properly write about my experience. Here are the top three lessons I’ve learned in the last three years of keeping a bucket list:

1. Dare to dream..

First things first, I have to admit that 101 goals are a lot to keep track of at, and as with all looming to-do lists, it’s been hard to stay consistent and diligent. But even though there are still lots of things undone, I’ve made some unforgettable memories along the way:

Traveling through Europe. Re-connecting with a childhood friend. Taking a trip to Jamaica after more than 7 years of being away from my first home. Hosting friends for New Year’s Eve.

The things that were easiest to complete gave me a window into what’s most important to me: Travel, always travel. And spending time with the people I love.

A lot of things, especially traveling, seemed like pipe dreams when I first included them on the list. But, as Paulo Coelho wrote in The Alchemist “when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Somehow, by putting down my intentions on paper (or typing them here, rather), I spoke them into existence.

2. Nothing has to be set in stone.

Admittedly, there were things on the list that I kept pushing off, and half-way through I realized they actually didn’t mean that much to me anymore.

Like going to Coachella. (Sure, I wouldn’t say no to the opportunity, but it’s not something I would go out of my way to do.) Or growing my hair out. (In fact, earlier this summer, I cut it to the shortest it’s ever been in my life!)

Many bucket lists read the same – from skydiving to seeing the Eiffel Tower. It’s fine to take inspiration from others to start, but as you learn more about yourself, there’s no shame in changing your goals to suit your interests.

Most importantly, evaluate once in a while to make sure you’re working toward something you really want and that you’re not living someone else’s dreams.

3. Goals give you a reason to move forward.

Here’s another quote from The Alchemist: “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.”

I’ve been thinking about whether I want to create a new list for the next three years, and I’m leaning towards yes. I want to finish all of the things I still care about but never got around to doing. And I want to document my journey more closely here on this blog.

I can without a doubt say that creating this list has been the impetus for most of the amazing this that have happened in my life over the last few years. In the moments when I otherwise might have felt lost or unsure of what to do next, review the list never failed to give me a kick in the butt.

My life would be nothing without goals – they’re how I make sense of the world around me. They’re what keep me going.

Your bucket list doesn’t need to be nearly as long.. although coming up with a 100 things is half the fun! But whatever it means to you, I’d recommend that everyone keep a list of things they want to do. If you have one, I’d love to read it.

You can link to it in the comments below or find me on social media:

Facebook . Instagram . Twitter . Snapchat (@jhaneelmarie) . YouTube 

 

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New Year Goals for 2016

At the end of every year, I like to reflect on the last 12 months and most importantly give thanks for making it through another year. I don’t take for granted how lucky I am to be alive and to have another opportunity to make life count.

2015 Collage

Moments from 2015

I don’t do resolutions in the traditional sense. But I always make a point of refreshing my goals at the start of every year and the more I do this, the more I realize how important planning is when it comes to achieving my dreams.

At the end of 2014, I set a goal of strengthening my relationships with the people who matter most to me. I’ll be honest: I could have done better. Like many well-intentioned New Year’s plans, mine wasn’t clearly defined; by mid-year – with work and travels and general day-to-day minutiae – it had slipped to the back of my mind. But somehow, I still made good progress.

Just by speaking my intention out loud (or writing it, rather) my brain was sub-consciously primed to make things happen. And slowly, but surely – through dinner dates, emoji-filled group texts and vacations together – I became closer to some of my friends and made a greater effort to spend time with my mom and family. Still, I know this is something I’ll be working on for the rest of my life

Years from now when I look back on 2015, I think I’ll remember it as a year of firsts. It will always be the year I traveled to Europe for the first time, on an epic journey from Paris to London to Rome and back. It’s the year I started a YouTube channel and published more posts on this blog than ever before (including some of these most popular posts.) At work, it’s the year I started becoming more confident as a professional and kicked ass working on some projects I’m really proud of.

Travel Collage

The year wasn’t perfect. But I kind of like it that way. The highs were so much sweeter and like other years before, I feel like I’m really growing.

A few days ago, while still on the high of a succesful year, I started mapping out what I’d like 2016 to look like. I borrowed this amazing method from Alex Ikonn (adapted from Robin Sharma), which I encourage everyone to give a try. I’ve been sharing it with friends.

FOUR QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF FOR AN AMAZING YEAR 

  1. What did you accomplish in 2015?
    It’s always tempting for me to rush into planning the next thing without stopping to acknowledge what I’ve already done. But life’s no fun if you don’t take the time to celebrate your wins, big or small. The first time I saw this question, not a lot came to mind right away. But when I actually sat down with a pen and paper, I was surprised at what I could think of once I started writing. In addition to the highlights I mentioned earlier, I’m also giving myself a pat on the back for celebrating my 3-year anniversary with Alex, for taking my mom to a Broadway show and crossing off a bunch of other things off of my 101 in 1001 list.
  2. What were you doing when you achieved your best results?
    Most people naturally focus on the negative by asking what could I have done better? But by pin-pointing your best practices, you can turn them into habits that make winning easier. When I think back to the things I’m most proud of, I recognize that I had a clear vision in mind and I was passionate about making it happen. Every single time. Now I know what I need to keep doing in 2016.
  3. What did you learn this year?
    Hands down, my biggest lesson was that everything I want is in my power to achieve. Some of the goals I put on this list seemed almost impossible at the time. And then when I realized the September 27 deadline was approaching, I decided I really wanted to knock Paris and London off the list. I didn’t know how I was going to make it work, but I told myself it wasn’t an option. Not only did I get there, but we even added one more country to the mix.
    I often hear people say they wish they could travel more. But nine times out of 10, their excuses are crap. If you can’t afford it right now, save. If you don’t have enough time, re-evaluate your priorities. If you don’t have anyone to go with, go by yourself. And this goes for me too: for any of the things I failed to do this year (like taking driving lessons or blogging more often), I know it’s because I didn’t put in the time to make it happen. Dreaming will only get you so far. In the end, the only thing that counts is doing the work.
  4. What’s the most important thing you want to do in 2016?
    It’s easier to focus on a singular goal, but if you can’t pick just one thing, maybe try one in a few key categories. I do have a super specific goal, but I have to keep it a secret for now :( Sorry.. Like every year though, I have an overall theme and this time it’s to spend as much time as possible doing the things I’m most passionate about. I want to write more, make more videos, spend time with the key people in my life and see more of the world. And the idea is to minimize the time spent on anything else.

Whatever your goals are for 2016, nothing will happen unless you set a specific plan of action for achieving it. I’ve created a month-to-month plan, which will give me the momentum to keep going all the way to next December and which will ensure that I can easily get back on track should I have any set-backs.

Happy New Year and don’t forget to share your resolutions/goals in the comments below!

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2015 Holiday Gift Guide

For the longest time I avoided gift guides like the plague. They generally reek of commercialism and are often full of frivolous stocking stuffers or super-expensive items. Plus, they tend to be categorized by gender, so you see the same shaving kit and cocktail sets over and over again for guys. But I realized a lot of the things I think are cool would be great gifts for anyone. So I’ve put together my own list of items I’m thinking of getting for friends and family or that I’d be happy to receive this year. Hope you enjoy!

9 GIFTS FOR LITERALLY ANYONE ON YOUR LIST

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We Can All Be Philanthropitsts

I can’t remember the first time I heard the term “community service,” but it wasn’t until the 10th grade that I finally understood what the word meant. I had just moved to the United States from Jamaica and once enrolled in high school, I got involved with the National Honor Society and an after-school club called Building with Books.

Both organizations required students to volunteer and over the next three years, I logged hundreds of volunteer hours after school and on weekends, serving meals in soup kitchens, planting community gardens, writing letters to kids in Uganda and eventually, flying to Nicaragua with a group of other students from the tri-state area to build a school.

The two weeks I spent lugging concrete blocks across a worksite or mixing cement was perhaps one of the most formative periods in my life.

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Why I Give Thanks Every Day

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Yesterday, for Thanksgiving, many of my friends posted notes of gratitude on social media. If you were with your family, you might have shared what you were all thankful for this year.

That was the first thing I did when I woke up, and it’s something I’ve been doing pretty much everyday for almost three years now as part of my bucket list goals.

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Travel Photos: Washington, D.C.

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Thanks to everyone who chimed in last month with suggestions on my travel dilemma! I ended up choosing Washington, D.C to spend a long weekend with my Mom, and I’m finally getting the chance now to share a few photos.

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Friday Photo Inspiration (vol. 5)

Sometimes I insist that I’m not a people person because to be honest, other people can be pretty annoying. But deep down, I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s lives.

It’s one of the reasons I love traveling and why I’m usually drawn to stories from other cultures. While it’s always interesting to discover the ways in which we can be different – like the food we eat or the way we view marriage, for example – the real pleasure is discovering similarities, the things that make us all human no matter where we come from.

This week’s inspiration is all about people and the ways in which they can be beautiful, or vulnerable, or alike or sometimes, completely different from everything we know.

Photo: Jack Garofalo/Paris Match via Getty Images

I love the the colors, and not to mention the sick afros, in this photo of two Harlem women taken in 1970. It was part of a photo series by Jack Garofalo for Paris Match magazine on the neighborhood after residents searching for a better quality of life moved out in droves – you can see the full set in this retrospective on Mashable.

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All About Cherry Blossoms

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You can live in NYC for years and never come across even half of the gems the city has to offer. Thanks to a tip from a friend (hi Ashley!), I spent last weekend basking in a sea of pink and exploring one of those gems: Randall’s Island Park, which hosted a cherry blossom festival on Saturday.

I’ve been blabbing about cherry blossoms for over a month now and was glad to have a chance to catch them before the season ended, since I missed the ones in D.C. and the festival at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

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A Few Good Reads {April 2015}

Welcome to May and the promise of warmer weather! I’ll be spending the next two days indulging in blossoms, sun and good company to recalibrate after a difficult week. Here’s some weekend reading for the quiet moments.

Palm trees

Photo: via FleurDeMode

– When you live in a city, you generally accept that you’re sacrificing ready access to nature in its truest form. Thankfully, in Manhattan, there are parks every few blocks to make things a little less depressing. But the truth is: trees and all their benefits (cleaner air, serenity, etc) are a luxury, that like income, is unequally distributed. See for yourself.

– Is there such a thing as too much reading? As an avid reader — of books, articles and words in all their forms — I sometimes get overwhelmed by the sheer amount of material there is to consume. I had to make space for this article, though, that examines how we process and retain information when we are reading thousands and thousands of words a day.

– I couldn’t help but share and discuss poet Saeed Jones’ powerful essay on being a writer of color with all my close creative friends. It’s worth a read for everyone, regardless of what you look like.

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Travel Dilemma: Chicago vs. D.C?

I’m planning a little getaway soon and am trying to decide between D.C. and Chicago. I’ve never been to either place, but both sound like they have just enough to see on a quiet long weekend. So I’ve been trying to cure my indecisiveness by trolling Instagram all evening for photos of the two cities:

If I make it to D.C., I’ll have missed the cherry blossoms, which peaked this weekend. But paddle-boating across the Tidal Pond sounds like a good consolation prize..

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