Bucket Lists, Anti-Bucket Lists, And Venn Diagrams

Do you remember Venn diagrams from when you were in school?

If you don’t, don’t worry; I’m not going to ask you to take a quiz on them! π

Here’s a simple example to explain them:

Let’s say I had a classroom of 23 5th graders, and I surveyed the kids to see how many had cats, dogs, or both. The results may look like this:

7 students only have cats

15 students have dogs

3 students have both a cat and a dog

Obviously this adds up to more than 23 students. We get 25 answers here. So there is some overlap – the ‘both’ category – the students who have a cat and a dog.

So the Venn diagram would represent this pictorially as:

So how to interpret this?

Well, think of these circles as overlapping lenses. Everything in the pink and purple portion has to represent the total number of students who have cats; just as everything in the blue and purple portion has to represent the total number of students who have dogs.

Remember that I said 7 students only had cats? That means they didn’t have dogs at all. But 3 of our students did have cats and dogs. So if you add up the numbers from left to right in the pink and the purple portions, we have a total of 10 students with cats. Then, adding up the purple and blue sections, we get the 15 students with dogs as we would expect. So what’s with the 1 leftover in the corner? That’s the student who doesn’t have either a cat or a dog. They may have no pets or some other pet entirely. All the numbers in the whole diagram need to add up to the 23 students we surveyed.

Alright, now that you have a good refresher course on Venn diagrams – and admittedly it’s more than you need; I just happen to really like Venn diagrams! π – now I can show you how bucket lists and anti-bucket lists look if they were graphically represented in the same way.

Ok, so how does this work? There’s no numbers on this chart! And how can something be both a ‘like’ and a ‘dislike’ at the same time??

Your anti-bucket list falls in the overlapping space between the things you do want to do in life and the things you don’t want in life. As a personal example, several years ago, I wanted to volunteer as a camp counselor for a camp that was several hours from my house. That’s what I wanted to do. But, the problem was, I was afraid to drive and didn’t have a driver’s license. The thing I didn’t want to do. So although I didn’t have an anti-bucket list of my own at the time, the space in-between would have meant getting a driver’s license. Not because I wanted to drive; I didn’t. It’s because I wanted to work at that camp, and to do so meant I had to have a way of getting there.

This chart doesn’t use numbers because I don’t know what your personal goals are. I don’t know how many things you really want to do – how many items are on your own bucket lists. Maybe it’s hundreds of things. I also don’t know how many things you are afraid of or don’t want to face. Maybe it’s just a handful of them. I don’t know how many things lie in that space in-between, that strange blend of where fear meets courage and you do the things that are hard so you can do what you enjoy.

It’s up to you to make these lists, to fill in these numbers.

It’s up to you to decide if you are going to focus on just the pink part of the circle that’s only the things you love, or if you intend to focus on the purple overlap that wonders what a full life could be like if you faced your fears and moved beyond them. I know I don’t want to live an incomplete life, with only the things I enjoy that are easy. There’s so much else that I’m missing out on if I left it at that.

The purple overlap isn’t much in the actual diagrams, but this could be as big or as little as you need it to be. My own anti-bucket list is well over 40+ things; I think my full list is close to 60 items, actually. Thankfully my actual bucket list is considerably larger than that. I think wherever possible, a person’s dreams need to be larger than their fears.

Does this Venn diagram help? Do you see how bucket lists and anti-bucket lists are entwined? There’s no point in just making a list of fears and then ignoring them or continuing to be afraid of them.

You don’t have to face them all right away of course; I certainly haven’t done that. But I do work on my anti-bucket list. The reason is so I can experience the fullness of the pink circle – both the the pink portion and the purple. That’s the entirety of what I want to do, but to experience it all, will involve some of the things I don’t want to do.

I know it’s weird. But now that you have an example, I’d suggest taking some time and filling these out for yourself. Doesn’t have to be an actual Venn diagram; just a list. A vision board. A scrapbook. Post-It notes. Whatever works for you. Something where you list what you want to get out of life and what fears might be preventing you from fulfilling your dreams.

And then, what will you do about that?

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