For years many of us have been striving for that elusive work-life balance we’ve all heard about but rarely experienced in our own frenetic lives. We tell ourselves it’s achievable, all we need is a little more quality time here or better management there and total synergistic convergence will at last be ours, right?
What if it turns out that, very simply, we’ve been chasing a myth? What if the true key to happiness lies elsewhere? That was the focus of a fascinating conversation I recently had with Travis Bell, known widely as the “Bucket List Guy.”
Embracing the Blend
Viewed by tens of thousands, Travis’s 2016 Tedx Talks, “Life’s Way too Short Not to Live your Bucket List” resonates with most of us who are juggling work, home lives, spiritual and civic pursuits, health and fitness. We can be unforgiving task masters, riding ourselves to do better with the balance, but Travis believes we’d do better to accept that it’s all a blend. Our priorities are in constant flux, demanding different levels of attention at different times and the mix is necessarily imprecise. Coming to peace with that is the first step towards embracing your “bucket list” and living a regret-free, rather than regret-ful, life.
Depression caused Inspiration
Travis’s journey to this realization began more than a decade ago, when depression descended in the midst of his high-intensity entrepreneurial career in the world of physical fitness. He suffered a total loss of his life force and felt as though he was sleep-walking instead of fully awake. To combat despair, he began educating himself in the field of psychology and looked for tools that would help set a better course, first for himself and ultimately for the thousands of people he would go on to coach and inspire with his lectures. He tapped into the power of positive thinking and reordered his goals, both short- and long-term. Out of this experience came not only an amazing period of growth but also an enduring commitment to advocating for mental health.
When it comes to mental health, entrepreneurs are particularly at risk. Statistics show that we’re twice as likely to be depressed, twice as likely to be suicidal and twice as likely to be hospitalized. Substance abuse is three times as common and bipolar disorder is diagnosed ten times as often for entrepreneurs vs. the general population. It all reinforces something we’ve touched on in earlier podcasts: The importance of having a strong network of support when you strike out on a startup venture.
Increasingly the typical “cowboy” type of entrepreneurism is making space for mindfulness and a shift in understanding that fulfillment – not a business plan – should guide your choices on a daily basis. That’s why many have started practices such as prayer, gratitude journaling and time dedicated to deep reflection. It’s all about accepting and understanding the ebb and flow in the now, while also gazing out at the horizon you plan to enjoy. That’s where the all-important “bucket list” concept comes in.
Travis’s number one rule is: Put it down in writing. You can think about, talk about, even dictate or type out thoughts about things you’d like to experience or accomplish before departing this planet, but in order to really integrate action and make a psychic shift he advises us to write it all down long-hand. Studies have shown that you’re far more likely (some 42%) to take action if you follow this basic instruction.
Speaking of focus, he also notes that attention is our most valuable commodity and travis let us know that instead of multi-tasking, we should be deliberately devoting discrete time to each silo in life. The quality of interaction in all cases – family/friends, business, exercise, reflection – improves significantly with this sort of 100% engagement. “It’s about attention management,” he says, “what we are paying attention to at any given point in time.”
At the end of the day, time is what Travis’s work is all about. He’s an evangelist for the pursuit of fulfillment and a deep quality of life. Even for the most entrepreneurially motivated among us, our work needs to be structured around our spirituality, emotional connections, our communities and friends/family. He encourages at least a partial release of our attachment to delayed gratification. Society may dictate that we should sacrifice happiness now in order to enjoy later, but Travis isn’t buying it. Because all too often, later turns out to be … too late.
In wrapping up our conversation I asked Travis what he hopes to be remembered for and without hesitation he cited the prevention of mental health issues, especially the alarming rate of teens suffering with and losing their lives to depression. It all circled back to his mission as “the bucket list guy” – getting and staying awake. “Life is short” is his mantra, so don’t wait for a traumatic wake-up call to get a (regret-free) life.
So sit down and write out your bucket list without delay. Then send it to Travis at trav@thebucketlistguy. He wants to see what you come up with!
- Travis’s backstory and how depression transformed his life.
- There are tools to help build a business plan that fits into a life plan (and not vice versa).
- Multi-tasking isn’t as effective as serial attention.
- Setting up rules to ensure peaceful coexistence when you and your partner are both working at home.
- What exactly constitutes a “bucket list.”
- Happiness and the pillars of positive psychology
- Treating your life as an entrepreneurial venture with similar commitments, urgency and willingness to disrupt.
- At the end of the day, it’s about enjoying life and the things around us.
- “Live your bucket list before you get given a ‘use by’ date.”
- “You’ve got to take six punches to the face and get up on the seventh.”
- “It’s important for every entrepreneur to understand psychology, no matter what their product or service.”
- “As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to create your daily habits, rules, rituals and routines to effectively run your business and your life.”
- “It isn’t until something dramatic or traumatic happens to us or a loved one that we reprioritize our list … Do it before you get such an emotional slap. How about that?”
- “What’s easy to do is also easy not to do.”
- “Don’t worry about the how. When the why is strong enough, the how will work itself out.”
- “It’s never a matter of resources, it’s a matter of resourcefulness. You will find a way if your back is against the wall.”
- “We owe it to ourselves and our families to live a life that’s regret-free, not a regret-ful.”
“Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles That Fuel Success and Performance at Work.”
by Shawn Achor
More about Travis Bell:
Mike Thakur is CEO of WorkLodge and Founder at the Gabriel Project. He is on a mission to change lives through entrepreneurship and sustainable social enterprise. With experience both as an executive roles both at established companies and multiple startups (commercial and non-profit), Mike is committed to giving back and creating environments that leave people better off than when they started.