When we think of improving our lives, or improving any one thing, our first instinct is additive. More money, more pleasure, more achievements.
Or, as author Author Arthur Brooks writes; "...many self-help guides suggest making a bucket list on your birthday, so as to reinforce your worldly aspirations."
But at it's core, a bucket list has the same pitfall of any to do list: reaching the end of it is unimaginable. Run a half marathon and a natural next goal is a marathon, and then to qualify for the Boston marathon. Get your open water scuba diving license to 18m, and after a few dives, you will reliably want to go deeper, for longer. An advanced course takes you to 30m and now you are learning how to breathe in a considered way, not for meditation or any spiritual purpose but to improve your SAC rate (a measure of air consumption). Achieve a lifelong goal of making partner, writing a book, or selling a company, and then what? Become a board chairman, write another book, start an investment fund or foundation, or both.
That's not to say these goals aren't worthwhile pursuits. It's only to say every item checked off the list creates new items to add to the list.
Ironically, a reasonable solution to the bucket list problem is to create another list, a reverse bucket list. The point of this list is to help separate the items that are true wants, based on your values, from the items that have crept onto the list out of a desire for recognition, or external validation, or status signaling, or keeping up with the Joneses.
Step one is to write the bucket list:
"Each year on my birthday, I list my wants and attachments. The stuff that fits under Thomas Aquinas' categories of money, power, pleasure and honour. I try to be completely honest. I don't list stuff I would actually hate and never choose, like a sailboat or vacation house. Rather, I go to my weaknesses, most of which - I'm embarrassed to admit - involve the admiration of others for my work." - Arthur Brooks
Step two is to list in great detail, the ideal life you would be leading in 5-10 years if you were truly happy, at peace, living your values. How would a day, a week, a year look in this ideal imagined future life? This is your definition of the good life.
Your final step is to compare the lists. Which bucket list items bring you closer to your idea of the good life? Choose those items, sacrifice the rest, and as Oliver Burkeman writes in 4000 weeks, then, "...deal with the inevitable sense of loss that results.”