Do the choices you make in life make you a happier person?

I recently got inspired by MaggieOur Next Life, Amber Tree Leaves, Slowly Sipping Coffee and their fill-the-bucket lists. I have been blogging the last year and half and my little blog has certainly evolved over time. Personally I always get a kick out of reading other great blogs and getting blog post inspiration from them. It’s amazing to be able to connect with other bloggers and exchange knowledge and ideas.

One key lesson I’ve realized the last few months is that I need to focus my writings on the why, not the what. I’m writing this blog to hopefully help others around me, not for monetary gains or fame. I will continue writing down my thoughts and hopefully this will create more personal connections with you, my dear reader.

To me, the fill-the-bucket list has an entirely different definition than a bucket list. A bucket list contains things that one hope to accomplish in their life time. When we accomplish something on our bucket list, we feel proud, majestic, and we want to tell others about it. On the other hand, the fill-the-bucket list contains things and opportunities that one has done so far in life that provided tremendous amount of joy and happiness. Because life is full of opportunities, it is upon us to find ways to take these opportunities and make them a long lasting experience. Great memories will not go away, so throughout our life, we can always reflect back and remember these memories. Unlike the bucket list, which may not be 100% completed by the time we die, the fill-the-bucket list is always full (or at least it should be). 

Both Maggie, Our Next Life, Amber Tree Leaves, and Slowly Sipping Coffee have shared a lot of cool stuff on their lists, and here are a few things that are on my fill-the-bucket list.

  • Walking on the Great Wall: When I visited China years ago for work and had to spend the weekend in Beijing, my co-workers and I hired a private tour bus and visited the Great Wall of China. Considering the history, it was absolutely amazing to walk and touch this historical wonder. The section of the Wall that we visited had a lot of steep stairs, it’s hard to imagine what it’d be like running up and down the wall as a soldier back in the days.

great wall

  • Making Baby T1.0 laughing hysterically: Before becoming a dad, I never understood why people say kids will change your life forever. Now I totally understand. Baby T1.0 is a very happy toddler most of the time. It’s fun and delightful to be able to make him laugh hysterically by doing silly things. Whenever I see Baby T1.0 laugh, I forget all the troubles and worries I have.
  • Walked underneath the Itsukushima Shrine torii gate (i.e. floating torii gate): I’ve always wanted to see the floating torii gate in person. I somehow arrived in Miyajima when it was low tide, which allowed me to walk underneath this historical torii gate and I was even able to touch it.

torii gate
torii gate 2

  • Learning English: When my family and I came to Canada from Taiwan more than 20 years ago, I knew very little English. I knew the English alphabet and a few simple phrases like “How are you,” “My name is,” etc. Going to school without being able to understand anyone was extremely difficult. I might as well go to a school with a bunch of dogs. 🙂 With that said, being dropped into a complete English speaking environment kept me motivated and allowed me to learn English very quickly.
  • Walking through gas chamber of Dachau: During my university days, I lived and worked in Germany for 8 months as part of my Co-op experience. This stay gave me many opportunities to travel all over Europe. On one of my visits to Munich, I took the train to Dachau to experience WWII concentration camp. Although it was said that the Dachau gas chamber was never operational, I had chills running down my spine as I walked through the chamber. Standing in front of the huge gas ovens that was used to burn the bodies and imagining the horror, was something I cannot describe in words.

gas chamber

oven

  • Shaking hands with a British Royal: I once shook hands with Prince Andrew for receiving some young people achievement award. I even managed to talk to him for a brief moment. Because my short conversation I was interviewed by a reporter and mentioned in a Vancouver newspaper the next day.
  • Winter camping in -16 degree Celsius (3.2 degree Fahrenheit): I actually have done my shares of backcountry winter camping and really enjoyed it. Yes it’s cold but it’s amazing to be sitting in the wilderness in the middle of the winter. Definitely need to remember to put your boots and gloves in the sleeping bag so they don’t freeze overnight. Let’s say going for #2 in this kind of weather definitely gives you a perspective on life.

camping

Home sweet home.

snow kitchen

Just chillin!

  • Getting on top of pointy rocks: I really love getting on top of pointy rocks. Which is why I enjoy rock climbing and scrambling so much. Rock climbing in Joshua Tree and Red Rock was mind blowing. Sitting on top of Mt. Ganfalf was one of the scariest things I’ve done so far in my life.

sport lead climbing

mt. gandalf

Your truly sitting on Mt. Gandalf summit block (2391 m)

mt. gandalf 2

Mt. Gandalf from another side

Mt. Overseer

Hiking down after another successful summit in BC backcountry

Bonus, the fill-the-bucket list I’ve done together with Mrs. T

  • Riding in a gondola in Venice: When we went to Italy for our honeymoon, Mrs. T and I rode in a gondola together. It was very romantic and very neat to see Venice from the water.
  • Eating meals together without distractions: We make an effort and sit down together to have most of our meals together. We do not watch TV (we can’t because we don’t have a TV). We spend the time talking and enjoy each other’s company. Basically having quality time together as a family. 🙂
  • Devoured the Cake Table (sønderjysk kaffebord) in Denmark: An old Danish tradition, Mrs. T and I (along with Baby T1.0) had the chance to eat 21 different delicious cakes & cookies. This is something that the Danes value very highly as it is an excellent way to have afternoon hygge and spend quality time with friends and family.

food4

food3

food2

food1

  • The 2010 Olympics: When Vancouver/Whistler hosted the 2010 Olympics, Mrs. T and I went to several events together. One of the highlights was attending the Canada vs. Slovakia semi-final. Yes the tickets were expensive but the atmosphere and experience was totally worth it. Another highlight was when we went skiing in Whistler and taking pictures with Olympic medal winners and meeting the medalists in person. One highlight I’d never forget is cheering with other fellow Canadians when Canada won the gold medal in mens hockey. Thousands of people were in downtown Vancouver, cheering and celebrating. It was an amazing and crazy experience.

hockey

olympics 3

olympics 2

  • Seeing glacier calving in Glacier National Park in Alaska: When Mrs. T was pregnant with Baby T1.0 we went for a 7 day Alaska cruise vacation. To see and hear glacier calving was an amazing and rather loud experience.

glacier

  • Writing & publishing two cookbooks: Mrs. T and I wrote and published two cookbooks. The first book, Cozy Cooking, is about our favourite recipes in our childhoold, our bachelor/bachelorette days, and when we moved in together. The second book, Three Weddings and a Honeymoon, is inspired by all the food items that we had in our 3 weddings in Vancouver and Denmark and food we had on our Honeymoon in Italy. Unlike the typical cookbooks, our cookbooks are also about our lives and the foods that we love to cook on a daily basis. Each recipe has a story behind it.

Cozy Cooking

three weddings and a honeymoon

As you can see, I’ve done a lot of cool and fun things; Mrs. T and I have also done quite a few neat things together as well. While our “bucket list” is quite long and ambitious, it’s great to take the time to reflect on what our fill-the-bucket list is like.

Writing about the fill-the-bucket list has made me realize that we’re constantly making trade offs between spending money and not spending money. We spent the money to go watch the Olympics hockey game, we spent the money to go to Italy for our honeymoon. In return we received a lot of unforgettable experiences. We could have saved the money and invested in dividend stocks or other passive income generating sources, but we wouldn’t have these amazing memories that we can look back on years later.

Life is also about taking chances and taking opportunities when they’re available to you. For example, publishing the cookbooks together was not something that neither of us ever considered. The opportunity just presented itself. So we choose to be open to the opportunity and let things unfold. Where these cookbooks will take us, we don’t know, but we’re open to the endless opportunities that are ahead of us. Interestingly enough, one of the regrets that people have on their death bed, is wishing that they had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them. Many dreams and opportunities that people have are unfulfilled because they do not act when chances and opportunities are presented. When looking back, they regret some of their decisions. Socrates’ statement that “the life that is unexamined is not worth living” is a great one to ponder about.

Ultimately, life is not just about money. Yes it may seem that this world is powered by money but that’s not true when you look deeper. Many things in life do not involve money at all; there are many things in our fill-the-bucket list that I didn’t mention, which do not involve money at all. Simple things like eating meals together without distraction, enjoying Baby T1.0 laughing, marrying someone that I love, seeing our son born in front of me, and having quality family time together. Money should not dictate and define who we are. Life is about the choices that we are making and the choices that we will be making. Money is just one of the many tools that we can use in life to achieve certain things.

Talking about experience and memory, it reminded me of a quote from City of Angels which Mrs. T and I recently watched. The movie is about an angel (Seth) who falls in love with a human doctor. After a lot of thinking, Seth decides to walk away from eternity to become a human so he can be with the doctor. Unfortunately the doctor dies soon after Seth’s decision. Toward the end of the movie another angel asks Seth if he regrets becoming a human. Seth replies with this powerful statement:

I’d rather have one breath of her hair, one kiss of her mouth, one touch of her hand than an eternity without it. One.

Eternity might be great and all, but without being able to feel, touch, or experience, how good is eternity? I believe the same thing applies to money. Having money is great and all, but on your death bed, you probably won’t be thinking about that $10 million dollar in your bank account, you’re probably thinking about the memories that you had in your life and all the things that you’ve done and enjoyed. What’s really more important? Money or experience? Money is simply one of many tools that enables us to create memorable experiences.

I’m sure you’ve probably heard of the term You Only Live Once (YOLO). The term implies that one should enjoy life, even if that entails taking risks, as if there would not be another chance for it. Some people use YOLO as their reasoning for spending money on experience now and not save money for the future. On the other hand, you probably have heard or known someone that only saves and does not spend money on any extra luxuries in life. I believe neither of these extreme approaches are healthy.

Once you have the basics in life covered, other luxury items can indeed bring happiness to your life, however, only to a certain extend. These luxury items or memorable experiences in life will have increasingly diminished returns on happiness. It is upon us to find the right balance between saving and spending. Life is about choices and finding the right balance. What’s right for me may not be right for you. We are all different after all. The most important question you can ask yourself when making a money vs. experience question is:

Are you a happier person with whatever outcome you decide?

Given two options, if option A makes you a happier person in the long run, then I believe that’s the right option for you. 🙂

Challenge: Start a Fill-the-Bucket list. If you have a blog, share some things that are on your fill-the-bucket list. If you don’t have a blog tell me some of the awesome opportunities you’ve taken in your life so far, in the comment section below. Thank you for sharing and being an inspiration to others!

I’ll finish this post with a quote from The Dalai Lama that I absolutely love.

Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.

Written by Tawcan
Hi I’m Bob from Vancouver Canada, I am working toward joyful life and financial independence through frugal living, dividend investing, passive income generation, life balance, and self-improvement. This blog is my way to chronicle my journey and share my stories and thoughts along the way. Stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter. Or sign up via Newsletter