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The YesList


The YesList

The best thing any of us can do is pass our knowledge on and try to leave the world a better place than we found it in.

I’ve always appreciated the idea of a bucket list, except for one thing: it’s motivated by death! So I tend to gather long-held goals and new-found dreams as a life list, or a YesList, a collection of targets, experiences and lessons that band together as a motivation to not sit still, rather than hustling a last-minute dash towards making something of our limited time left.

This is a chance to get rid of that stumbling attitude we hear all around: “I wish I could do that,” “I’ll never have that chance.” Or the gorgeously passive aggressive “you’re so lucky!” 

All of these are really sad sentiments, and none apply in reality.

We make our own luck, we have the chance in time to do whatever we want, and we’re all, right now, in a position to never have to say those words “I wish” ever again. 

YesLists aren’t just about doing things and going places, they’re at the heart of who we want to be. We inspire through our actions and while our stories make us more interesting, it’s important to remember that unless you decide to make your YesList absolutely central to your identity, the list itself isn’t a story. Instead, it’s a great way to fill those moments of uncertainty or boredom and keep you focussed on learning and growing.

Creating a list is a commitment to action, developing positive habits and making life memorable. Not sure what to do with your time? When you have a list it’s easy, just scour through all these things you’ve always wanted to do and start working towards the one that excites you most.

How to create a YesList?

This bit is fun. Open your mind and be free with your dream chasing, this is a chance to set yourself targets that you didn’t even think were possible before. There are no limits here, just ideas. Be novel! Imagine who you want to be in five years time and the things that by then you’ll be able to talk about. Then get writing!

Later on we’re going to look at some ways that other people can help you do the things you’re not yet sure how to do yourself, but in the meantime it’s important to remember that this is YOUR list, nobody else’s. 

It’s not a race or a competition and there’s absolutely no timeline. The only commitment you make when creating a YesList is that at all times you’re moving, however slowly, towards ticking off another item. There are some days when we feel totally unmotivated and can’t be bothered with anything - but I promise you, a few moments with this list will get you thinking.

Start by getting yourself a piece of paper, or open up a word document or spreadsheet if you’re a digital type, and write 1, 2, 3 and so on down the left side of the page. Personally, I have my YesList on the Notes app of my phone, which syncs with my other devices - so if I ever want to check out my list or make a change or addition, I can do it anywhere.

A good YesList has at least 50 challenges in there. Frankly, the more the better so feel free to aim higher, say, 100. Within the list there should be different categories:

  • Travel: Geographically, where would you like to go? Is there someone you’d like to visit on the other side of the world?

  • Physical: This might be aiming for a PB, or taking up a new sport, or planning an endurance adventure. And bingo, you get and stay fit at the same time as ticking off another win.

  • Kindness: Whether it’s volunteering in your local neighbourhood, raising money for charity or giving a friend a hand with their latest house move, let your list push you towards making a difference.

  • Psychological: Got a fear that you’d like to overcome? Heights, public speaking, holding a spider? Here’s your chance to be less scared of life in general.

  • Habit: Commit to reading a certain amount of books in a year, learning a new skill each month or spending a certain number of nights wild camping. Developing just one habit improves your discipline in other areas of life.

  • Creative: There’s something special about making something. How’s your photography or film making? Maybe you want to learn how to draw or build furniture? Or even a tiny house?!

  • Health: Finally, maybe this is your time to give up sugar in coffee, or cut down on your meat intake? Or maybe you just need to commit to half an hour of exercise each day, hit those 10,000 steps, or down-size your meal portions.

  • Financial: Why not set yourself a savings target? Even £1 a day will give you enough for a weekend getaway by the end of the year.

  • Time: There will be some things you’d like to achieve which you simply can’t do this month or even this year. This is ok, but maybe ensure that you have enough short-term items open your list to keep focus.

You can choose as many or as few items within each category as you like but only choose items that you can qualify (ie. swim regularly is a hard one to tick off, because regularly is pretty ambiguous). Also make sure you have control over achieving your goals (ie. don’t leave things completely in the hands of fate or luck), with a little hard graft and imagination you’ll be amazed at how much easier life seems with a can-do attitude. 

And here’s a tip. If you’re making a list of 100 items, maybe keep five spaces free. No doubt you’ll find something to fill them with soon.


To get started, here are some questions you could ask yourself to inspire and aid your own list-building:

  • Are there any special moments you want to witness, or people you’d like to spend time with? 

  • Are you a mountain, desert, ocean or city person? 

  • Which countries, places or locations do you really want to visit? 

  • Is there an event you’ve always thought would be very cool to be a part of? 

  • What have you always wanted to do but until now been too scared of? 

  • What are the most important things you can do with your talents? 

  • What achievements would you like to pop under your belt? 

  • If you had one year left, how would you spend your time? 

  • What would you regret not doing? 

  • What have you always wanted to learn? (Remember, the Internet makes learning pretty damn easy). 

  • Is there a type of food you’ve never tasted? 

  • How can you best give your skills and time to someone else? 

  • What can you do only with someone else? Think of the perfect person, and what you might like to do alongside them. 

  • What would you do if you had unlimited time, money and resources?

Ok, so those are the basics. Here are questions people often ask about creating a YesList:

Can I add small things or do they all have to be life-changing?

A healthy mixture of big and small is always a good idea. Some items you’ll be able to complete in a day, some might take five years. Without doubt, many long-term personal challenges will be quite selfish - and while there’s absolutely nothing wrong with this it’s important to equal up our list - so make sure it’s a good split between personal development and philanthropy, easy-to-complete tasks and steady, long-term plodding towards a far-off goal.

Break it down

If you have a huge challenge on your list, like learning to fly a plane, cycle around the world or become a millionaire? Create a sub section under that item and give yourself smaller challenges that all add up to helping you complete the overall goal.

How do I choose which item to tick off next?

Think about the weeks ahead, are you going anywhere in particular? What’s the weather going to be like? How are you feeling? If you’re fighting fit (or want to be) maybe it’s time to take on a physical challenge... 

Maybe there two or three items that you can group together and tick off on your next holiday - let’s say you’ve got “Master cooking a foreign meal” and “learn how to freedive” on your list - why not go somewhere where food is yummy and free diving courses are available, like Thailand or Bali?

What if I want to change my YesList?

This is your list and your rules. If an item you wrote down a while ago doesn’t appeal anymore, get rid of it. There’s no point in you being unhappy! That said, there was a reason you put that thing in there in the first place, so try to recall what that was before you get the eraser out.

Even if you managed to start your list with a nice round 50 or 100 items, if you come up with another awesome challenge then feel free to add it to your list, you’re being freed and not limited with this project.

Remember, you don’t have to complete your YesList in order.

Should I share my YesList?

This is completely up to you, but there are a few benefits to telling other people about your list. Saying something out loud is scientifically proven to enforce an idea and therefore you’re more likely to carry it out. 

The more people you tell, the more likely you are to find friends to help you.

And finally, it’s great to have a buddy or two to be accountable to. This could be your partner, a friend or even a stranger with a winning smile. Tune in with each other every week or month and share your wins, struggles and unexpected outcomes. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Inspiration from other lists


My YesList

Simple version, using Notes on Phone

With extra columns for deadline, cost and country - using Google Sheets


Why would I do a YesList?

It’ll make you more interesting, focussed and motivated. It’ll help you make decisions, become more patient, and experience the life you want to be living. You’ll have something to talk about next time you have friends over to dinner, and you might just inspire the people around you to do more, too.

You are the sum of all your experiences, so why not choose to be the sum of all the cool and hard things you’ve always been interested in? One bonus is that planning and working towards a goal will add more to your character than you know, and that’s all before you get to tick an item off. 

You choose who you are and who you’re going to be, and a YesList is just one of the ways to help you be that awesome person.

Ok we’re nearly there. Finally, a couple of tips from me:

Write everything down

Write an ongoing journal or diary tracing your progress. If it’s been a long day this is the last thing you’ll feel like doing but in time you’ll be so thankful you captured your memories. The small details can so easily be forgotten, like how you felt or struggled on a particular day, or a specially worded line of advice someone gave to you - these nuggets might just add value to a blog one day, or maybe even a book.

An important reminder

This is a practice in enjoyment, achievement and developing positive habits. It’s not supposed to be a blueprint for your entire life. Take the pressure off and don’t worry if it takes a while to tick off an experience you thought you’d have enjoyed sooner. This is your project, your list, your life. Use the YesList as a guiding stick and nothing more, and in turn it’ll look after you in ways you could never have imagined.

Now, it’s time to get started

Choose three items from your list that you’re going to tackle first, and then let me know about them on Twitter and of course, share them on the YesList Facebook group, too!

Ok, off you go and be incredible. Don’t forget to share your list with me and join the YesList group on Facebook so the community there can support and help you along.