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2016_bucket_list(TNS)—A new year is a great time to evaluate, plot, dream. Maybe it’s a resolution to become more health-conscious, planning a trip you’ve always wanted to take, starting a vegetable garden or entering a poetry slam.

But how do you decide which goals, big or small, to incorporate into your life?

We talked to Gin Sander, author of “The Big Bucket List Book: 133 Experiences of a Lifetime” (Sourcebooks, to be published Jan. 1, 2016). Her book shows different ways to transform your life from a rut to an adventure. Or, as she says, to encourage people to challenge themselves and “add an extra oomph in life.”

Whatever your list, as she writes in the book, “daydreaming is free.” Following is an edited transcript.

Q: How should people approach planning their next year, or creating a bucket list?

A: The best way to get started with anything is to make a plan. Start writing things down. We all keep lists in our heads, but maybe it’s time to write one in lovely handwriting and stick it on your mirror, something to remind yourself what it is you want to accomplish. I also believe if you want to get something done in life, you need to tell people about it. It holds you to a measure of accountability. It’s one thing for you to secretly say to yourself, “I’d really like to golf at St. Andrews someday.” What if you says that over a glass of wine with some friends? (Someone might say), “You know, my brother-in-law is planning a trip, and there’s an extra spot.” The more you put out there about what it is you want to accomplish, you not only hold yourself to a higher standard of accountability but you might also find people to join you in that goal, or help you achieve it.

Q: Why is it so important to say out loud what we want?

A: We’re all kind of shy about what it is we want to do in life. Nobody wants to have people make fun of them or say, “Are you crazy? The chances you’ll ever do that, Bob, are pretty slim.” It helps to talk about it. It makes it that much more real. We have to get over our fear of sharing with other people what it is we’d like to accomplish. We are our own worst enemies. We are what hold us back.

Q: How do we go about deciding what we should even put on our list?

A: We would do ourselves a favor by choosing things that we could accomplish. I think on your bucket list, of course, we should have a couple of way-out-there ideas or destinations. If it’s all stuff that’s going to be really expensive to do and take a long time, then maybe you don’t have the skills or the ability to do whatever it is you want to do. You end up feeling like a loser. And so I think although we should put some wild things on our list, we should also include things that we can accomplish, that we have within our power.

So maybe somebody says, “I would like to spend a month in Paris sometime.” What can you do now to achieve that? If, on Jan. 1, 2016, that’s your goal for two years from now, what can you do? You can download a language program onto your phone. You can practice French every day. You could ask people for contacts in Paris.

Q: Talk about why having a challenge — or “extra oomph” — in life is so important.

A: (Right now), I’m doing a load of laundry, I’ve got a load of dishes in the dishwasher, I’m making a bowl of soup. Life can be really dull, and we can feel sorry for ourselves by thinking about our routine. Yet we all have it within our power to do something deeper. We have to give ourselves permission.

It’s all about what would add to your life. Do you want more music? Do you want more color? Do you want more movement, do you want more friends, do you want more intellectual challenge? Choose something that’s going to add depth and broaden what you already have. Something that you don’t need to rely on someone else to give you, or that you have to buy. Just using our own imagination, we can do so much.

Q: Any other advice?

A: So much has to do with asking. We’re all afraid to ask for help. There’s a closed door or a velvet rope across something? Ask the person what’s behind there. And maybe they’ll open the door and show you, and invite you in.

Speak up about what you want out of life. You just might get it.

©2015 Chicago Tribune
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.