“Chunking” My Bucket List

Checking off Antarctica.On Monday, my colleagues and students go back to school. I will not be joining them. Instead, I have taken a personal leave from my middle school teaching job until September. The goals are to write and, somewhere in the middle, go to Antarctica. I’m embracing a life of “scandalous freedom” and, frankly, this latest adventure is both exhilarating and terrifying for me. Call it an exercise in practicing what I preach.

At its core, this leave is about turning two of my “one-day-I-should-s” into “been-there- done-that-s.” The goals I want to achieve during my time off are:

  1. Complete the first draft of my thoughtful/romantic gestures book (I’ll talk more about that elsewhere) &
  2. Visit Antarctica.

As early as my teens, I’ve had a goal to step foot on every continent. How fabulous it is that visiting them all is actually an achievable bucket-list item in our day and age! The trick has been to find a way to turn this large dream into a reality.

One of the key transferable skills I try to teach my students is the concept of “chunking” – taking large, unwieldy projects and breaking them down into smaller, manageable pieces that can be accomplished over time. (Aside: Teaching this important life skill is actually at the core of my Authorship novel writing project.) In this particular instance, my “visit every continent” dream is easily broken down into a list consisting of the continents. I am using the seven continent model as that is what I imagined in me teens. As such, the continents I need to visit are:

  • Africa
  • Antarctica
  • Asia
  • Australia
  • Europe
  • North America
  • South America

To date, I have only checked two continents off of my list – North American (duh! I live here) and South America. South America I check off the list the summer in my late teens I spent in Colombia building a school house with Teen Missions International.

That leaves five continents remaining. Of those, Antarctica is the only continent that would become almost impossible to visit if I developed mobility issues later in life. I am convinced that stepping foot onto Antarctica with a walker or in a wheelchair would be, if not impossible, very difficult &/or expensive. With my 50th birthday coming up in June, I’m starting to think about issues like that, especially since some of my relatives have developed knee issues later in life. Antarctica has to come off my list while I am relatively young.

When chunking large goals (e.g. visiting every continent), you end up creating a set of smaller goals. In this case, the new sub-goal I am working on is “Visit Antarctica.” I like to frame real goals using the SMART model of goal setting, and this goal is no different. Running down the list, this goal is:

  • Specific – “I want to put a foot onto Antarctica.”
  • Measureable – “I, and others, will know I’ve achieved this goal when my foot touches Antarctica. I can even take pictures.”
  • Achievable – “Yes, it is possible to visit Antarctica.”
  • Relevant – “This matters to me. Travel is important to me because I like experiencing new places and collecting memories. It is part of an overall life goal. I also teach Extreme Environments in Grade 6, so having first-hand experience of Antarctica will help me be a better teacher.”
  • Time-Frame – “Visiting Antarctica will happen before I return to school in September.”

To make a long story short, I leave February 6th for a cruise that crosses the Antarctic Circle. I’ve signed up for an overnight camping excursion, so, if all goes as planned, I’ll be stepping on the continent before I return home on February 25th – one important goal or, more to the point, sub-goal accomplished.

Do you have a goal that fits the SMART criteria on your bucket list? Ever checked something off your life goals list? Leave a comment. I’d love to hear about it.

Greg Tjosvold is a teacher, writer, and innovator. One of the first to crowdsource his biography, he is apparently 12 ft tall, has no body fat, is always polite, and is the only living recipient of an Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Stanley Cup, Pulitzer, and two Nobel prizes (Economics and Break Dancing). He is currently reevaluating the merits of crowdsourcing.

He is the father of two amazing children and currently lives with his wonderful wife in the wilds of suburban Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.