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The power of reflection

Reflecting on your bucket list achievements can give you new insights into both yourself and the world around you.

During her late teens, Rachel developed a strong desire to volunteer in a French-speaking African country. She had three strong reasons why - she wanted to improve her French, she could help children to lead a better life, and she wanted an adventure.


On reflection, she realised that she had certainly had an adventure, but was not so sure that she had achieved her other two objectives. However, there were other things that she had learnt from the experience and that had influenced her life afterwards.


French was the official language of the country that she visited, but when she arrived, she realised that very few ordinary people actually spoke French. It was simply the language of the ruling classes and bureaucrats. So, instead of practising her French, she learnt a few words of Wolof, the most widely spoken language in Senegal.

‘I quickly learnt that trying to communicate in someone’s own language can make a huge difference. Whenever I spoke a few words of Wolof, smiles erupted across people’s faces and they made me so welcome!’

‘This is a strategy that I have successfully adopted as I have travelled the world, making friends wherever I go.’


Despite doing a lot of research about the best organisation to volunteer with in Senegal, Rachel was disappointed and saddened by how little they actually achieved on the ground.


‘Volunteering in Senegal was like sticking a plaster on a gaping wound. While I was there, I concluded that to achieve meaningful improvements, change needs to come from the locals, not an aid charity.’


She also learnt about how easy it is for your norms to change over a relatively short period of time.


‘I found that, after just a few weeks in the country, I had adopted some of their social norms, such as complimenting women on the size of their bottoms. This is not something that I would ever have done at home.’


‘Although I think that was fairly harmless, I can see now how easy it would be for more damaging customs to gain a foothold in your mind as normal behaviour.’


This feeds into the concept that success coaches such as Tony Robbins talk about – that you are the sum of the five people you spend the most time with. If you are spending time with people with similar values and ambitions, then you are more likely to live the life you want. And if you have to spend a lot of time with people with different values or ambitions, you need to learn to protect yourself from being ‘infected’ with those behaviours you do not wish to adopt.


What have you learnt from pursuing your bucket list dreams? If you have any bucket list stories to share (anonymously if you prefer), I would love to hear them. Simply email me at julia@juliags.com and we can arrange to have a chat.


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