Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Activate Your Bucket List Today


Reflecting on my upcoming 55th birthday, I am reminded that life is too short to worry about all the things that are wrong with it, and to cherish all the things that are wonderful about it. It is a reality that the quality of my physical life 20 years from now will be substantially less than it is today. There is also a good chance every day might be a new day depending on my future mental well-being. Some in my life have already made that call for the latter. Yes, this particular blog is for those who find themselves a bit past their physical prime. There is no doubt many of you are young at heart, as am I, and we would not have it any other way. However, the days still pass and we better make the best of them. Although our minds may say yes, our bodies occasionally provide a wake up call that we may not be as young as we think. Passion for life, and the people you love are the inspiration for a youthful heart, a gracious spirit, and a willing body. Though we do not know what tomorrow may bring, a positive, humble and selfless attitude today will make every moment a bit more joyful.

The theme of the movie “The Bucket List” (2007) is a list of things the two main characters played by Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, wish to do before they “kick the bucket” i.e. die, both of them being terminally ill. I encourage all of us to create, activate and participate in your bucket list today. You are never too young to list and plan for what you desire. What are your dreams, aspirations and heartfelt wishes in life? That once in a lifetime trip, a completed physical challenge, a degree, owning your own business, a passion to cook, paint, sing, dance, and a relationship to fulfill are all examples of what could be in your bucket. No regrets, no excuses and you must believe no one will prevent you from checking off that list. It is a core belief in you and what you stand for and believe in that will propel you to fulfill those desires.

You may find yourself overwhelmed with the amount on your list, and how wonderful to have a full bucket. Take the time to prioritize what you wish for most. Subsequently evaluate it, budget it, plan it, and make a commitment to make it happen. What is there to lose, but time and that’s the point. As in any endeavor, the road to accomplishment is never easy, and checking off your bucket list items is no different. The life skills of self-discipline, resiliency, determination, and perseverance are as needed to empty the bucket as they are to overcome the trials and tribulations we face every day. Would it not be more enjoyable and fulfilling to focus your energy on emptying the bucket? As Emerson quoted, “Life is a journey not a destination.” and Aristotle so eloquently stated, “Happiness is the meaning of the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” What are you waiting for?

Granted, emptying the entire bucket may be unrealistic, but making a commitment to enjoy the journey is essential for long-term happiness. The absence of a bucket list in your life is the first step to waking up with less purpose, and acquiring a pessimistic view of your future. Without something to look forward to, you will emotionally and physically deteriorate. Living life to the fullest is not about allowing life to control you, but rather assimilating the values you believe in, and the desires you wish for within the sphere of living.

Three gifts to being human are having the ability to smile, laugh, and cry. How wonderful to be complete in the expression of what it means to be alive. Discard your frailties, forgive your mistakes, forgive others who have harmed you, love those who love you and appreciate the little things that bring happiness to your life. A full bucket has the potential to provide nourishment for many. Strive to empty the bucket while bringing happiness to yourself and those around you. Enjoy the pour.

Appreciating Each Day


Through the course of my life autumn has always stimulated a time of personal reflection and assessment on the course my life has taken, and its future. It is a panoramic theater of change, inspiration and awe as nature lets go of yesterday and prepares for tomorrow. It is an opportunity for all of us to discard the destructive baggage of what was, take selfless pride in what we have accomplished, and be thankful for the loving people in our life. As we reflect on world events and the anxiety of what tomorrow may bring it is an appreciation of each day that makes living each day worthwhile.

To know there are those who love you, respect you, and appreciate you is a primary reason to wake up each morning, and a thankful reason to rest your head on that pillow each night. To be appreciative of each day stems from not just being thankful for what is around us, but being thankful for what is within us. The more at peace you are with who you are, the happier each day will be.

Personal peace is the result of personal honesty and taking accountability for the choices and decisions you have made. An acceptance of self and a willingness to serve others enhances the appreciation of each experience we encounter. The timeless cliché of “It could always be worse” is not something to be used as an excuse for not taking responsibility for what may have occurred, but rather an instrument to know how blessed you may be.

This past summer I ruptured my bicep tendon and as a result had surgery and a subsequent cast put in place. Ironically I was scheduled to conduct a presentation for a Wounded Warrior Symposium in Indianapolis. Although seeing the subtle humor with my physical predicament and the venue in which I was speaking, it was challenging, a bit cumbersome and restricted my normal animated passion while presenting my message. The wake up call occurred when the speaker before me wheeled himself up on stage, absent of both legs, and minimal use of one arm. Seeing and listening to my fellow graduate from West Point share his combat experience I humbly realized that I was having a pretty good day.

It has been, and always will be, the greatest challenges in your life that will create the greatest understanding of who you are. Without confronting trials and tribulations there is no way to decipher an understanding of the values you believe to be most important. It is this understanding that provides the resilience and strength to persevere. There was a moment that my fellow alumnus shared that he contemplated suicide, but realized he had others who loved him regardless of being wheel chaired bound. It was an opportunity to be stronger, set a proper example for those around him, and not use his situation as an excuse to not be giving, loving, and an honorable father and husband. What did you wake up and whine about today? What you don’t have, what you should have done, what someone did to you four years ago and so on? Such an attitude generates self-centeredness, encourages negativity, and initiates a mindset of entitlement. How can you appreciate each day when you are not even appreciative of yourself?

Five keys to appreciating each day are: * Know and accept that there are those who love you, believe in you and want you in their life. You have the ability to make a positive difference in the life of another by the example you set every day. * Take a life break and treasure the beauty around you. A simple flower, a blue sky, a sunset, a changing leaf puts things in perspective in regard to what a miraculous world we live in. * Realize you have purpose, and have the opportunity to live a purposeful life. * Recognize what you do have instead of what you don’t have, and experience the joy of being more selfless than self-centered. * Live the values you believe in. It provides the framework to appreciate who you are, and therefore appreciate each day. Make it a wonderful day.

Friday, August 14, 2020

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