Finding personal successes: Bucket lists and life gratitude

Finding personal successes: Bucket lists and life gratitude

by Jennifer Brown
Stripes Japan

Editor’s note: At Stripes Japan, we love to share your stories and share this space with our community members. Here is an article written by Jennifer Brown, a hospital corpsman at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. If you have a story or photos to share, let us know at


When it comes to life challenges, it is very easy to feel overwhelmed. Our problems can seem never-ending and have no tangible solution. But it might surprise you to know that we do have more power than we think in these circumstances because despite the struggles we face, we can find our own personal successes. There are many ways to create and find your own successes in these times. Below are just a few worth giving a try.

The concept of a bucket list may be something you’ve heard of, or even done yourself. I, for one, started my own list of things I hope to accomplish. When I started to create this list, I gave myself full permission to think large with no physical or financial limits. This list allowed me to see that I can attain these goals with some critical thinking and budgeting. For instance, I have always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon. This is an expensive activity, but with research and planning ahead, it becomes more of a possibility.

Perhaps one of the biggest challenges we can face with motivation is the act of doing. Procrastination can get the best of us if we let it, and it can lead to unfinished projects, to-do lists, and disappointment in ourselves. A good way to combat procrastination is by doing something, anything whether big or small. Transferring money into savings is a small step but one that will help bring us closer to our personal goals. When we think of it in this respect, we can acknowledge much more of what we actually do. In turn, when we act, we can develop intrinsic motivation to act again! For instance, I may feel really good about saving money up for my hot air balloon trip and want to continue saving because putting money away is a now associated with the getting closer to going on a trip.

Another tip for having personal successes lies in being grateful in our daily life. This concept doesn’t apply only to Thanksgiving, it applies to all aspects of life. This is something I have actually done as part of a psychology course, where, for an assignment, my fellow students and I were required to write down what we were grateful for during a 30-day period. For me, most of the things I was grateful for – a roof over my head, food, clothing, and family— remained the same throughout the 30 days, but it helped me to appreciate the trivial things like a new shirt or a new movie.  This can really be as simple as writing a few statements of gratitude. In the end, this exercise cultivated more positive feelings and emotions in my day-to-day life. Being grateful may do the same for you!

So, when you’re feeling at a loss for control in times of overwhelming challenges, reflect on your goals, what small steps you can take right now and what you’re grateful for. Whether it be writing down affirmations and sticking them to your mirror or starting a bucket list, we can take charge of our lives and find meaning in what we do.


Jennifer Brown is a hospital corpsman at U.S. Naval Hospital Okinawa. Originally from Florida, she joined the Navy in 2018 and has been on the island for over a year. During her free time, Brown enjoys spending time with animals, running, rock climbing, and hiking. She is an alumnus of the University of Central Florida and holds a Bachelor of Science in Psychology. Her professional interests include social work, animal welfare, and children.

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