I bet you know this scenario. You woke up. You had your day planned. You had the perfect To Do List. You started that day with lots of energy. But suddenly, boom, boom, boom, calls were coming in, crisis were coming in, people were coming in – into your life, disturbing your perfect plan. Damn!
With this scenario, I also remember a quote: “Man plans and the gods laugh”.
We are obsessed about To Do lists today. Why? Very often it comes from fear and the need to control our environment. But we have no control over it. Want to read more about it, take a look at my article “Lost Control? That’s Good News!”
Life controlled by To Do Lists – A Masochistic Approach
Depending on your ability to control the outside world is a surefire way to frustration and experience of yourself as powerless on a regular base. Let’s face it “Man plans – and the Gods laugh”. No matter how hard you plan your day and want to control your environment, you can’t. At the end of most days you haven’t achieved all of your to do items, simply because life was happening to you and that is out of reach for planning.
So you weren’t able to finish a task, because something more urgent came along? Therefore, you can’t feel happy at the end of the day? That is a true masochistic mechanism you subscribed to. Depending on outside factors to define your happiness is a surefire way to pain. If you like that, then more power to you. But if you are fed up with it, look at the source of happiness and control -within you.
Lists Should Free Your Mind, Not Enslave It
Now don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely about jotting down your commitments, ideas or next action steps (The “Mind like Water” concept of David Allen’s GTD is indeed a brilliant one.) But the traditional To Do List concept has failed so many times that even the productivity gurus like David Allen restrain from them.
It is important to know what to do. But whether you are gonna make it is out of your control as long as there are any outside influences (=real life) that could steal your time, attention or resources.
The Only Thing You Can Really Control
But what you can control, indeed the ONLY thing you can control is your inner world. And it is even more valuable to do so than to hook of another action step. You might have no control over what you can achieve that day, but you can control who you gonna be that day.
Making a To Be List is much more important than a To Do List.
Write down in the evening “Who do I want to be tomorrow” and rehearse in the morning “Who do I want to be today?”
Really do a list, like your task list and look over it at regular intervals during the day.
What qualities could you express today. While you can’t control the events happening to you, you are in control of your reactions and the qualities of yourself, you would express through it.
Go on and visualize not only how you want your day to happen, but how you would like to be on that day.
You could decide to be calm, feel powerful, be an inspiration to others, be a giver of joy, be loving to the people around you, smile a lot at people.
All of this is under your control, once you realize, that your feelings are never under any external influence, unless you allow an outside trigger to evoke a feeling within you.
Let me repeat that. Unless you allow an external trigger to evoke a feeling within you, they have no control over you.
Your boss might yell at you, and you could allow this trigger to bring up fear, anxiety or aggression within you. And the more you allowed it, the easier your nervous system with it’s neurochemical connections repeats that trigger mechanism. But just as you learned it, you can unlearn it again. You must start with a decision to act different by being someone else in a certain situation. You can decide to stay a master of calmness in such a situation. And the more you practice that, the easier it gets through new neurochemical connections been built with every time you repeat a pattern of behavior.
That could make a huge difference not only to the way you act that day but also to your selfworth and your feeling of victory on that day. I am a huge fan of ending each day with a feeling of deep satisfaction, even victory. But that is impossible if you only allow yourself to feel those when certain outside factors are involved.
In the evening before sleep, go over that list and noticed what qualities you could express on that day. Now don’t beat yourself up, if you didn’t manage to do it all. Just make a note, why you weren’t able to express a quality that day and make a commitment to express it tomorrow. If you weren’t able to express it several days in a row, you might have come across a fear of expressing it.
You then might uncover that fear by writing down “Why am I currently not ably to express
Make a commitment with yourself to experience this day by expressing the best qualities of you – and grow with it every day.
Remember – on your death bed, you won’t remember any tasks or projects, but the only thing that counts in this life is who you become and how much of you you were able to express.