Don’t Make a To Do List, Make a To Be List

Personal Development
Businessman triumph

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 freely in my life?” Give yourself some time to reflect on it, and you might come up with some enlightening answers what you could do to express it better. Again unwrap your mind and come up with your own answer.

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.

11 comments… add one
  • Absolutely right, Patrick. People are multi-dimensional … we can’t function on nothing but to-do lists; our goals need to be as nuanced as we are.

    Coincidentally, I posted something similar not too long ago: http://artofgreatthings.com/2009/10/be-who-you-want-to-become/ if you’re at all interested. 🙂

    .-= Jeffrey Tang´s last blog ..Listen Everywhere =-.

    • Patrick

      Jeffrey, that is a great post. I’ve missed it before on your blog. Highly recommend it. Looks like this info is in the morphogenetic field right now, since we both thought of it in such a short time.

  • I love this post. I am unemployed, for the first time in ages. Since I’m used to having my days filled by a job, I find myself recreating that world via To Do lists. And they are tyrannical. Small motor. Annoying. What to be, however, that I can make and follow with joy.

    .-= LPC´s last blog ..Should The Perfect Wallet Be Stylish? =-.

    • Patrick

      LPC: You should use this time of freedom from to do list tyranny to experience what you are really about.

  • Brilliant idea! Focusing on what you can control and managing that. Besides, when you use to do lists, you grow externally, but when you use do to be lists, you grow internally, which is in my perspective, much more powerful. Thinking of this as a “to do list”, really inspiring :).

    Eduard

    .-= Ideas With A Kick´s last blog ..Enough with the mind reading: get a 360 feedback! =-.

    • Patrick

      Eduard, you are right. Internal growth is always more powerful and the basis for any real external growth. Tell me about your experiences with it soon.

  • I really like this concept. I used to create to-do list but it just made too much of a burden that discouraged me during the day. When you make a to-be list, you’re not motivated by what you see on paper, but you’re motivated by your inner feelings. Things just flow better and you can get more done.

    .-= Tristan Lee´s last blog ..6 Golden Rules for Attracting More Wealth Into Your Life =-.

    • Patrick

      Tristan: That is right, your level and reason for motivation will change dramatically by this switch of focus. Tell me how it worked for you after some days.

  • Hi Patrick – You’re right. To do lists can be so overwhelming, like we continually have to crack the whip on ourselves. Painful. I often tell my clients that the question to ask each day is not what do I want to do, but rather whom do I want to be. (And I’m working hard to remember this myself, too). Thanks.

    .-= ´s last blog ..Dancing Around the Living Room =-.

    • Patrick

      Patty: That is indeed a good question to ask your clients. Sometimes it seems easier for me as a trained actor, but stll I need to remember it for myself ever so often.

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