Friday, March 23, 2012

Life Lists Can Change Your Life

Almost everyone makes New Year’s resolutions. I make Life Lists. For me, a Life List is a list of things you want to do in your life. It doesn't have to be created at the end of the year. It doesn’t have to be a long list or include specific deadlines. It doesn't have to be in any particular order. And you can change or update your list from time to time. Here’s my current Life List:

1. Complete four-year degree. One class at a time. Done!
2. Find another job that pays more and still offers a balanced work/life environment. (Let family and friends know specifically what I’m looking for. Be sure it won’t take me too far away from Alejandro for extended periods.)
3. Master the Spanish language. (Focus on music, television programs, Spanish websites, etc.)
4. Walk outside or on a treadmill for thirty minutes every day.
5. Start writing again. Even if it’s just an email to me. (Doing!)
6. Sell the stuff down in the basement on eBay.
7. Start a small business focusing on marketing and PR with a social media focus. Done!

8. Always be "in the moment" when I'm with Alejandro. Doing! (As best I can!)
9. Start a CashMob group in Delaware. (Doing!)
10. Call Grandma every week. (Doing!)
11. Send a card a month to someone to let them know how special they are to me. (Doing!)
12. Live in another country.
13. Streamline my belongings so they can all fit in 40 boxes. (Working on!)
14. See the Oprah Show. Done!
15. Take Alejandro to the White House. (Done!)
16. Learn to say "No" to projects, things or people that will eat up your time (or energy) that could be better spent doing other things. (Working on!)
17. Finish a Masters Degree.
18. Raise chickens.
19. Run a marathon.
20. Plant a garden. Share food with others.
21. Visit the countries on my Travel List.
22. Travel to all 50 states. (38 down!)
23. Buy a house I love in Louisiana.
24. Be an archeologist for a week.
25. See Alejandro live a wonderful, fulfilling and learning life.
26. Spend time with my grandchildren.
27. Write a book.
28. Tell family secrets to help our family and others.
29. Get paid to do what I love.
30. Write a book.
31. Go to law school.
32. Adopt a child or children.
33. Foster a child or children.
34. Have a well deserved vacation with my siblings.
35. Go on a vacation alone.
36. Own a log cabin on a lake.
37. Own a beach house on the beach.
38. Work from home.
39. Talk with Alejandro in Spanish.

40. Lose one pound at a week for 2 years or until I feel better about my body image.
41. Start dating again.

So you see it’s a varied list of things. I don’t always write my Life List at the end of the year. I usually include ideas about how to accomplish each one. And I make three copies for myself - one for my day-planner, one for my mirror in my bathroom and one for posterity.

I have found that the more you see your list, even if it’s rattling around in your purse or briefcase, the more the things on your list will happen. You make them happen because they are right in front of you and rattling around in your brain. You can even subscribe to free reminder services such as hiaspire.com, memotome.com and lettermelater.com.

Sometimes I call items on my Life Lists goals. For me, the word “goal” seems less overwhelming than calling them “resolutions.” I try to remember it’s all a process and I set small, attainable goals. It is said that habits generally take twenty-one days. For lasting change, don’t give up. Say you’re able to exercise for 17 days. Don’t beat yourself up because you didn’t do it for 18 days. Have a one-minute pity party and move on. Start again. (I’m saying this to you so I can remember to say this to myself, again and again, and again…)

During one of my New Year’s Eve parties, about an hour before we were headed into the New Year, I gave my guests two sheets of blank paper, a stamped envelope and a pen. I asked them to write down ten things they wanted to do in their lives on one sheet of paper and then write the same list all over again on the second sheet of paper. I explained that their list could include anything they wanted, no matter how crazy or impossible it might seem. They didn’t have to share their list with any of the other guests, but they could certainly ask for ideas from others.

Then I had them put one sheet of paper in the envelope, seal the envelope and address it to themselves. I gathered all the envelopes from my guests. I explained that they should make a couple of copies of their list and place it in their purse, briefcase, on their bathroom mirror, etc., and refer to it from time to time. In one year, I said, I will mail your envelope to you. I shared that for me and others that had done this, invariably, many of the items on our Life Lists had been completed or at least well underway by the time we got our envelopes. You become what you think you will become. If you can visualize yourself doing it, you will do it.
There were only about a dozen of us at the party that night. Some people left skeptical that they could make things on their Life Lists happen. Some didn’t think I would mail them their lists in a year.

One year later, I received three phone calls. Two were friends and one was a guest of a friend from my party that year. They had received their Life Lists mailed the week before. Their gratitude was overwhelming. All of them were able to name at least one thing on their Life List that had come to pass. All of them said they had forgotten that I had their envelope but they had not forgotten their lists as they had periodically looked at them over the last year. None of them thought they would be able to see any of those items completed in just a year. But don’t you see, I said to them, it’s all in how you look at things.

Articles or websites you might find useful in creating your Life List:
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/26/fashion/26list.html
http://superviva.com/
http://www.webmd.com/healthy-aging/guide/making-life-list
http://www.43things.com/
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=14000100
http://www.your100things.com/