A few months ago, I read what turned out to be a transformational tip in the book Ignite Your Life by John McCabe. I can’t remember what topic it first appeared under – perhaps something about overcoming procrastination – but I immediately took it up and now I can’t think of ever not using it.
He suggested the use of lists, titled with different lengths of time. I don’t recall exactly what he used, but I use:
- This Week
- This Month
- In Three Months
- In A Year
- In Five Years
For example, on Today’s list, I might have:
- Write Intention and Reflection
- Drink a green smoothie
- Practice yoga
On This Week’s list, I might have:
- Work out x 3
- Practice banjolele x 2
- Call my dad
- Study Korean x 5
On This Month’s list, I might have:
- Plan and execute a full moon ceremony
- Read a book
- Attend my sister’s baby shower
On Three Month’s list, I might have:
- Execute an unassisted scorpion pose (6/26)
- Secure the best summer job
- Learn to play and sing a new song
And so on. Every morning, I read these lists and decide what I will aim to accomplish – obviously everything from the Daily List, maybe one or two things from the Weekly list, and I ask myself if there is anything I can do to work towards one of the long term goals. I then do an “Intention Setting” journal entry with these tasks in mind. Sometimes I write a full page and it’s more journaling and less intention-ing, sometimes I just list out my goals for the day and move on, and once in a while I write a poem! Just depends how I’m feeling and I follow that instinct.
Every evening in bed, I read my morning’s entry and then write a “Reflection” usually about how the day unfolded, perhaps contemplating what I could have done better or what I’m really proud of accomplishing, or thinking about what can be different about tomorrow.
“Understand and accept that your life can be a beautiful and satisfying combination of patterns.” – John McCabe
Then every Sunday, I go over my lists and reflect on whether I did all of my daily practices every day. At the moment, I am very reliable in doing these tasks and complete them without really thinking about it; however when I first began this practice, I set my sights a bit too high, didn’t check my list every day (even though that was on my Daily List!) and therefore didn’t complete every Daily task. I had to first learn to check my lists and also had to adjust my expectations.
BUT that’s not to say I let myself slack, I just learned that I don’t feel the need to, say, practice yoga for 60 minutes every day. I do feel the need to practice every day though, so I just removed the time goal and felt liberated!
At this time, I also take notice of how my weekly list progressed – hopefully all the items are ticked off by now, but maybe I need to squeeze in another Korean study session or call my dad before the day is over – and ask what have I done to work towards checking off one of the long term goals? Many of my short term goals are building blocks for long term goals (ie daily yoga is leading me towards an unassisted scorpion pose within three months’ time; working out and drinking smoothies is leading me towards my fitness goals in one year’s time).
Then I rewrite all of the lists to start again on Monday.
I will mention that describing this process is actually much more time consuming than doing it! I spend approximately 20 minutes a day checking my lists and journaling, and not only do I really enjoy it, but it’s given me the kickstart I needed to get my habits in alignment with my values.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” – Aristotle
Occasionally I realize that a goal is actually not that important to me or that it’s not the right time to be added to my list and I just let it go for now. Putting it on your list is great for figuring out what truly matters to you, because if it matters, you’ll do it! But most of the time, once I’ve written something down, I’ve committed myself to it.
One of the best, most inspiring pieces of advice I’ve heard for developing new habits was: Commit to your goals and then simply do not let yourself down.
And that’s all there is to it! Always wanted to write a book? Commit to writing something every day or finishing a chapter every month and then do not let yourself down. Looking to get healthier? Commit to going for a daily walk or having a smoothie for breakfast every morning or quitting that detrimental habit once and for all and then do not let yourself down.
Yes it can be difficult, but it is also so thrilling, confidence-boosting, and gratifying to be able to honestly tell yourself that you are moving towards accomplishing your goals and living the life you’ve always wanted.
Now make those lists and start living in alignment with the person you know you already are.