I’m a list maker. Lists of books I want to read, lists of restaurants I want to try, lists of places I want to visit. And yes, lists of shit that I need to get done. That is what all of the self-help gurus tell you “to do” (add THAT to your list). The idea is to write down every task and then methodically go through your list and make a plan. This lets you decide on priorities and what it will take to get to your goals in chunks. Right, we get it.
Most of us do this in one form or another. And one of the best parts of this task is crossing things off the list when they are done. “Crossing off” gives you a boost -- a little rush of dopamine when your pen marks through “make dentist appointment.” I’ll put stuff on the list that I know is small potatoes just for the rush of giving myself credit for having a victory. Nothing wrong with that, I think, as long as the scary stuff is on the list too.
But here’s the thing. Maybe I’ve been looking at my list wrong. Why should it be that I see every day as a series of unpleasant tasks that have to be endured in order to get to a different state of mind? Some mythical future where I feel that I’m enough because I got a lot done. I rebalanced our retirement investments! My sock drawer is organized! I’m making a new to do list for tomorrow!
I recently learned a new approach to list-making from a teacher. Now, as part of my morning routine, I still make a list of what I’d like to see accomplished. But it isn’t my “To Do” list. I now think about it as my “What I Get To Do” list. The idea that I’m lucky enough to have the opportunity to do these things today. That I get to use my unique strengths to accomplish things that contribute to the growth of something bigger than myself.
This morning I get to call a small business to arrange the painting of an apartment that I lease out. By putting that on my list of things that I’m fortunate enough to “get to” do, the task looks different to me. If it was on a “to do” list I might start thinking about how it’s expensive and a bit of a hassle to arrange and now I have to pick paint colors and should it be semi-gloss or flat and meet the crew and what did I get myself into by investing in this property in the first place?
But my “get to” list puts that in a new light. I am, in my own small way, contributing to the revitalization of the city where I live. The building will be a better place because I’ve maintained one piece of it. Someone will “get to” move into the apartment and might enjoy the good feeling and positivity of living in a space with a fresh paint job. Maybe they’ll feel so good the first day they wake up there they’ll reach into their pocket for a dollar to give the homeless guy on the corner.
What do you get to do today?
I have a variety of interests and enjoy sharing my reflections on them here.