A to-do list can be such an excellent tool when trying to tackle a big, overwhelming goal. We can use the power of pen and paper to break big goals down into small achievable steps, just as long as we manage to be realistic when finding our first step.
I love gaining clarity by doing exactly that but a few weeks ago I realised that my to-do list was not serving me as well as it once had.
I had found the first few, very small steps that would help me get closer to an important goal and I had given myself the week to get them done.
I stuck a piece of paper on my wall.
On it, two very achievable steps I was going to take by the end of the week.
Somehow weeks went by and I hadn’t taken either of them.
Eventually, after about two months, I took that piece of paper down and threw it out. Together with a lot of enthusiasm about to-do lists.
I realised later that what I had written was not actually the first step in getting closer to my big goal.
My first instinct after experiencing that disappointment was that maybe instead of only writing to-do lists I also needed an ‘already-done list’: to avoid feeling disappointed with myself for not achieving what I had set out to achieve and to shift my focus on things that I had already achieved instead.
This felt like a big realisation. So big, I set out to write a blog post about the importance of looking back at what we have already achieved, to feel proud of how far we have already come and to feel a sense of accomplishment.
I took a step back and was ready to feel that great sense of accomplishment. But I never wrote an ‘already-done list’.
Something else happened for me.
Still feeling some disappointment but also a lot less pressure, I naturally found myself spending less time trying to control the outcome of whatever I was doing.
I would go for a walk and instead of planning what I had to do once I got home, I enjoyed the walk. I walked for as long as I wanted to. Sometimes that wasn’t very long at all. I walked through a park but then stopped and sat down in the middle of Federation Square. I watched the rush. I watched the sunset. I just sat and watched.
Eventually, I had not only lost track of my all so important to-do list, my genius idea of an ‘already-done list’ seemed just as negligible.
All that mattered was this present moment.
The idea for my ‘already-done list’ came to me because I spent too much of my time looking into the future. The logical solution to my problem of being too focused on the future was to look into the past. I thought by doing that I would ease the pressure I had created for myself with my to-do list.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” - Albert Einstein
I will continue to use pen and paper to create clarity for myself. Luckily, when I forgot about my to-do list for a little while, I found something entirely different.
Once I spent some time simply being, I realised that what I had written down a few months back were not really the next steps in achieving my big goal.
Those steps seemed easy enough when I came up with them. They were definitely achievable which contributed to my frustration.
I thought I had done everything right. I thought I should write a blog post on ‘how to write to-do lists’ ☺. It took me a while to figure out why it did not work out for me.
If the first step towards a goal isn’t easy enough to take today, it’s not really your first step.
Sometimes the very first and most important step is to come back to this very moment. In this moment, there is nothing to achieve. There is no need to look back to feel accomplished. There is just this very moment to enjoy.
Sometimes the first step on your to-do list is to simply be present.
Hi, I’m Maren. I am an actress and author of the Feel Good Blog, but most of all I am passionate about sharing honest moments. I love moments that remind us that we are capable and connected. I treasure those moments whether they are felt as profound insights or inspirational chuckles, whether we laugh or cry, I believe they help us grow.
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