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Mastering Your ‘To-Be’ List

A ‘to-be’ list contains a roster of the characteristics and traits that you’d like to attain, develop, or improve upon

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Virtually every responsible adult maintains some type of to-do list, whether it’s as simple as a few notes on a page or a comprehensive electronic system. To-do lists, as nearly everyone knows, have high utility – the items on the list are reminders as to what we want or choose to get done.

How often, however, do you compose a to-be list, containing a roster of the characteristics and traits that you’d like to attain, develop, or improve upon?

From Little Acorns

The encouraging news about composing a to-be list is that you can start from scratch. You can enter on to your list any characteristic, trait, or value that appeals to you, regardless of the life you have led up to this moment.

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All of your setbacks, and triumphs, the observations you’ve made, the lessons you’ve learned, the insights you’ve gathered, and the perspectives that you’ve developed can be brought to bear as you compose your to-be list.

As you decide how you want to be, inexorably you move in that direction. As a young man, to employ a personal example, I chose to write books in areas where I personally needed to become more adept.

When I felt a lack of breathing space and more stress at the end of every workday, with my stomach in knots, I sensed that a better way to proceed in life had to exist.

I wrote the book Breathing Space initially as a form of self-guidance, recognizing that once finished, it would also help others. Likewise with other books, such as Simpler Living, Dial it Down-Live it Up, and even The 60 Second Self-starter, when I finished writing the last page, my journey towards becoming the type of person I want to be would receive a major boost.

How about you? What have you not explored that lingers on the periphery of your consciousness? What traits do you want to embody? What or who do you want to become?

You have the capability within you to move in that direction, and one fine day, you might find yourself exactly where and who/what you wanted to be.

Disarming and Enervating

Considering who and what you’d like to be could, at first, be disarming. After all, few people fixate on what they want to become as opposed to what they need to do. Most people proceed directly to listing the projects and tasks that will help them to reach  specific goals. Most times the goals are work-related, but often they are personal in nature as well.

Yet, without identifying and acknowledging who you want to be, you can miss the forest for the trees. Periodically it’s vital to make the cerebral link between the tasks that we accomplish and the roles and positions to which we aspire.

When you produce a to-be list you help to put in motion an array of behaviors and activities that will increase your probability of becoming the person you wish to be. For each to-be that makes your list, a variety of to-do type tasks become associated.

Leadership Can Be a Choice

If you aspire towards leadership, for example, and your to-be list includes “to become a leader,” then you are drawn to those tasks and activities that will help you to accomplish your goal. Such tasks might not necessarily be those that normally make your to-do list.

In pursuit of being a leader, beyond executing your tasks, you might also chose to read one book on leadership each month, regularly observe the leaders in your own organization, volunteer for situations which enable you to exhibit leadership skills, and start addressing articles, interviews, and features on leaders in your industry, geographic area, or those whom you simply admire.

As a second example, if you aspire to be a better partner to your spouse or significant other, you might find yourself gravitating towards a variety of activities that traditionally would not have made your to-do list.

In becoming a better partner, perhaps you enroll in a course (with or without your partner) on relationships, perhaps you speak at length with friends who have been in long and successful relationships, or, perhaps you listen to a CD on becoming a more effective listener, and so on.

Explorations

The items that make your to-be list might require new types of exploration. You might find yourself attracted to events and activities that are new to you, or find yourself associated with others with whom previously you felt you had little in common.

At some point, you find yourself trying new behaviors, putting yourself into novel situations, and asking others for advice on new topics.

The wonderful thing about a to-be list is that the mere act of composing the list increases the odds of your movement in the desired direction. The positive, self-fulfilling progress that you make, compared with previously doing nothing of the sort, significantly puts the odds in your favor.

Paraphrasing Abraham Lincoln, when we make up our minds to accomplish something, we are already half way there. So true! Deciding to move in a particular direction and intending to take action to support your decision is the precursor to actual movement and achievement.

Give yourself the wonderful opportunity to become the person you truly want to be. Starting with a blank piece of paper or a blank screen, list four to six characteristics, traits, or attributes you desire to embody. You do have it within you to succeed.

Achievement vs. Goodness

Here is an afterthought. We subconsciously reason with ourselves that as long as we’re not shortchanging others, have a decent number of friends, and support society in some way, then we must be okay as individuals.

Yet, how far have we veered from the potential for deeper experiences and greater joys? Such to-be developments take time, and build slowly via certain experiences, sometimes hard choices, and the ability to learn from life’s lessons.

We’re urged by motivators to follow our passions, be true to ourselves, and march to the beat of our drum. Fine, but how often do such pursuits begin and end with the self? David Brooks, author of The Road to Character suggests that instead of asking, “What do I want from life?” ask, “What is life asking of me?

In other words, how can my natural talents serve the needs of the world? Brooks observes such “inner light” people are made, not born.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



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Life

Too Tired for Your Own Good

The realization that you are fatigued is the first step to resolution

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It’s Sunday. Go back to bed and then return to this article!

Based on what you do an average day, it is understandable that sometimes you feel very tired, but when is the tired feeling that you have bordering on danger? Many signs exist, among them these:

    1. Your fatigue is prolonged. Getting several nights of extra sleep in a row or sleeping for an entire weekend doesn’t seem to put a dent in your feeling of fatigue. Perhaps worse, you feel as if you “will never catch up.”
    2. You experience indigestion or lack of appetite. You normally look forward to meals, but when highly fatigued, you have trouble getting them down. Maybe, you’re eating less.
    3. Loss of sex drive. This isn’t as obvious a sign as you might think. Loss of your libido usually takes place a little bit at a time, such that you don’t notice what’s going on. Your partner probably will, though.
    4. You begin to experience trouble getting to sleep, if not outright insomnia. During the night, you find yourself waking more often or tossing back and forth, and then to exacerbate the situation, you spend the rest of the night worrying that you’re not getting good sleep.
    5. You feel tired in the morning even after getting a full night’s sleep. Realistically, there’s no reason for this. If by 9:30 or 10:00 in the morning, you can hardly keep your head up, it’s time to take heed.
    6. Your ability to focus on the task at hand is diminished. Your powers of concentration are not what they have been in the past. Generally, this is not due to your aging.
    7. You feel that you’re no longer in control. In many ways, this is the most insidious of the signs. You doze at highly inopportune moments, such as in an important meeting, or when driving.

Not Enough Sleep, but Otherwise Functional

Here’s a second list of indicators showing that you’re not getting enough sleep, but perhaps you’re not at the danger level:

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  • Your eyes are red.
  • You’re not mentally sharp.
  • You avoid tasks that involve adding up numbers.
  • You find yourself daydreaming often.
  • In situations with others you simply go through the motions.
  • You don’t want to handle any phone calls if you can help it.
  • You watch the clock frequently throughout the day, hoping it will go by more quickly.

Before I learned how to keep my stress level in check, I used to look forward to going to the dentist. When I got to the dentist’s chair, and they tilted the seat back, it was one of the few times during the day where I actually reclined and had relatively little to do. If there wasn’t to be any drilling or serious poking during the session, such as a routine visit or cleaning, in some cases I became so relaxed that I didn’t want to leave. For me, that was an indication that I was highly fatigued.

You probably have your own personal corollaries to this. The realization that you are fatigued is the first step to increasing your efficiency and defeating the problem.  A life of constant exhaustion, no matter what else you accomplish, is not a desirable situation. No one, however, is coming to bail you out.

The road back from exhaustion starts with self-awareness, then resolve, then action. Will today be that day?

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Life

Work-life Balance and the Five-Mega-Realities

Work-life balance is the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home life with needed leisure

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In the 1st edition of my book Breathing Space which appeared in 1990, I discussed five major trends – what I called mega-realities – that influenced every aspect of our being, and from which no one was immune. Briefly, these five mega-realities include:

* an expanding volume of knowledge
* mass media growth and electronic addiction
* the paper trail culture
* an over-abundance of choices
* population growth.

Knowledge – In one way or another, everyone fears being under-informed. The enormous volume of new knowledge broadcasted and published in every field exceeds our ability to keep pace. More words are published and broadcast in a day than you could ingest during your lifetime. America leads the world in sheer volume of information generated and disseminated.

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The impasse of this over-information era is that the time necessary to learn the rules for effective living now exceeds your lifetime. This is why management books so often miss the mark: they list dozens — if not hundreds — of rules, when you are already grappling with more rules than you can handle.

Mass Media – The effect of the mass media on our lives continues unchecked. More than four out of five American households own DVD players. In 1972, three major television networks dominated television – ABC, NBC and CBS. Now, there are more than 500 full-power independent television stations. Many cable TV subscribers receive up to 200 channels that offer more than 72,000 shows per month.

With its sensationalized trivia, the mass media glut obscures fundamental issues that do merit concern, such as preserving the environment or feeding the poor.

Paper Trails – Like having too much data and eyewitness reports, having too much paper to deal with makes you feel overwhelmed and overworked. Americans today are consuming three times as much paper as ten years ago. There are two basic reasons why society spews so much paper:

* We have the lowest postal rates in the world.
* We have the widest base of paper-generating technologies.

The typical executive receives more than 200 pieces of unsolicited mail each month – about 12 pieces daily. The average family receives more than 100 catalogs that they did not request, on top of those they did request.

An Overabundance of Choices – Having choices is a blessing of the free market economy, but it’s overwhelming, increases time expenditure, and is a mounting form of exhaustion. More than 1,260 varieties of shampoo are on the market. More than 2,000 skin-care products are for sale. An excess of 75 different types of exercise shoes are available, each with scores of variations in style, function, and features.

Population – From the beginning of creation to 1,850 AD, world population grew to one billion. It grew to two billion by 1930, and is now approaching eight billion. Every three years, nearly 250,000,000 people are added to the planet.

Each day, world population (births minus deaths) increases by more than 265,000 people. Geometric growth in human population permeates and dominates every aspect of our earth, its resources, the environment, and all living things.

The Quest for Work-life Balance

Against this backdrop, the quest for work-life balance is more vital than ever. Predictably, a preponderance of speakers, trainers, authors, journalists, and others whose professions entail regular communication with the masses, proclaim the virtues of achieving and maintaining work-life balance.

However, a glaring question arises. What, exactly, is work-life balance? Compared to the legions of instances in which the term is cited, surprisingly little has been written in articles and books about what the concept actually entails.

During my 33 years in pursuit of understanding why the pace of society has sped up, what the impact has been on the typical individual, and how each of us can forge our own sense and experience of breathing space throughout our lives, I have honed and refined the tenets of what I consider work-life balance.

What Exactly is Work-life Balance ?

For several years now, those who apparently have no idea what work-life balance is and have virtually never experienced it are proclaiming that it is passe — in favor of work-life harmony or work-life integration.

The truth is, these terms all mean approximately the same things. You can split hairs anyway you want, and I suppose that’s a good way to differentiate a program if you’re seeking to offer one to clients, but the reality is work-life balance is the overarching issue of our time that all career professionals strive to achieve.

Work-life balance is the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home life with sufficient leisure. It is attaining focus and awareness, despite seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for your time and attention.

Work-life balance entails having some breathing space for yourself each day; feeling a sense of accomplishment, while not being consumed by work; and having an enjoyable domestic life without short-changing career obligations. It is rooted in whatever fulfillment means to you within 24-hour days, seven-day weeks, and however many years you have left.

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