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.
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.
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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It the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life
Work-life balance (WLB) 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. WLB, also referred to by some as work-life harmony, work-life shift, work-life blend, work-life effectiveness, or work-life integration, requires focus and awareness despite seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for our time and attention.
Work-life balance entails having what I call “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. WLB is rooted in whatever fulfillment means to you within the course of a day and a week, and however many years you have left in your life.
Several disciplines support work-life balance though, individually, none are synonymous with work-life balance:
1) Self Management
Sufficiently managing one’s self can be challenging, particularly in getting proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Self-management is the recognition that effectively using the spaces in our lives is vital, and that life, time, and available resources are finite. It means becoming captain of our own ship; no one is coming to steer for us.
2) Time Management
Effective time management involves making optimal use of your day and the supporting resources that can be summoned – you can only keep pace when your resources match your challenges. Time management is enhanced through appropriate goals and discerning what is both important and urgent, versus important OR urgent. It entails understanding what you do best and when, and assembling the appropriate tools to accomplish specific tasks.
3) Stress Management
By nature, societies tend to become more complex over time. In the face of increasing complexity, stress on the individual is inevitable. More people, noise, and distractions, independent of one’s individual circumstances, require each of us to become more adept at maintaining tranquility and being able to work ourselves out of pressure-filled situations. Most forms of multi-tasking ultimately increase our stress, while focusing on one thing at a time helps decrease stress.
4) Change Management
In our fast-paced world, change is virtually the only constant. Continually adopting new methods, adapting old, and re-adapting all methods is vital to a successful career and a happy home life. Effective change management involves offering periodic and concerted efforts so that the volume and rate of change at work and at home does not overwhelm or defeat you.
5) Technology Management
Effectively managing technology requires ensuring that technology serves you, rather than abuses you. Technology has always been with us, since the first walking stick, spear, flint, and wheel. Today, the rate of technological change is accelerating, brought on by vendors seeking expanding market share. Often you have no choice but to keep up with the technological Joneses, but rule technology, don’t let it rule you.
6) Leisure Management
The most overlooked of the work-life balance supporting disciplines, leisure management acknowledges 1) the importance of rest and relaxation, 2) that “time off” is a vital component of the human experience, and 3) that one can’t indefinitely short-change leisure without repercussions. Curiously, too much of the same leisure activity, however enjoyable, can lead to monotony. Thus, effective leisure management requires varying one’s activities.
Achieving work-life balance does not require radical changes in what you do. It is about developing fresh perspectives and sensible, actionable solutions that are appropriate for you. It is fully engaging in life with what you have, right where you are, smack dab in the ever-changing dynamics of your existence.
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Let us be free to like what we like and not have others be the gatekeepers of our intellectual pursuits
I read a remarkable Letter to the Editor in a college newspaper, from a young black student. The point of his letter was so amazing and its insights so profound that it needs to be shared across the country for everyone, of all races.
This student wrote that, as a black male, it would inaccurate to make judgments about him without knowing him personally. He highlighted, for example, that while he likes some rap music, he much prefers traditional rock and roll, and even an occasional country song.
Is Your Bias Showing?
He wrote that if you think a black student should not like country music then your bias is showing. Why couldn’t a student, of any race or ethnicity, enjoy a particular type of music even if it’s not traditionally ascribed to his or her particular group? Who is in control here?
He likes historical novels, modern novels, biographies, and autobiographies. He was captivated by a biography about the Wright Brothers. He enjoys poetry and finds the poems from many writers to be relevant to him, from Maya Angelou to Carl Sandberg.
He suggests that there is a world of possibilities when it comes to entertainment, music, and literature. Why, he asks, must we be confined to the narrow band of choices that others, particularly within our own races and ethnicities, suggest that we adhere to? Who decides what is best for all members of a particular group? On what do they base their decisions?
Who determined that venturing outside of such restrictive limits is somehow being a traitor to one’s group? And what does it mean to even be a traitor when it comes to literature, history, music, and so on?
He pointed out in the most eloquent of terms that following the dictates of a small section of the populace and adhering to the stereotypes that prevail are extremely limiting to one’s personal freedom and an attack on one’s individuality and, potentially, creativity.
With so many experiences and possibilities that one can enjoy, he ponders, why limit yourself, especially at the age of 19, 20, or 21 to predefined, limiting confines?
No Free for All
I marveled at this young man’s wisdom which seems to transcend his years. I certainly was not as wise and perceptive myself at that age.
Over the next few days, I was eager to see if there would be any responses to his letter. Surely, he’s going to get some blowback. Someone of his own race will tell him that he needs to get “back in his lane.” Someone will tell him he’s “not acting black,” or not black enough. Somebody else will say that he’s been brainwashed, probably from an early age and he’s trying to capitulate to the predominant Caucasian culture. Someone might call him an “Uncle Tom.”
While I was monitoring the publication, actually nothing was said of his letter. I hoped maybe somebody else, or lots of somebody else’s, understood the man’s viewpoint. They could see the wisdom in his observations. I thought perhaps someone would comment in that direction, but that didn’t happen either.
Free to Choose
In the larger sense, it’s a shame that blacks and other minorities, as well as Caucasians, are supposed to act this way or that way. Hispanics are supposed to prefer this versus that. Asians are supposed to do this versus that. Why, exactly, do these illegitimate confines continue to rule the perceptions of vast numbers of our population?
Why can’t we be free to like what we like, to prefer what we prefer, and have others not be the gatekeepers of our intellectual pursuits?
I have no knowledge of this young man and how he has fared in his studies and overall life. I surmise that whatever he’s doing, whether it’s continuing in his education, landing a job, entering the military, volunteering, traveling, or simply taking time off, he will continue to pursue his interests and remain unique.
Bound for Success
Hopefully, he’ll continue to sidestep unwarranted, prevailing norms that dictate what he can like, think, and be. May we all strive to have such personal freedom.
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