Everyone has a to-do list, whether it’s written down or in your mind. When we think of a to-do list, the first thing we think of is usually the list that focuses on daily needs like emails, meetings, grocery shopping, or social events. The to-do list I’m referring to is a bit different.
A few weeks ago I wrote about setting your own to-be/to-do list just in time for the Jewish New Year. We looked at what goals we have, or think we have, why we want them, and what we need to be in order to achieve them. The energy following Rosh Hashanah is especially powerful and now that you have a clear idea of your to-be/to-do list I’m here to ask: How is it going?
If the answer is a little unclear or if the ardor has cooled, that’s okay. There is a way to get back into that excited, impassioned state. Let’s say someone (okay, it’s me) has had something on their to-do list for a year and a half. It’s something I’m passionate about and something I think about everyday but, like most other people, there are many reasons I haven’t followed up and I suspect they might sound familiar to you. Reasons like “there’s never enough time in the day”, “I’m not sure I have the resources right now”, “it’s feels impossible/overwhelming/time-consuming”, “What if I fail?”
The truth is, these kind of reasons exist for every single person around every single thing in life. The things we do and the things we don’t do. Everything you have ever done up until this point began as an idea, that turned into a to-do list, that eventually came into being. The question is, what’s getting you stuck?
Take Joy Behar for example. She began working in television in the early 1980’s as a receptionist for Good Morning America. It would be 17 years into her career before she let go of fear and doubt, stepping in front of the camera, and becoming the famous talk show personality she is today. Are you afraid you’ve “missed the boat”? Look at Morgan Freeman. He began acting at age 12 and didn’t receive a notable role in a film until Driving Miss Daisy, at age 52.
Or even more notably, Rav Berg. The Rav was already well into his spiritual study but started out as a businessman in Brooklyn, New York. He was dedicated to spirituality and strove to continue his knowledge and practice. It wouldn’t be until his 40’s that he would begin what was to become the worldwide Kabbalah Centre… which started humbly in his living room.
The point is, there is nothing we cannot achieve.
What is your goal? What is your aspiration? What is your grand vision? Maybe you want to start your own vegan clothing line. Perhaps you’ve been daydreaming about opening your own Etsy shop. It can be a rededication to self-care like finally scheduling that dental work you need or even something as close to home as cleaning out the garage.
Whatever your long-lived to-do is, the finished product is possible. Take a look at that goal or task that you seem to never quite start or never quite finish. Now, imagine that you never do it. Stay with me on this. What does your life look like – a month from now, six months from now, a year from now – if this certain to-do never gets done? Now how you do feel? Do you have a renewed desire to get it done? If not, congratulations. You can cross it off the list!
But, if it is something you want to do, imagine in the opposite direction. What does your life look like if you continue? What does your life look like a month from now, six months from now, a year from now? When you imagine this goal fully formed, how do you feel? If the answer is elated, excited, impassioned, ecstatic, congratulations. You have work to do!
Give yourself a deadline. Have you been dreaming of painting your living room, for example? Give yourself a solid deadline with a bit of a treat attached – plan a party. Plan a soiree a fair amount of time in advance, send out invitations, and voila. A perfect deadline you know you can stick to. Creating deadlines that go beyond just a concept or calendar alarm can help see your projects through. So can building in treats…
Bribe yourself, in a good way. Set your plan in motion and as you complete tasks on the way to your goal, give yourself a treat just like the party above. Whether it’s buying a new book or new shoes, getting a massage or going to your favorite restaurant, promise yourself a well-earned reward once you complete a step.
Enlist a friend. No matter the goal or dream, support is always necessary. You might be striving to build a consistent exercise routine or finish that novel that been sitting on your desk. Assigning a friend to help you stay accountable is an easy, and even fun, way to keep yourself on track. Schedule exercise classes together or weekly coffee dates to discuss – and celebrate! – your progress.
Start early. Research shows that our willpower is not a finite resource and that it is at it’s strongest first thing in the morning, waning throughout the day. It’s the same reason that making smart breakfast choices is so easy but sticking to healthy options in the evening can be difficult. We just don’t have the same fortitude towards the end of the day. Schedule in time every morning to spend on your To-Do. It is not only the most potent time of day, it will also keep you from the “I’ll put it off until I have some free time” trap.
Something to remember as you strive towards that which you truly want, it takes 40 days to form a new habit. The number 40 has a special significance in The Zohar as it is believed this is the amount of time it takes for change to be enacted. Dedicate yourself to your goal for 40 days and see how you, and your life, have changed.
Thought into Action
The only limits in life are those that you place on yourself. Do you have a grand to-do on your list? If you do, how is your progress? If you don’t, what is holding you back?