A few days ago, I sat down at my desk and made a list of upcoming projects and deadlines. Most of the things I wrote down are things I’m excited about. My first book is coming out soon and I’m knee deep in the development of two really cool programs. Yet, as I sat with the list and stared at the calendar on the wall in front of me, I wasn’t feeling excitement. Instead, I was starting to feel anxious and edgy and stressed about the work and the busy time ahead for me.
Later in the day, I heard myself sounding a little too intense when I said to my husband, “We have to get organized. We have to firm up our vacation plans for this summer.”
And that’s when I caught myself. I was doing something simple that can quickly make even the best of times (Planning our vacation! Publishing a book!) stressful and exhausting. I was stuck in “I have to” and hard-work-get-it-done mode. In both of those instances I had gotten myself so focused on the destination that I was ignoring the possibility of shaping (and enjoying) the journey.
One of the qualities most high-performers share is the ability to buckle down and do the hard thing. We can be incredibly persistent and we know how to work hard. When we heard Nike say just do it, we grinned inside because we knew what that was all about.
The problem is, sometimes just do it goes into overdrive. And sometimes just doing it means we sacrifice the joy and the fun that can happen on the journey. Luckily, there is an easy fix for that.
When I help a client develop a plan for accomplishing a goal, whether it’s losing weight or losing stress or making a big life change, we never simply focus on what she wants to do. We also get very clear on how she wants to feel—both while she moves forward and once she gets there. The feeling is the juice that keeps us motivated and, often, what makes it all worthwhile. Yep, over time, that feeling often grows to be even more important than the goal.
A few days ago, in the examples I shared with you, I had lost touch with that whole part of the process. I was so focused on the finish line (and the deadlines), that I had forgotten to think about my bigger picture goal—which is, as much as possible, to enjoy the ride.
Recently, I was listening to a recording of a class given by Mary Morrissey who was talking about the incredible power our thoughts have to shape the direction of our experience and of our life. She said that she starts her day by making two lists. Yes, she makes a to-do list, but before she does that, she makes a list of what she wants to be that day. I love this exercise and I’ve decided to incorporate it into my own life. I’ve been writing my “to be” list on a small sticky note and putting it on my computer, where it catches my eye and reminds me frequently that there is so much more to focus on than being productive.
When I stepped back and looked at my own to-do list the other day, what I wanted to be was immediately clear. I wanted feel my excitement about the book and relish holding the laid out manuscript and making the final edits. I wanted to be relaxed as the new programs took shape. I wanted to be purposeful and focused as I worked on each part of this business that I love. And I wanted these things, both because they feel really good, and because I know that these are the conditions under which I do my most fulfilling and creative work.
Do you ask yourself how you want to be as you approach your day? It’s a question that takes just a few seconds to reflect on, and when you do, it can lead to all sorts of easy tweaks that can create massive shifts. I can rush around straightening up the house, feeling frustrated and tired, or I can put some good music on and have a little fun. I can commute from work hashing over the difficult or stressful situations on my schedule, or I can use the time to think about what went well today or what I am grateful for. I can go for a run or a walk feeling like I’m doing something I “have to” do, or I can breathe in the fresh air and let my surroundings relax me.
Deciding how I want to be doesn’t take a lot of time. And it can make the to-dos into a whole different ball game.
How do you want to be today?