Let’s stop wishing and sleeping and make those dreams actually come true this year! Lists are a quick way to get to know your thoughts, and happiness and achieving your dreams all begins with knowing yourself.
Here are the four lists you must make for your best year ever:
1. Write down at least 30 things you’d rather be doing right now.
This might sound like a weird way to prepare for the new year, but hear me out. This list is going to tell you a lot about your immediate dreams and desires. And coming up with 30 things will probably be a bit of a stretch for you. You’ll start writing down moments you might like to include in your perfect day, places you might like to visit someday, the kind of person you might like to be. Also, looking back at this list will definitely make you smile, so save it. Here’s my list:
- sitting on the beach drinking a slushy, reading a book, and anticipating a lovely dinner and show in the evening
- painting in an amazing art studio, sun streaming in, music softly playing, just finishing up a big painting that was commissioned for sale
- shopping for the perfect wardrobe with unlimited funds
- having lunch with my best friend
- standing ready to decorate my new house, hands on hips, looking around at all the great potential it has, starting over fresh, notebook ready, unlimited budget, feeling a leap in my heart at the cleanliness and beautiful nature views I can see from where I stand, letting the giddiness take over
- reading a book I’m reeeeeally into
- opening a gift from someone who loves me
- walking through The Met or The Smithsonian with all the time in the world, wearing comfortable shoes and headphones
- putting together a pretty puzzle on a stormy day, wearing a sweater and fuzzy socks
- browsing through a bookstore
- hunting for treasures in a thrift store
- coming home to a house that has been professionally cleaned
- getting a pedicure, listening to music and looking at a magazine, anticipating the rest of my spa day
- watching the lights go down from my perfect seat at a much-anticipated conference, concert, or performance
- signing covers of my international bestseller and getting selfies taken with my adoring readers in some cute bookstore that has a line out to the street
- playing a board game or card game with my family, snacking on trail mix, and laughing a lot
- depositing a check into my bank account
- sitting on a genuine zafu cushion in meditation, candles lit, quiet all around except for the last hum of the singing bowl
- eating lobster on a restaurant patio overlooking a sunny ocean view in an adorable northern coastal town
- riding the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland
- fishing in a pond from my childhood
- riding a bicycle down a country road
- taking a hot shower
- starting my first day at meditation retreat
- making my last payment and being truly debt free
- getting a letter or email from a good friend
- witnessing my youngest child prove that she is finally, completely potty trained
- eating a perfectly ripe peach
- drinking a Jamba Juice, sitting on a blanket in the grass, writing a list in a fresh notebook
- laughing really hard with my husband about something
- completing day 365 of my no-yelling challenge
- walking down an Appalachian country road in the autumn on a long walk before I return to our bed and breakfast for a fireside hot cocoa and chat
Wasn’t that fun?! You probably know a lot more about me now; and I bet you’ll know a lot more about yourself after you make your list. Your own list is going to get you into a dreamy, cozy mood for what comes next.
2. Write down 100 goals you have for your life.
Now that the pump is primed and you’re ready to indulge in some serious day dreaming, get out your notebook and paper, find a quiet chunk of time in a comfortable spot. In order to get to the bottom of the barrel of your dreams and really search yourself, you have to brainstorm in a certain way–a big way. You’ll probably run out of steam at about the 30 to 50 goal mark, but that’s when the magic starts. Something happens when you begin digging deeper into your heart’s desires, when you begin imagining your farthest potential. For me, I started to get bolder, more excited. I began to think back on all the happiness I’d ever had as a child and all the happiness I’d ever hoped for the future. These 100 goals have the potential to provide enough inspiration to fuel an entire year’s worth of personal growth.
A lot of people argue that just brainstorming a list of goals or resolutions or dreams is an unproductive activity. It often becomes a form of procrastination since you’re dreaming more than doing. But you have to start somewhere! And even if you know what you should be working to accomplish in the new year, looking at what you want out of life with fresh eyes has it’s benefits. It can renew your enthusiasm current goals, it can help you clarify or redirect those goals, or it can reveal to you new dreams and ambitions you never knew you had that could end up changing your life in incredible ways. You can use this list to choose out 12 goals, one for each month, to focus on next year; you can use it to generate ideas for your learning project; you can use it to isolate any basic, specific habits you want to focus on in the new year (your true “resolutions”). Your goals can be as vague or as specific as you want them to be since this is just a brainstorming session.
3. Create a Slump List
Now that you’re feeling incredibly happy and pleased with yourself, use that place to generate a list of things that you can use to pull you up when you’re feeling down. All of us have times when we’re bummed out. I’m not talking about clinical depression here, I’m just talking about the valleys that follow failure or burnout or disappointment or any other negative mind state. Often when we get to that down place, we forget that things are going to get better. For most of us, bad feelings are just as fleeting as good feelings. The problem is that we don’t trust our usual ways of turning things around. We don’t pull ourselves up and [insert energizing activity here] because we can’t see past our blues far enough to remember that it consistently makes us feel better when we do it. You might catch yourself sometimes switching suddenly from totally bummed out to feeling pretty good–you’ll probably find it a little bit funny that you were so blinded by your despair and it only took one simple behavior to turn things completely around for you.
Let’s make a list of those little life-saving behaviors now that we’re in a mindset to see them for what they are–magic. Look at the first list of things you’d rather be doing, think back to those times when you were sad and then weren’t, remember your best days and pinpoint what activities made them good, then gather all of those things and list them as specific, preferably simple, things you can do to turn things around. This list is going to be your life vest in the unpredictable ocean of your moods. You’re going to have the bad ones, but you don’t have to stay lost in them for too long.
My list is pretty short. I’ve been using mine for a long time and cut I down to the most effective behaviors to make it easy to choose in a hurry. Here’s my list to give you some ideas:
- talk over my feelings with a friend
- do the most obviously pressing chore (put in headphones and just do it)
- pamper yourself–fix your hair, add jewelry, freshen up
- go to the library (or just read a book you know you love)
- go outside–look at the sky, listen, breathe
- go to the gym (or just start doing a few sun salutation on your yoga mat)
- watch a movie–something really comforting like The Sound of Music
- take a power nap–don’t forget to set a timer
- listen to music–put in headphones and focus only on listening
- lay flat on your back on the floor and breathe deeply
- review my goals and work with my bullet journal
- apologize and start over
- write 750 words, stream of consciousness
- remind myself that every mind state can be neutrally observed, particularly negative ones, and I don’t have to believe the lies they create–nothing is permanent, an I’ll feel better all of the sudden and wonder, like usual
- review my gratitude list and add to it
That brings me to the final list:
4. Write down 100 things you’re thankful for.
And add to it regularly. Like the list of 100 goals you made earlier, this is going to stretch you. It’ll prompt you to think back on your best moments. You’ll probably realize that you really do have a pretty good life, even without having that list of 100 goals achieved! As they say, it isn’t happy people who are thankful, it’s thankful people who are happy. If you stall out on this list, step away from it for a little while and do something else. If you keep trying to think of things, you’ll start to notice things to be thankful for in real time.
And that’s it! With these lists and ideas swimming around your head, you’ll be protected from prolonged slumps, warmed by your happiest thoughts, and fueled by your loftiest ambitions. Put them where you’ll see them and review them throughout the year. Next year, make new ones.
What do your lists look like? I’d love to see what inspiring things you come up with.
To help you out, download the full Happy Lists Workbook from The Workbook Shop!