Editing your Life List isn’t cheating, it’s growth. I know some people feel like their Life Lists are set in stone, and presumably those people are still saving for the tribal band tattoo they wanted when they were fifteen.
Every year or so, I go through my Life List and make sure it still makes sense for me. A few of the ways I approach the editing process:
1. Break goals down.
“Become conversational in seven languages” has been one of my favorite goals. So erudite! So chatty! But I’m stalled. I currently speak English and Spanish. I keep saying that “someday” I will tackle the rest. Someday what? Someday I’m going to sit down and learn five more languages in an evening? Maybe on a Tuesday in 2023?
So I changed the goal to, “Learn French.” I have, in fact, taken French classes. I have also been to France, and would like to return. Hence, I will learn more French until I can have a conversation. And once I do, we can talk about those other four languages. In French, si vous préférez.
2. Make symbolic goals more tangible.
“Buy stock on my own” was on my list, because to me it was a symbolic marker of someone who had their shit together financially. Turns out I don’t want to know how to buy stock. I do not care. I want to keep my checking account balanced, and know I’m on track for retirement. New goal? “Get my financial life in order.”
“Get organized and own less crap” is the same as “Become a tidy person,” in my mind. But the latter is what I actually want.
I don’t want to clean out my apartment, I want to change my relationship to material things. So I kept “Become a tidy person,” and added organization and closet clearing to the sub-list.
4. Examine your motives.
I tried “Start a daily meditation practice” and it didn’t stick, but I don’t feel too worried about it. I deleted the goal because the whole point of meditating was to worry less anyway? So it worked. Everyone should try meditation.
I also had “Write 365 thank you notes” on my list, because I wanted to get back into the practice of writing them. Gratitude makes you happier, and more evolved, and increases muscle tone. Read the studies.
Anyway, I didn’t feel excited about it. Turns out I just like to think of friends finding real mail in their mailboxes. So I changed my goal to “Send 365 pieces of real mail.” And now I’m all set up for success. Stamps!
5. Speak for yourself.
Hank was really into robots for about three weeks, and we decided to make a robot zine together. I added it to my list, because awesome. Then when I sat us down to do it? He was into it for 10 minutes. So instead of forcing him to draw robots as some sort punitive exercise for being an indecisive six year old, I removed it from my list. Zen parenting, om.
6. Own up.
One of the questions I ask myself is, “Do I want to do this, or do I want to say I’ve done it?” Often it’s the latter. Case in point? Multi-day biking trip. Would I do it? Sure. If someone showed up at my door and said, “I have arranged an all-expenses-paid biking trip, Maggie Mason! Here is your bike. I have packed your bags and your food and lodging await.”
Rad. I shall pull on some spandex forthwith!
But. Assuming that doesn’t happen, do I want to go on a biking trip enough to plan it myself — or spend a year pitching it to potential backers? Do I want to spend a lot of money on an adequate bicycle, recruit friends, arrange for lodging and food, set aside vacation time, find child care?
No. I will never do that. Delete.
Have you edited your list recently, or did you have it tattooed on your person? If so, pics please. And if you don’t have a Life List yet, you should make one on Go Mighty, which is our community site. Come hang out.