Most of us seem to have a ‘To-Do list’ in our lives. It helps us put together all the tasks we want to get done over a period of time. In many situations, maintaining a calendar is a more concrete way of getting things done. Most executives swear by their calendar. As they say, “What’s in my calendar gets done.”
While a To-Do list is a great starting point to ensure that things don’t get forgotten or dropped, it has its own limitations. We do not prioritise and more often than not, we get the easy thing done and postpone the more difficult ones. In short, relying on a To-Do list might confuse activity with progress! More importantly, a To-Do list ensures neither success nor satisfaction nor even a sense of accomplishment! It may give one a temporary feeling of completion but not fulfillment. Here are the more important lists that we should maintain in our lives.
Giving can be practised by everyone, as the forms of giving can vary from person to person. Typically, giving can either be treasure (money or anything tangible), talent (skill or competency) or time.
The easiest and most common form of giving is materialistic. However, the most impactful gift is when we can combine all the forms of giving together (time, talent and treasure). If we want to measure the true impact of an act of giving, look at the half-life period of that act. Sometimes, a small act of giving at the right moment can be a life-changing moment for the person receiving it. As they ask, typically in business, “Is your act helping someone cross the chasm?”
A true giver always does it thoughtfully. A phone call, a bunch of flowers, the right book and a shoulder to cry on can sometimes mean a lot more than signing a cheque. Showing up at the moment of need is probably the most important form of giving. Mentoring, teaching, sharing our experience and knowledge are way more powerful than donating money. A simple To-Give list will always be a reminder that only in giving will we ever receive anything in return!
Experience is what makes a man. We sometimes leave experience to chance, whether it is good or bad. The deeper question is: can we plan it and make it part of a To-Experience list? There are clearly experiences we have for fun and adventure. Bungee jumping, snorkeling, flying a plane, watching a match in a stadium, to name a few. Some are expensive hobbies and not everyone can afford it, but most of these experiences stay with us.
However, there are some powerful experiences that can be practised. Understanding hunger, maintaining silence, even for a few hours can be attempted. Experiences like practicing yoga, running regularly, becoming a student again (even for a week) will go a long way in re-inventing ourselves.
The most powerful agents of change are role models. And role models need to be seen and felt in flesh and blood. The most influential people in our lives are our parents, teacher, bosses, friends, leaders and the reason they change us is because we relate to them as people. And they are real. Who are the people we admire and would love to meet? It could be anyone, from the president to an Olympic medalist, from a famous author to a social change activist. Barack Obama, Dalai Lama, Sachin Tendulkar and Malala Yousufzai are all people who are deeply admired and loved the world over. It may be an impossible dream for most of us to meet them in person, and the closest one may ever come is to watch them or their speeches on YouTube.com.
But there is always an inspiration around the corner. I have met the most amazing people who are unsung heroes. The most ordinary people who had done the most extraordinary things; they are sometimes just a story away. Meeting and sharing moments together with such people can be deeply transformational. We must have a To–Meet list and when we meet them, we may have the most memorable time of our lives.
A lifetime is not enough to read all the books we want to. However, a good reading habit will go a long way in our growth as individuals. Reading is slow, but then, all good things take time. Some books act like Aspirin in providing immediate relief and some like a vitamin help us long term. The trick is to choose well! A sure shot way to a meaningful life is to keep the company of good people and good books. Even if one is not a voracious reader, it is worth having a list of To-Read books!
Books have a way of associating with a certain period of our lives and give it a lot more meaning. I read Eric Segal’s Love Story when I was newly in a relationship. Ricardo Semler’s Maverick was my favorite book during my early years as a manager. Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm helped me the most when I was transforming an organisation. Victor Franklyn Mans Search for Meaning gave me the strength to handle personal challenges. And when I pursue hobbies (and there are quite a few, much to my wife’s amusement), Nick Basbanes’s A Gentle Madnessreminds me that I am not that crazy after all. Good books have a way of sticking in our minds, making us ask fundamental questions and sometimes validating our thinking and ideas.
Let us not confuse a To-Visit list with vacation spots in our bucket list (another very popular type of list, also a Hollywood movie). While Cuba, Tokyo, Mauritius, the West Indies or any local places in our respective countries or neighbourhoods are places that probably feature in everyone’s places-to-visit list, what is more meaningful is a place that gives us inner peace and reignites fond memories. It could be a religious place, a childhood school or college, or the place where we first met our partner. Some of the most emotional moments can be achieved by reliving past experiences, yet again. There is a reason why college alumni meets are so popular!
All the above lists are not easy to accomplish. They will take time, need thoughtful planning, discipline and more importantly, perseverance. But if we do prepare the above lists and get them done, we would have made real progress and possibly, a dent in the universe, our inner universe!