Ditch the to-do list and make a “to-be” list

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By the time we hit midlife, it’s fair to say that most of us have a lot we’re juggling and responsible for. We have people in our lives to take care of, bills to pay, and a long list of things we have to get done. 

So it’s not uncommon to have a to-do list that’s a mile long and no, you don’t really have to ditch your list. But have you ever considered what’s on your “to-be” list?

A “to-be” list is a different way of approaching your day and goals. It focuses on what qualities you want to have, how you want to show up, and what parts of yourself you want to bring forward in any situation. Simply put, who do you want to be? Who are you trying to become?

It’s easy to create your own “to-be” list 

Every morning, or the night before, write a  list of who you want to be that day. It could look something like this:

  • Confident
  • Brave
  • Intuitive
  • Friendly

Knowing you want to be a confident, brave, intuitive, and friendly person today, let that inform your to-do list.

Those calls you need to make? Can you take the time to connect with the people on the other end? Will you stop to ask how their day is going?

The work you need to get done? How can you use your intuition to help you with that? What do you know about what’s most important right now?

That meeting you have? How can your bravest self show up for that? What would it be like to be in that room fully confident that you have everything you need to make an impact?

Chances are good you know what it is you need to do. This tool helps you figure out how you will do it in a way that lines up with who you want to be. 

Focusing on being changes what you do

It’s possible that creating a “to-be” list will impact what’s on your to-do list.

Maybe it’s not that important to get the laundry done today after all, but it’s vital to make a decision you’ve been avoiding. 

In fact, put aside the to-dos completely for a moment and under each quality, brainstorm what you need to do to fully embody it.

For example, under “brave” you might list things like: have that difficult conversation with your spouse, invite an acquaintance to meet for coffee, go out on for dinner your own, make a doctor’s appointment you’ve been putting off, or apply for that promotion or job you’ve been too scared to raise your hand for.

Shifting the focus to who you are, gets you away from automatically checking boxes to consciously choosing to put your actions where your heart is. It may feel a little, or a lot, radical at first but it can open up a world of possibilities and new perspectives. 

I’d love to hear what you think of this idea and if you try it what opens up for you.

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4 Comments

  • Sara… the shift from doing to being is so counter cultural; your concept of the ‘to-be list’ is such a great way to hack our action-obsessed culture and a tangible way for people to slip intention and stillness into their daily routine. Beautiful.

    • Thank you, Corey! I’m so touched by your comment and happy the idea connects with you.

  • Yes, I like this idea. I mentioned the Dream Journal but this is slightly different again. I do love to see different ideas and perspectives and, particularly around to-do lists. I am actually going to incorporate this into the goals and plans I am working through to see if I can turn my actions on their head. Really enjoyed reading.

    • I’m so glad that this idea resonates with you, Nicky. I would love to hear what you learn from trying it. Happy being!

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Sara Smeaton, photographed in her garden in front of lilac bushes by Amber Ellis.
About the author

Sara Smeaton

I help you discover the joy and power in midlife and navigate the transitions on your own terms. I am passionate about changing the narrative about aging and am trying to fill the world with profiles of real life people who are thriving and more alive after 40 than ever before. The best is yet to come and there are role models all around us. Book your free 30-minute connection call.

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