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Instead of Making a To-Do List, Do This

Have you heard of a to-feel list? It may give you the results you're looking for.


Have you ever gotten exactly what you wanted, only to later discover that you don’t want it? Of course you have. I think most of us have experienced a reality that didn’t match our fantasies. Where having the thing wasn’t as satisfying as daydreaming about having the thing.


Sometimes it’s a romantic interest that you pursue and then realize they just don’t do it for you. Other times it’s a new job that quickly feels old, or something once viewed as an opportunity that becomes a burdensome obligation. You’re certain you want something or someone or to be somewhere. Then you get it, them, or you go there, and it’s not what you envisioned.


Situations such as these can leave us feeling as though we may not even know what we want.


It’s disheartening. It’s exhausting. Sometimes it’s even maddening to believe we’re on the right track and have something figured out only to find ourselves back at square one.


I met someone who had everything I desired in a partner, at least on paper. He was smart, funny, financially stable, and cultured. We had some wonderful dates that inspired engaging dialogue. He was “the one” until he wasn’t.


After a few of those stimulating dates, it was apparent that we weren’t anywhere near an ideal match. But…he checked all my boxes! Which made me believe that perhaps I needed to add more.


That wasn’t it, though. I could add infinite wish list items and have this same experience which hasn’t only transpired in dating, but in career and other life choices. Because there will always be something I hadn’t considered. What we want doesn’t always render the anticipated results.


I discovered this idea of making a “To-Feel” list and thought, that’s it.


Because at the root of the objectives we set and the dreams we chase is a belief that the realization will make us feel a certain way — successful, happy, powerful, useful, etc. The notion is that it will make our lives better somehow. But unfortunately, we place too much emphasis on the wrong side of the equation.


We set our sights on doing or getting the tangible thing instead of what we want to feel in doing the thing. We get rigid on the path. Instead of focusing on how we want to feel and remaining receptive to what brings us closer, we fixate on specifics that we think we need to get there. Then, we’re so often wrong.


Here’s an example of a To-Do list vs. a To-Feel list:


To-Do:

1. Buy a Home

2. Get Married

3. Have Kids

4. Travel

5. Get a Higher Paying Job


To-Feel:

1. At Home

2. Loved

3. Purposeful

4. Fulfilled

5. Financially Secure


The difference between the lists is that one focuses on how you want to feel, while the other targets doing things that may or may not make you feel this way.


Marriage isn’t guaranteed to make you feel loved. So, maybe if the goal were to feel loved, we’d be more open to alternatives that arouse this feeling — such as other types of romantic partnership and close platonic friendships. We’d begin paying better attention to whether the person we’re with evokes negative or positive emotion instead of if they want to marry us.


A higher-paying job doesn’t mean you’ll feel a greater sense of financial security. What if the job pays only a bit more than you make now, or your expenses increase? What if it’s in a volatile industry with high turnover? What if the solution to additional income isn’t a salary increase but launching your business idea? When tunnel vision is set on a higher-paying job, you’re less likely to consider those factors.


It doesn’t have to be “either-or” when contemplating a to-do or to-feel list. I’ve only learned that if creating both, my results better align with my goals when I lead with the latter. Even alone, it’s enough every time. Target how you want to feel, then consider some methods of getting there — and you just might.

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