in General

What’s on your TO BE list?

By Kay Hannaford

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed by stuff that seems outside of my control. It never is, of course, but that’s obscured when we’re overwhelmed.

Most recently it was a combination of the US presidential election, the radio blaring with daily news of domestic violence, political insults and endless replays of horror stories, the dog nudging me impatiently to play and the ever-present voice in my head nagging about all the things I had to do, fearing I’d missed an important appointment and questioning where I’d left the shopping list.

It occurred to me in a moment of panic that this is not the way I want to live my life. It certainly is not the best version of myself that shows up when I’m feeling like this. I’m anxious, short-tempered, impatient and quite sad.

What to do?

Well, of course, I can turn the radio off, refuse to watch the news, take the dog for a walk and make a To Do list, to capture all things that need to be done so they don’t fall through the cracks.

Then I wonder, ‘Is this the best question?’

I know that To Do lists usually leave me feeling even more overwhelmed.

So if I don’t want to be sad, frustrated, grumpy and out of control, how do I want to be?

Aha! I can make a TO BE list.

Immediately, I feel relieved and calmer. A sense of having control of my state of mind seeps in. In calm moments, I know that, when all’s said and done, that’s all any of us really do have control over – how we choose to see or make sense of the world and what happens in our lives.

I can consider how I would like ‘to be’ today. Calm, serene, intentional come to mind. I write them down. (This is a tip that works for me – unless I write down important words or ideas, they just float around in my already cluttered brain with all the other great ideas that waft in and out). As I focus on being calm, I immediately start to calm down. The mere idea of being serene makes me smile. I’m sure my heart rate is dropping already. Being intentional focuses my mind on what has to be done in a way that feeling panicked most certainly does not.

Some days I choose to be joyful and lighthearted. Somehow even difficult things take on a completely different complexion on those days. There are other days when I might need to be feisty and fierce, or at least firm. I automatically gird my loins, prepared to take a stand.

In other words, deliberately choosing how we would like ‘to be’ results in behaviours and actions aligned with this way of being.

The good news is we can choose how ‘to be’ at any moment.

A client recently admitted to being so busy ‘always running’ that it took a trip to a conservation park in the US for her to stop, breathe, hear the birds singing and the trees rustling to calm down and experience some moments of peace and joy.

Try a To Be list. It’s every bit as effective and a lot more convenient than traveling to Wyoming.


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