You Find Your Courage on Your "I Tried" List

March 19, 2024

Hi dreamer-friend, Emily here.

If you don't know already, I'm a big fan of lists. Any other list fans out there?

The ​Japanese planner​ I bought for the year is proving to be nearly perfect for my purposes. The size is perfect. The writing is tiny which I love. It came with a clear vinyl sleeve to keep it from getting dog-eared.

And, it has lots of checkboxes for each day. The satisfaction of crossing an item off a To Do list is not to be underestimated. Do you agree?

But we can spend a whole lifetime checking The Small Stuff off lists, waiting to get to The Big Stuff or even to The Small Stuff That Really Matters.

Or letting other people use our time how they see fit.

And we tell ourselves that it's because it's important for us to be kind and neighborly.

Or because it's what a selfless person or parent does.

Or because we're good employees or...the list goes on and on.

But if we spend our whole lives reacting to disorganization in self or others, or letting the expectations of others trump our own, we'll not exercise the most important gift we have—agency.

Agency (noun): "The ability to take action or to choose what action to take."

Here are 5 lists worthy of increased agency:

  1. Things I Need To Do.
  2. The Things Other People Want Me To Do/Other People's Stuff I'm Worrying About or Managing.
  3. The Big Things I Want To Try in My Life.
  4. The Things I'm Afraid Of/The Things I'm Waiting For Before I Take Action.
  5. The Big Things I've Tried 🎉

Notice that #1, #2 and #4 can all come between #3 and #5.  

I'm not perfect at any of this, but I find it helpful to do the following:

1. Intentionally assess what is currently on your lists.

  • Why is this on my list?
  • What is it about this thing that I really want?
  • When do I want to make this a priority?
  • What should be on this list that isn't?

This last one is important, since it's common to neglect the simple things like budgeting and basic tidying practices that make all of life better by reducing your reactivity.  

Or things like reading that enrich a depleted soul.

2. Be intentional about what gets added to your lists in the future.

Pay particular attention to the requests you're about to say "yes" to which are a priority to other people.

Start adding at least a quick pause before you say "yes" to things—work projects, even promotions, invitations to social events and trips. It's got to be a priority for you as well before it gets added to your list.  

No one else's agency gets to trump your own regarding priorities unless you choose for it to.

3. Review your lists often.

Just because something is on your list, doesn't mean it needs to remain indefinitely.

And just because you've said "yes" in the past or been the employee who shows up to everything does not mean you can't reassess.

It's easier to begin with intentionality, but it's never too late to start being more intentional with the time, money, energy, and stuff which currently exists in your life.*

Reviewing your lists often is a lot like weeding a garden. Not like I've done that recently much to my manual-labor-loving chagrin.

But the principle is pretty universal—weed the stuff you don't want so the stuff you do can flourish and be appreciated.*

Things for Dreamers to Consider:

Here are some things I started doing years before I made my leap out of corporate and into the unknown. If you're not already doing them you might give them a try to adjust your lists in a way you'll appreciate:

  • Challenge meetings. This is especially true in corporate. Ask if you really need to attend this meeting/event/function. You'll be surprised how often you don't.
  • Stop checking work notifications outside work hours. This goes for all kinds of notifications and not just work ones. If it's a true emergency, the powers that be will find a way to reach you.
  • Simplify your possessions so it's less burdensome to keep a tidy (or at least tidyish) environment. Get in the habit of removing things from your space. Less is the new more :-)
  • Get proactive about managing your money at the root level. This starts by looking at it honestly, making a plan for it, and creating a system to keep it organized.
  • Say "no" more often, or at least consider your priorities and availability before you say "yes" only to regret or resent it.

As always, I welcome your thoughts—which approach or tactic resonates with you?

That's it for this week's letter. Keep dreaming and staying intentional, dreamer!



*Why is List #5—The Big Things I Tried list—my favorite one to review?

Well, it's because this is where I've discovered a lot of my courage—by looking back and celebrating all the various things I've tried. They are assets not liabilities, especially the ones pursued with intention versus reckless abandon.

It's where you see reminders of just how much you have tried, and all the things you have put into place in order to do be able to try.

It's a reminder of your courage, what you learned that you couldn't any other way, and just how interesting your life has already been.

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