The Life List...
Some years ago, I found myself at a bit of a cross-roads in life. Dissatisfied with work, unexpectedly single again, feeling low, wanting to be happy and journey forward but stuck on the road like a rabbit in the headlights. So over a period of months I read a lot (courtesy of the ‘Self-Help’ boom) and made a lot of notes.
At the end of all this soul-searching, there was no ‘Eureka’ moment, as such. No earth-shattering discovery that made me realise what I should be doing with my life – the perfect job, the ideal partner, the 100-Things-I-Must-Do-And-See-Before-I-Die bucket wishes, etc. But what I did end up with was a list which, unknown to me at the time, become far more valuable and useful to me over the years.
The list came about during one of my self-help book exercises, where I was asked to write down the things that mattered to me in life. The things that I valued and felt were essential to my happiness and well-being. At the time I made this list, it was simply a stepping stone towards deeper thinking about where those things would lead me – a ‘phase one’ in trying to get to the bigger goals, the bigger answers that would surely come in the following chapters. But, as it turns out, my list told me all I needed to know.
My list of life’s essentials contained the following…
1. Loved-ones and friends
2. Work/projects which are meaningful to me and benefit others
3. A home of my own
4. A healthy body and mind
5. Time out with books, music, movies, holidays.
6. Nature and the outdoors
As I said, not earth-shattering or especially ‘out there’ in terms of what makes me tick. It was fairly simple, perhaps even obvious. But writing it down seemed to have the dual effect of getting me moving again and grounding me. It gave me the roots from which I could spring forth and get on with the business of living a fulfilling life, knowing that wherever my life took me I had some aspirations and guide-lines I could live by, align choices to, and set goals alongside.
In the years that have followed, I’ve referred back to that list on a regular basis and it’s remained pretty much unchanged in terms of what’s important to me, what makes for contentment and what inspires me. In fact, at the start of each year, I use it as a sort of ‘check-in’ point for what I’d like to focus on in the coming months. I look forward to it, it’s my thing. Sometimes I draw pictures to go with my plans for the year. It’s like a piece of favourite music and I’m at the mixing desk - some years the controls are tipped towards work and projects, or some years it’s less work and more outdoors and places to visit. But, however I mix it and wherever the dials are set, the song remains the same.
Your Life List...
You may already have your own ‘life list’ in some form – your own clear ideas about what matters in your world. If so, that’s great. Or, you may feel you’re far too busy living to keep checking in with a list, and that’s just fine too. But if you want to take a moment to ask yourself ‘What matters to me in life? What do I value most?” you may find the answers help to reaffirm what life is all about for you. What you want to focus on in the precious years you have. At the very least it will simply be a reminder of what makes you happy. And that’s not a bad way to spend a few minutes of your precious time is it?
Remember, this isn’t a ‘bucket list’ or goal-setting exercise, it’s just writing down perhaps half a dozen or so aspects of life that you feel are essential to your happiness and well-being. If that is too big a thought to get your head around then perhaps break it down into areas of life, ie.
Relationships, family and friends
Health, fitness and well-being
Free time, interests, travel
That could be a life list in itself, of course, but you can be more specific about what matters to you within those areas. For example, I have ‘a healthy body and mind’ on my list but within that is the knowledge that if I don’t go outdoors for a run three times a week I get grumpy and miss the country lanes. So you can go into as much or as little detail as you like. The more you know about what you can’t live without, the more inclined you are to make time for it.
AND if you share this with your family and friends, or keep a copy with important paperwork, such as funeral wishes, then your loved-ones will know what you felt mattered in life, and be able to remember you in that way when the time comes to celebrate your life.