Determining how I want to FEEL, instead of what I want to DO, has been one of the most game-changing habits I’ve incorporated into my life.
— about the daily to-feel list —
Making a to-feel list is the first part of a four-part mindset practice that I do every morning. (I’ll talk about the other three parts in future posts.)
Early in my day, I take a minute or two to identify my emotional state. At this point, I’m not setting any goals, I’m just checking in with myself to get an honest, accurate reading of how I’m feeling in the moment.
Once I’m clear about where I am as I start my day, I then determine how I want to feel.
Sometimes I simply want to stay where I am. Sometimes I want to raise or lower my energy. Sometimes I want to turn things around for myself, or prepare to go in a new direction. Sometimes I just want to experience something I haven’t felt for a while. (Maybe I’ve been very serious and sober for days, and I want to loosen up and feel lighter, more playful.)
Once I have some ideas in mind, I write out the following sentences in my version of a bullet journal:
- Today I will feel _______.
- To that end, I will _______.
In the space of #1, I list up to three words that describe how I would like to feel.
(To streamline this process, I review a reference list of words describing feelings I frequently desire. I also go “off-list” whenever another desired feeling presents itself.)
In the space of #2, I list some actions and/or strategies that are likely to to lead me into feeling the way I want to.
Once I’ve completed those two sentences, I review my master task list and choose what I will do with my time during the day. Sometimes I’m lucky, and I can plan a full day of activities that are naturally aligned with my want-to-feel list. When there are incompatible must-do tasks on the day’s agenda, I take a few moments to figure out to change the task, or my attitude toward the task, to better suit my desired way of being.
Making these changes doesn’t involve scolding, or forcing, or tolerating, or pep-talking my way into being okay with a task. Instead, I think about what lies behind and underneath it. I look for aspects of the task that are already in alignment with my desired feelings. And I look for ways to tweak my approach to the task to make it more appealing.
I’ll give you an example.
This morning (a Monday in mid-March), I was coming off a great weekend, one that allowed me to get a lot of outdoor time, plenty of sleep, and some deep quality time with my husband. In order to have all that, however, I had blown off some writing work I intended to accomplish over the weekend. On top of that, my Monday morning date with the scale revealed that I’d over-indulged with a few more treats than I should have when we had run away for an impromptu day trip.
(1. How are you?)
My emotional situation, then, was that I was starting the day feeling rested and recharged … but also like I’d lost some ground.
I know myself pretty well. That flicker of awareness — that “I’m starting from behind!” mindset — told me that I was in danger of rushing, in order to catch up. I know that rushing turns my mood brusque and impatient. I know that when I’m feeling impatient, I end up trying to multitask. And I know that multitasking diminishes my effectiveness, especially in relation to writing.
(2. How do you want to be?)
With this in mind, I wrote this* during my morning routine:
Today I will feel calm, flexible, and creative.
(3. How can you get there?)
To that end, I will:
- remember to breathe
- stay focused on one task at a time & move through each task one step at a time
- eat clean food & drink clear water to keep my energy up (and un-do some damage)
- trust my normal routine to guide me through a productive day
- take advantage of the being-not-doing windows I’ve built into my normal routine, (to better leave space for creative thoughts to bubble up)
- look for little opportunities to laugh and connect through the day, to maintain my good mood
- tackle something challenging, that requires physical energy, because I’m starting from a good place (and the exercise wouldn’t hurt)
Equipped with this set of strategies for the day, I turned to March’s master to-do list.
As I mentioned, I had a lot of writing to do. (Mostly social media / blogging work.) These writing tasks were well-matched to my desired feelings list. If these were the only tasks on my to-do list, it would be easy to stay calm, flexible and creative.
4. What’s in your way?
My master to-do list, however, also told me that I needed to do laundry, make dinner, run some errands, and get started on deep cleaning the bathroom, (which is the area of my home that I concentrate on in the third week of each season.)
To be honest, I didn’t want to spend any time on any of those tasks. (Nor on my smaller, daily home keeping tasks.) If I were trying to make deadline (for example), I might have pushed these non-writing tasks to another day, but postponing such things just because I’m a little behind where I want to be is not a sustainable way to create the life I want.
5. How can you align it with how you want to be?
I took a breath. (Following the advice I’d given myself a moment before.)
It only took a few seconds to remind myself that having these mundane, everyday chores DONE would make it possible for me to feel calm and free me to feel creative. Figuring out how and when to fit these tasks around my priority work (the writing) would allow me to practice being flexible. Almost instantly, I realized I was already in alignment.
In order to better DO said chores, I looked back to to the strategies list I’d already made. (My answers to the prompt, “To that end, I’ll …”) Almost magically, my strategies were especially applicable to the mundane, everyday tasks.
Of course it’s not magic. I chose my strategies for the day knowing that I was was facing some potentially frustrating conflicts. I was setting myself up for success even before I picked up my pencil. In truth, all of this could be done without writing anything down. It’s a natural process. On a good day we all do this kind of thing unconsciously.
But not all days are good days.
Before I started this daily practice, I often found myself paralyzed on bad days. On such days, it felt like everything had gone to hell and there was nothing I could to make it better.
But there is. It may be harder, but it’s possible. And it’s most possible when you have already blazed a path for yourself by consistently and faithfully figuring out how you want to feel, then making it happen.
P.S. Yes, I did get everything done, though, at the time of this writing, there’s more work to be done in that bathroom.
*In truth, I did not write exactly what you see above, in the example I’ve shared. What I actually wrote is in my own personal shorthand, which I’ve developed over time. I know what I mean when I make my quick notes, but I feared it would be gibberish to anyone but me. For the purposes of this blog, I wrote each item out in an expanded form, so that it would make sense to a reader.
This is what the practice really looks like in my book of days:
~ the weekly to feel list ~
The to-feel note format you see below is a recent expansion of my practice. I designed it for use at my Instagram account, @seasonalists. This #tofeellist is an overview of what I want and expect from the coming week. I post this note once a week, on Sundays or Mondays, whenever I update my book of days for a new week.
And from weeks past:
The concept of the to-feel lists is adapted from the “core desired feelings” embedded in the work of Danielle LaPorte, an entrepreneurship expert I adore. (She is one of my favorite virtual mentors.) My introduction to her philosophies came via her book, The Fire Starter Sessions.