Life: A Checklist or a Journey?

The feeling of accomplishment is something most people cherish. You did it! You got all the laundry put away! You organized your office! You worked out! You slept eight hours last night! You feel great! And, then, somehow it fades away. You have more laundry to wash and put away. Your office looks cluttered and you can’t find that paper you need. You’ve gone days in a row without exercising. You stayed up too late last night and you’re tired. What happened? Why didn’t the feeling of accomplishment last?

Of course, that’s not always the case. Some accomplishments do last. You earned a degree! You had a baby! You bought a house! You got that job you wanted! Sometimes, however, we behave as though we want things to be an accomplishment-kind-of- task when they’re really not. We want to check them off and consider them “done.”

But we can’t clean the house once and check it off. It will become messy again. We can’t get a good night’s sleep once and check it off. We will become tired again. Many tasks and responsibilities in our lives are recurring, which may not seem like good news. But there is good news. The good news is that we get to choose how we look at these tasks. We can see the work of life as exhausting, or we can see it as fulfilling.

Every day we have the chance to be who we want to be. Sometimes we forget this opportunity. Not only do our decisions impact us, but the people around us as well. Think of the children in your life. Are you teaching them about the journey or the checklist? We have the power to model that hard work is worthwhile and satisfying. It can build a happy life with positive relationships.

We also have choices when it comes to handling feelings. If we feel angry, we have anger energy that builds inside of us. It may feel easier to yell or fight back than it does to calm ourselves and make safe choices like taking deep breaths and talking things out.

There is another way to think of our choices. We can make choices based on how much they match the life we want, as opposed to how easy they are in the moment. We can teach our children this, too. When we model making choices that improve our life rather than choices that simply fill in our life, we are giving importance to the day to day actions and decisions. We can do this with the way we spend our time and money, the food we eat, and the way we handle our feelings. Children need to know that all of these components of life are crucial.

The choices we make throughout the day matter. We need to be ready to build positive choices into our daily life. This is where the accomplishment is. When we function the way we want to live, we are successful. Life becomes a journey and not a checklist.

Sure, some things can still feel like a checklist, but the magic is when it becomes the way we live and who we are. Instead of periodically cleaning up the office, we live in a way that keeps the office clean. Instead of exercising once and checking it off, we exercise regularly and feel healthy. At the same time, it’s okay if the office isn’t always clean or if we do miss a workout. It’s not a checklist, and we can allow ourselves grace and realize it is a journey. It’s not complete. It doesn’t need to be “done.”

Living the life you want takes effort and commitment. With that, add one more thing—happiness. Do things that bring you joy. If you love to read, make time to read. If you love to play sports, make time to play sports. Do the work and do what brings you joy. As you do this, life will become more of a satisfying journey and less of a daunting checklist. When this happens the choices that improve our lives become easier to make.

This includes the choices to handle our feelings well, too. We can pause and take deep breaths when we feel angry. We can count slowly to 20 when we are feeling irritated. We can breathe, and we can choose. The more we model and teach this, the more our children will be able to handle their feelings in healthy ways, too. They will be off to a great start on their journey of life.

Checkout Jennifer's first book with the Boys Town Press, Pause Power. The perfect book to help children learn to stay cool, calm and collected when their buttons get pushed.

Jan 28th 2020 Jennifer Law, Boys Town Press Author

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