I must admit that my to-do list inevitably grows more extensive than the hours of my day. I see that a meaningful, active life perhaps pulls for that. I also see others who share incomplete lists at the end of the day. In a busy world, this is quite common.

Stressed Out Over Everything to Be Done?

Most folks I see in my practice experience stress over their to-do list and managing their lives and their children’s lives. They are very active, moving from task to task and getting ‘stuff’ accomplished in their day. If you look at any day, they are often quite successful as much is ticked off the list.

And yet, there is limited fulfillment, happiness, and satisfaction. Instead, there is much more sharing and expression about their stress, not by my assessment but by their reports.

One problem is how they play the game of life and fail to recognize what brings value, meaning, and satisfaction to a day or a moment. Let’s discuss one way to address this.

To-Do Intentions.

To-do intentions are where most of us live our lives. We are focused on living a life where we seek to fulfill our desires, and the to-do list reflects those intentions. This makes sense, of course. And the to-do list is not the problem.

The issue is the exclusivity of those intentions and the impact that exclusivity has on the quality of our lives. It impacts how we treat others, react to our children and spouses, and treat ourselves.

If we examine the values reflected in the average American family’s to-do lists, most will readily acknowledge that their higher values of kindness, compassion, gratitude, generosity, and peace of mind are distant ideas as they pursue the daily to-do’s. There just isn’t time for that!

Our intentions are almost solely based in the realm of getting stuff done! And often, of course, this is what the world rewards. After all, who pays for you to show up happy and full of cheer if you can’t do something that provides value? (No one.)

To-Be Intentions.

First, this is not some woo-woo psychology thing. It doesn’t require reading a book or spending a month to get it. I promise you. This is quite practical and real.

This conversation is about recognizing that we can all play this game of life in a bigger, better, and more meaningful way. One of the simple ways we can do this is by setting intentions to live in ways that cannot be marked off the to-do list. Larger paychecks, bigger homes, new cars, a swimming pool, or a better social status cannot measure the quality of life getting there.

To-be intentions are not counted or measured. You can never win at this, but you can do your best and get better at it.

To-be intentions are about how you live today. Our higher values, often not shared in our daily actions, now can be evident to others through the actions behind our intentions. What intention? For example, the intention is to be kind, thoughtful, joyful, and grateful.

Try this experiment for a week: Before you drift off to sleep, just recall your best and worst moments of the day. If you fail to wake up tomorrow morning, will you be satisfied that you were the best version of yourself…that you could have been each day?

Will you have perhaps brought a smile to friends, family, or coworkers, or will you most likely be frowning at the thought of your interactions? Will you have been misled to get what you want, or did you bring integrity to your actions? Were you self-serving only, or did kindness prevail even when perhaps you had to relinquish a desire? Did you judge, critique, and complain about others, or will you recall your compassion for others?

This thought exercise is vital because brutal honesty will reveal the truth. The more the ‘to-do list’ mentality prevailed, the more likely this little experiment brought a cringe rather than a smile. It’s like Holiday shoppers behaving poorly, pushing and shoving to secure items on their list because the thing they want is more important than how they treat each other.

There is no long-term satisfaction in the push-shove, dog-eat-dog world of getting things done. And yet, you can get much done in life while still modeling the values you care about most.

Here’s a simple idea that helps keep me on track:

How I Do Today…Is More Important
Than What I Do Today.

This translates to the following: I want to guarantee that HOW I get to work is more important than getting to work early. I want to ensure that HOW I react to others is more important than getting my way. I want to make sure that HOW I show up reflects the best me possible, not the greedy, petty, and picky part of me. These all point me to how I treat others and the world I live in.

From this, I can set my intentions to be the person I want to BE today. For me, the daily intention to be loving and kind reigns supreme. The to-be intention sounds like this in my head: ‘Be loving and kind, regardless.’ And yes, the regardless is essential!

For you, your values may be different. And thus, your ‘to-be intention’ may be different. However, wherever your values point to you and your intentions, use this idea as a guide: How I do today…is more important than what I do today! You will discover that your value-driven intentions emerge in how you handle your day if done sincerely and repeatedly.