Decide what you want and declare it in no uncertain terms

“If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll wind up somewhere else.”  ~ Yogi Berra

My birthday is Monday. Those of you who know me already know that I seriously love birthdays. Now those of you who don’t know me know that, too.

I like to think of my birthday as my own personal New Year. My old roommate, Karen, taught me what I think is the Buddhist belief that each year of your life is divided into sections, and the period just before your birthday calls for unwanted things to fall away so that beginning with your birthday, a period of renewal and rebirth can begin.

That makes a birthday the perfect time to do an inventory of how your life is going.

Another thing people who know me have undoubtedly heard before is my affinity for list making — not to-do lists (though I like those, too) but lists of what you want in your life.

When I hear people complaining that they can’t find a good mate, I often encourage them to make a list of the attributes of their perfect life partner. Some people will resist, saying something like “it doesn’t work that way, it’s not like making a grocery list” or “I don’t want to limit myself, I’ll know him when I meet him.”

I disagree. If you’re making a major life decision like “til death do us part,” it should be based on more than chemistry. Attraction is definitely important, but so is a shared set of values.

I made a list of everything I wanted from my future husband — from general things like “he makes me laugh” to specifics like “he likes animals” — before I met John. The list helped me remember that a guy I was dating prior to John was *not* my ideal, since he met almost none of the criteria even though he was a fun Saturday night date. The list gave me chills when I read it after my second date with John and I recognized nearly every item on it.

When I hear people complaining about their jobs, I encourage them to make a list of attributes of their perfect job. I did that before I landed my position three years ago, from wanting to work at company I respected and that would look good on my resume to wanting an office with windows and the ability to listen to music at my desk. I got nearly everything on my list, including pay and vacation time.

People unhappy with their current jobs will sometimes counter “I would take anything to get out of there.” Which to me sounds like a recipe for ending up in another unhappy situation. That’s running from something, but not identifying what you’re running to.

I’m obviously not the first person to advocate the list idea. Anyone who’s read the megapopular self-help book “The Secret” will recognize the concept as The Law of Attraction.

“Everything that’s coming into your life, you are attracting into your life,” author Rhonda Byrne writes. “You are the most powerful magnet in the universe . . . so as you think a thought, you are also attracting like thoughts to you.”

Even if you don’t buy into a magical, mystical power of attracting happiness to you, making the list is a powerful exercise. It forces you to focus on what you do and don’t want. This little bit of introspection alone is a great way to get some ideas for what to do next.

If you post that list someplace you’ll see it every day, it acts as a life compass. If you feel distance between your real life and the ideal vision on that list, it can help motivate you to make a change, whether in your career, your relationship or whatever other area isn’t all you wish it was.

When I’ve made my lists in the past, I typically start to write something then stumble over the hesitancy of “that could never happen.” So I’m already self limiting my vision of the ideal, not even wanting to wish it in writing. I think that’s part of why some people don’t make the list. They don’t believe they deserve their ideal vision, or that it could happen, or they don’t want to be reminded how far they are from their ideal.

What’s the worst thing that could happen? What if I put on my list “I want to be a self-employed best-selling author,” and it doesn’t happen? Presumably I will enjoy the journey of writing my book anyway, or maybe I’ll realize I don’t enjoy it, and I’ll revise my list and put something else in that place.

If I write ambitious goals for myself and only get 70 percent of the way there, is that so bad? Getting part way to my perfect life seems better to me than not getting there at all.

So this week I will be reflecting on my life vision, and I invite you to do the same. It might not be your birthday, but you’re welcome to borrow mine if you like. Or work on your vision now and pick whatever date you like to implement it — the first day of a new school year, your anniversary at your job, Easter.

Describe your perfect life in present-tense terms, like you’re already living it. What does it look like? Care to share anything from your vision?

Other blogs to check out on making your list:

Pointers on making the list

Attracting your ideal mate

Don’t do what works for other people — make your list in a way that works for you

Using the things and people that bug you as insight into what you want


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7 replies

  1. It’s a real honor to see other bloggers comment on my work — Mary Ann Chick Whiteside describes herself as “on a buyout-funded sabbatical, after 30-plus years in mass media, including newspapers and the Internet.”

    She blogged about this posting at

    Thanks to Mary Ann for the shoutout!


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