If you’ve read How To Do Everything and Be Happy (and may I take this opportunity to say thanks for doing so, and I sincerely hope you found it useful) you’ll know that much of the book concentrates on getting you to make a Wish List. Put simply, a list of things you want in your life, or want your life to be like.
Making a Wish Lists is very important. It’s how I kick off the whole second half of the How To Do Everything and Be Happy workshop, and when pushed by Dave Monk (from BBC Essex) I said that ‘figuring out what you want’ was the one thing that you could do right now, that would have the biggest, most positive impact on your life.
I know. If ever there was a moment when I started to sound a little too evangelical – some might say ‘scary’ – that was it.
But humour me for a second. Take a break from whatever you were supposed to be doing and think instead about what you want, right this second.
It could be that you want me to stop waffling on and get on with the part where I tell you how to get your wishes granted. It could be that you want someone to bring you a toasted cheese sandwich and a cup of tea. Or it could be that you simply want the sun to come out again – dammit!
Knowing what you want in any given moment is, I’ve discovered, a hugely underrated skill.
Have you ever had days when you start with a pretty clear idea of what the next few hours have in store for you, only to discover that the universe has other plans? The phone starts to ring, your email inbox starts to fill up, now there’s someone at the door – everybody either wants you to do something, wants to tell you something, wants your opinion on something, wants to sell you something.
If, like me, you live and die by your to-do list you find yourself adding more items than you’re checking off. By mid-afternoon you’ve done nothing but answer the phone and talk to people. Your desk is a sea of post-it notes. You can no longer see the top of your inbox. You’re drowning.
Or perhaps you’re having a day that’s the total opposite. The phone isn’t ringing. There aren’t any emails. There are only two items on your to-do list. Neither of them are very inspiring. You feel like your brain’s made of porridge.
Both these situations can be fixed by asking yourself one simple question:
WHAT DO YOU WANT?
Your initial answer, of course, will probably be something like “I want it to stop” – either the chaos, or the boredom – but you need to dig a little deeper than that. Try and get to the bottom of what would make a difference, either at that moment, or in the near future.
For instance, on your chaotic day simply knowing what it is you most want allows you to prioritise all the stuff coming ‘in’. If the stuff relates to whatever it is you want, prioritise it; if it doesn’t, chuck it on the backburner. Pretty soon you’re like a ninja: sword-wielding bad guys might be coming at you from every angle, but you’re only paying attention to those that present you with an opportunity.
On those ‘boring’ days, however, you can take your thinking about what you want to a whole new level. You can write things down. You can make lists. You can toss ideas about. You’re like a ninja in training – mentally preparing yourself. It’ll only be a matter of time before you realise one of the ideas you’re toying with is something you can do, right now, on this boring day.
Next time you find yourself drowning in work, or plodding along with no real purpose, stop, and ask yourself what it is that you want.