I confess that I used to be very big on Life Lists. I suspect I got this idea from Oprah sometime in my teens and being a person with a natural love of ticking things off, it became something of an obsession.
I have my old Life Lists in diaries and notebooks that I keep in a box under the bed. A lot of them are travel based (visit the Amazon, see the pyramids), others are personal goals (become familiar with the works of Hemingway, Dickens, Bach, Beethoven), some are career focused (publish something), and others are just dreams (own a house with a red door). I’ve achieved many of them and I will never achieve others. I no longer tick them off.
Goals can be good things. They can keep you on track, keep you focused on moving forward.
For me, they can also distract from the present and keep my eyes trained on something out there on the horizon. One of my unhappiest times was when I was intent on reaching a big goal. Suddenly, what I had wasn’t good enough; I could only see the negatives. I wanted my goal and every time I moved away instead of toward it, I felt the sharp sting of failure. It was only when I gave up relentlessly pursuing it that I found out how good I had it, right where I was.
I don’t like thinking of what I want to be when I grow up. I could say – a bestselling author – placing on the NYT bestsellers list – making enough from writing so that we can do the things we talk about in dreamy voices. But if I go there in my mind, I’m no longer here. And here is just fine.
Instead, I focus on the day. I try to fill it with some writing. Some reading. Some time in silence. I go online and connect with readers and reviewers. I make things to share with you. My husband and I work on covers and promos. I work hard at fine tuning old stories and I dream about new ones. That’s about as far into the future as I’m willing to go.
As a good friend said to me during a particularly hard time in my life, “Just live the day.”
And that’s what I do.