The List

Today’s guest post is from Debbie Haslam, who grew up in Wichita, Kansas before leaving to attend the University of Kansas. There she met her husband who, through his job, quickly moved her back to Wichita. Debbie has four children and is currently the YW president of her ward and spends most of her time hanging out with teenagers.

I love lists. I use them for everything. Grocery lists, packing lists, to-do lists, chore lists, you name it and I will write a list for it. You know the joke we’ve all read on social media sights about writing things on a to-do list that have already been done just so that you can cross it off? Well, I’ve done that too.

In 2009 I picked up a book at the library entitled Write It Down, Make It Happen by Henriette Anne Klauser. One of the suggestions the author made was to sit down and write a list of goals. It even suggested that the list should be as far-fetched and elaborate as you want. So, being the dutiful self-help reader that I am, I did just that. I have a journal entry dated Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 (Seems quite ironic now that I think about it) that lists 32 goals. Just recently I decided to review the entry and see how I have done. The very first item on my list was to mend a relationship with an old friend. I had done that! I immediately grabbed a pen and put a check-mark by the #1 on the page. I had to!

As I continued down the list and found more items I could put check-marks by, I began to feel really excited and successful. Number 10 was to go on family vacations every year. Up to the point of writing the journal entry, we hadn’t been on a vacation with the kids in over five years. We have gone somewhere every summer since 2009. Check that one off too! Number 18 was to earn my college degree. I had quit college back in 1993 when I met and married my husband. I had several credits under my belt, but I had not finished the program. In May of 2011, I finished my degree. So I marked that one off as well. This continued until I had 8 check-marks.

Granted,  several of the goals are things that are yet to be accomplished due to time constraints. For example, number 3 was to see all of my children married in the temple (my children are 17, 15, 13 and 4). But what I found fascinating was the fact that several of them had been reached. Klauser went on to give suggestions on how to achieve all of these goals that included the advice to continue to look at them and work on them regularly. I guess I should have written that down. Remember, I wrote the entry in 2009 and just now decided to reread it in 2012. The point is that I was able to reach some of these goal just because I wrote them down. Seems silly, right? But the fact of the matter is I believe it is true.

So I will continue to write lists. I need them. I need them to be more productive in my daily life. I need them to help me remember and organize the busy household of four children. I need them to help with budgeting and planning and managing. Most importantly, I need those lists to make me feel better about myself. If I can check off something from one of my lists, than I have attained a feeling of success. And isn’t feeling successful, even in the little day to day things, what we all need?

9 thoughts on “The List

  1. I agree with the idea that writing things down helps.

    I went to a Simple Abundance (not sure if that is still in business) life coaching “party”. We wrote down things in different areas we wanted to accomplish.

    One I wrote was play the violin in an orchestra. I hadn’t touched a violin since 3rd grade. We’ll, it happened differently, but I ended up playing the cello for five seasons with my county orchestra about 5 years after writing that!

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wonderful post, Debbie, and I really like the honesty of your next to last line: “Most importantly, I need those lists to make me feel better about myself.” That’s me, right there. I actually am really kind of doubtful that list-making helps me be more productive–in fact, considering how much time I use up making or revising my lists, it’s probably actually counter-productive–but I do it anyway, because the feeling of having a direction, having some control over knowing whether or not I’m moving forward towards a goal, is just too valuable to me. I’ve been a list-maker for years, and probably will be until the day I day, if only because of the satisfaction I feel in crossing some arbitrary thing off of it!

  3. I made a picture board once, with all my goals illustrated in picture form, pictures cut from magazines, pictures of temples, and children, homes and activities. I hung it in my closet where I saw it every day. I too was doubtful about it’s value, but in a couple years every single dream on the board was fulfilled. Lists and images are powerful.

  4. I read this post when it was first published, and liked it, but I came back today to comment because I just read something that reminded me of it.

    My husband has a little book entitled Memorable Stories with a Message by Boyd K. Packer. I’ve not read much in it, but today I picked it up and read a few pages while eating lunch. The fourth story (pages 7-8) is called “A Host of Goals.” I’d like to share a few excerpts.

    “Donna and I attended an unusual holiday dinner at the home of one of our beloved friends. It was a New Year’s Eve party. Our host had an activity for the evening. He read a quotation from Heber C. Kimball: ‘I have said often, you may write blessings for yourselves, and insert every good thing you can think of, and it will all come to pass on your heads, if you do right’ (from an address given in the Old Tabernacle, August 1853.”

    The friend gave everyone a piece of paper and an envelope. They each wrote a list of goals, and then the friend took the sealed envelopes to a deposit box at the bank and left them there for the whole year. They planned another party for the following New Year’s Eve, where all would open their envelopes and see if they were able to accomplish their goals. Here is what President Packer says about that year:

    “Six things were on our list, each relating to a blessing for someone dear. Each seemed near to the impossible. . . . During the year, with those goals in mind we had prayed now and then, and then little opportunities or advantages came by. They would have gone unnoticed if we had not set the goals. . . . Five impossible things had happened. The sixth related to the solution of a problem of a friend. It was on New Year’s Eve that I received a telephone call from across the country. My friend excitedly told me that his problem had been solved. He knew nothing of the notes in the envelope.”

  5. Thanks for sharing that story, Kathryn.

    I like to make lists, but they can be frustrating. I tend to overplan and underdo. I have made extremely long lists of New Year’s Resolutions…I think they’re fun, and I often find myself meeting many of them, even if not all of them.

  6. Kathryn,
    I love the story you shared. It is amazing how powerful the written word and the subconscious mind can be. Thank you.
    Melinda,
    I also love the picture board idea. What a great way to introduce goal setting in younger children as well. As you said, “lists and images are powerful.”

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