Recently I’ve been playing with what I must do each day. I don’t mean “must” in any negative sense. I mean things I want to do so badly that I simply cannot resist incorporating them.
I don’t remember where I first read about Must Lists, and there are lots of variations on the theme out there. But basically, a Must List contains the things you really want to make part of your life. That can be in a broad, overarching sense or have a smaller, closer focus. I’ve been experimenting with the latter.
Why “must” and not “should” or “want to”? Because, as the Minimalists put it, “The should list is passive and defeated and lethargic and dead. The musts are alive and are filled with vigor and strength and energy. I must take action!”
When you think about it, this little word can be a powerful tool in effecting change.
But quick question: does “must” have any negative vibes for you? Does it make you think “have to” or “being forced to”? If so, let’s take care of that right now. You can:
- See if you can infuse “must” with more passion, as in, “I am so passionate about this, or I so desperately want to do this, that I simply must!” or,
- Pick a different word that conveys a deep, positive desire to do something, and swap it with “must” for the rest of the post.
Ok! Now we’re ready to move on.
Have you ever thought about the things you must do each day? (Remember, good “must”! Happy “must”! Or, if you can’t swing that, replace it with the word of your choice.) If not, a great place to start is by asking yourself: “If I want to live the life I dream of, what actions have to become a part of my daily existence to make that happen?”
You’re not going to add them all at once. Drastic change often doesn’t stick. But you can pick one to start doing daily and build up from there.
On the list of daily musts I’ve worked into my life so far are:
- Practice mindfulness
- Practice yoga
- Read something
- Create or write something
- Practice speaking my husband’s language
There are more — lots more — but I just add one small thing at a time, and only once I feel the previous addition has been sufficiently assimilated. It’s worked wonders. In a sense I’m slowly establishing a daily habit of doing the things I really want to have as part of my life.
If you’re someone who likes to track things, you could really have fun with this. There are all kinds of habit tracking apps out there. I’ve used Habit Streak for Android and LucidTracker, which is web-based. Or, there’s 21habit.com — the idea being that after 21 days, the new habit is established enough that you no longer need to track it. (I’ve found that to be true, mostly. In fact, I eventually stop tracking each new “must” once doing it daily becomes second nature.)
Or, if you prefer the good old-fashioned pen-and-paper approach, write the action you’re focusing on on a sticky note and leave it somewhere prominent. Whatever works for you!
Yes, you could just stick with building each habit one at a time, without the framework of a Must List. But there are a couple of neat benefits to building up a list this way.
First, you can see where you’ve been and where you’re going. You have a nice little tool for tracking your progress, and every time something gets added, you can watch your list grow.
More importantly, at least for me, there is continuity in building up an actual list. If I drop the ball, it’s not just one habit chain I’m breaking, but a bigger habit chain of building habit chains. Also, saying I “must” do something is like honoring a commitment to myself. I’ve made this decision to do a particular thing, and I am well aware of the motivation behind it. So having it on my “must” list is extra incentive to keep going.
Even if the idea of a Must List doesn’t appeal to you, it’s worth your time to really think about what you’d ideally like to be doing on a daily basis. After all, as I wrote last week, the first step to getting what you want is knowing what you want!
What’s Your Take?
Do you have a Must List? How do you go about implementing new habits?