Never hesitate to sit down with yourself and make lists. The more you write things down, the more you can dictate your own future. There is an unfortunate myth that lists make things trivial. But lists do the opposite—they make things come alive. I have a friend who made a list of all the positive things about himself that he could think of. He listed every characteristic and accomplishment that he could remember in his life that he was proud of. He keeps the list in his briefcase and says he often reads through it when he’s feeling down.
” By seeing all those things written down, and letting myself read them one at a time, I can change my entire attitude from being discouraged to feeling positive about myself,” he says. Writing lists of goals and objectives is also a powerful self-motivator. It’s one thing to go into a meeting mentally briefed on what you want to accomplish, but you’ll feel even stronger having written it out. There is something about writing something down that makes it more real to the right side of your brain. My friend Fred Knipe sometimes travels to Phoenix to spend a day talking with me.
We’ve been close friends since college and share an unorthodox sense of humor. Our meetings together are anything but structured. We free-associate and talk about everything under the sun. Yet, I notice that he’ll often arrive with a list. In the days prior to our meeting, he’ll jot down subjects he wants to be sure he remembers to talk to me about while we are together. And it’s because our conversations are so free-form that the list is valuable for him.
He doesn’t even have to call me back the next day and try to discuss something over the phone that would have been much better discussed in person. If you’ve ever tried grocery shopping for a large event without a shopping list, you are aware of the nightmare it can be.
Most people have learned not to shop that way. I’ve learned by hard experience that it can mean additional trips to the store to pick up forgotten items. Yet why is it that people don’t apply that same principle to their lives? Most people take more time planning a picnic than they do planning alife. Because they know that if they don’t make a list and forget the hotdog buns as a result, they are going to be called an idiot by someone.page_166Page 167But isn’t life as important as a picnic? Start by listing all the things you would like to do before you die. Keep the list somewhere handy, where you can look at it and add to it.
Then list the people in your life you want to remain close to and stay in touch with. Friendship is so precious, why let it be forgotten? It sounds silly to make a list of your friends, but you’ll be surprised at how it reminds you who’s important and motivates you to stay in touch.
My friend Terry Hill, the writer, is one of the greatest list-makers of all time. He has a list of every book he has ever read, every poem he read, and many more things I don’t even know about. It gives his life a sense of history, depth, and direction. We don’t have to wait to become famous so that someone else might write our history. We can be writing our history while it happens. And when we list our goals, we’re writing our history before it happens.
When legendary advertising executive David Ogilvy started his advertising agency, by making a list of the clients that he most wanted General Foods, Lever Brothers, Bristol Myers, Campbell SoupCompany, and Shell Oil. At the time, they were the biggest advertising accounts in the world, and he had none of them. But in a sense he did have them because they were on his list.” It took time,” said Ogilvy, “but in due course, I got them all.”A goal gains power when you write it down, and more power every time
you write it down. What motivates you most in life ought to be in your own handwriting. People all too often look for motivation in what others have written. If you become a good list-maker, you will learn how to motivate yourself by what you’ve written.