Have you patted yourself on the back today for all the things you have accomplished?  Or have you shamed yourself for not doing enough?  

All too often we focus on what we have not completed as opposed to what we have achieved.  Why do we do that?  I tend to push the bar of accomplishment further away, never really giving myself time to enjoy the success.  Bigger goals, more to do and higher achievements impair the brain and put us at a disadvantage down the line.   And I thought I was actualizing by staying organized with my “to do lists.”

Shawn Anchor, positive psychologist (http://www.ted.com/talks/shawn_achor_the_happy_secret_to_better_work) discusses how “continually raising the bar on achievement is scientifically broken and backwards,” because “if happiness is on the opposite side of success, your brain never gets there.”   This means that, “we’ve pushed happiness over the cognitive horizon.”  It’s like catching the carrot, but then immediately putting it back on the stick.  What we need to do is start from a place of positivity and success.  In other words, being positive in the moment.  Anchor calls this the “happiness advantage.” 

The happiness advantage — doesn’t that just sound cool — increases intelligence, creativity and energy levels.  By finding a way to be positive in the present moment, dopamine is released in the brain providing happy and even euphoric feelings.  Dopamine also functions to turn on the learning centers in the brain, making us more attuned to success and ingenuity.   So, we get to feel good and be smarter at the same time — that’s f*cking awesome.

How does all this relate to making lists? 

Sitting with a dear friend of mine Brian many months back, we were having a heart-to-heart, laughed filled conversation in which he encouraged me to look at all my successes from the past week.  His query was, of course, directed at my usual course of action, which was to discuss the things that I had not yet completed.  

He asked me if I made lists.  At times I do and other times, not so much.  He encouraged the use of lists as a way to feel good about the things achieved during the day, week or month.  His concept was a reverse list — what I like to call an Accomplishment List.  Anchor would love this idea.  Crafting a list, mental or physical, with all the things we have completed puts us into the “happiness advantage” zone.   In alignment with Anchor, Brian had found a way to get himself on the success train.

I really dig on this idea.

Even though Accomplishment Lists were something relatively new to me, I quickly realized that it was a great way to pump myself up.  Now, at the end of every day I write down what I have accomplished.  Even if it is something small like writing an email, cooking meals or sweeping my room, it feels good.  There is always something.  It only takes about five minutes and allows me to hit the sack feeling great about myself.  I also add three things that I am grateful for.  Studies have shown that people who write down what they are grateful for are more productive and happier.  Pretty sweet, right?  Also, handwriting, rather than typing or just thinking, stimulates the brain far more effectively.

My happiness advantage is set and now I can tackle that “to do” list stuff.   Oh wait! A “to do,” list… How is that affecting my brain?  Having a “to do” list always present puts us at a disadvantage because it is a constant reminder of what isn’t complete in our lives.  Over time, that can drain our self-esteem, energy and even stress us out.  Sometimes things to get did, do need to be written down though... Hmmmm?  

Clearly, languaging is important.  So, instead of a “to do” list, I make “to be” lists.  It is something that can sit and be unfinished if necessary.   It is allowed to be — makes me feel as clever as Shakespeare.  This mentality allows fluidity and flexibility with the stuff we want to accomplish.  It is allowed the time and place to choose us.  We’ll be inspired to do something.  We’ll feel it out.  Then, bam!  It essentially does itself.  And, since it’s written done, a success in and of itself, you bet that’s going on my Accomplishment List.  

I’ve been doing this about a month now and it feels great.  I feel like a winner because I am (accomplished & being).  I’m proud of myself everyday and enjoy the relationship I have with my work.  Interesting. 

Check it out and let me know what you think.