For all of my adult life, I have kept daily to-do lists that are much longer than I can ever possibly complete. Even though I realize this, I still get upset with myself for not finishing every task. “You didn’t change phone plans, send out resumes, cook dinner, or catch up on emails. What DID you do with your Saturday?”
In order to appreciate what I DID do, I began to write down a list of victories — little and big, as many as I could think of — before bed each day. I found that celebrating even boring accomplishments like “Scheduled dentist appointment” helped me focus on what I had been able to check off the list, rather than what still remained to be done. Recognizing myself for my efforts made me happier and more energized to tackle the next day’s To-Do’s.
Eventually I expanded my “Victories” list to “Victories & Gratitudes,” to include little things that I was grateful for that day: “Amazing chocolate cake,” “Rock Band on PlayStation,” or “Naan ‘n’ Curry” (at least half of the gratitudes are usually food-related). On even my roughest days, I felt pleased about the happy moments I’d been lucky enough to have.
Here’s my list of Victories & Gratitudes for this weekend:
1. Jogged three times after not exercising much in three weeks. I now have that lovely muscle soreness that means something’s working.
2. Caught up with friends all over the Bay Area: San Francisco, East Palo Alto, Portola Valley, San Jose, Santa Rosa. Boo driving, yay cool people.
3. Free movie: Got in free to Tropic Thunder because the machine that read gift certificate cards wasn’t working. Ben Stiller is my hero.
4. Ate delicious food: Fresh guacamole, the best heirloom tomato I’ve ever had, and Gianna’s iced sugar cookies.
5. Night walk in Sonoma, one of my favorite things ever. It’s warm enough after dark to wear short sleeves. Crickets chirp and frogs croak all around, and I spend half the walk craning my neck to the sky to see the impressive spread of stars. The other night, this approach led me to stumble into a bush and almost fall head-in.
6. Cleaned my room! During and after travels, my suitcase has a habit of vomiting all over the room. Tonight I finally cleaned it up, which made my sanity meter go up threefold.
Even though I bumped some major activities to Monday, I’m content to appreciate remembering what my floor and desk surface look like.
I recommend writing down your Victories & Gratitudes regularly. With practice, you’ll find more and more things for which you feel grateful.