Your greatest fear should not be of failure,
but of succeeding in life at all the wrong things.
This morning as Angel and I were driving to meet a coaching client, another driver a few cars in front of us tossed a large disposable cup out the window. Suddenly, a motorcycle directly in front of us pulled over near the litter as we passed. When traffic stopped at the next red light, the motorcycle driver pulled up to the driver that littered and handed him his trash back.
The motorcycle driver then shouted, “Being too lazy to put trash in a trash can… put that on your TO-DON’T list!” And then we all drove off.
Besides the fact that this motorcycle driver is my new hero, he also reminded me to check and update my own TO-DON’T list. Angel and I have discussed the TO-DON’T list concept on our blog before, and most recently we focused on it in the Productivity chapter of our book. As you may have guessed, a TO-DON’T list’ is a list of things NOT to do. It might seem a bit amusing, but it’s an incredibly useful tool for keeping track of unproductive habits and thought patterns.
The bottom line: If you get decent value from making TO-DO lists, you’ll also get significant returns – in productivity, in improved relationships, in emotional stability, and in heightened levels of happiness – from adding certain things to a TO-DON’T list.
And since I just updated my TO-DON’T list, which is in essence a universally applicable list, I figured I’d share it with you today…
- Don’t be lazy. – The world doesn’t owe you anything; you owe the world something. So stop daydreaming and start DOING. Develop a backbone, not a wishbone. Replace laziness with determination. Laziness is being unable to find the time you have. Determination is being able to find the time you don’t have.
- Don’t cower from life’s necessary challenges. – We work hard to discard the parts of our lives that were painful, difficult, or sad. But just as we can’t rip chapters out of a book and expect the story to still make sense, we cannot rip past chapters out of our lives and expect our lives to still make sense. Keep every chapter of your life intact, and keep on turning the pages one at a time. Sooner or later you’ll get to a page that brings it all together, and you’ll suddenly understand why every page and chapter before it was needed.
- Don’t just take the default path. – Be a voice, not an echo. Speak your truth, even if your voice shakes. Find the courage to bring your ideas and dreams to life. Don’t compare your progress with that of others. We all need our own time to travel our own distance. It’s perfectly OK to be different.
- Don’t wait for the perfect time. – There’s never really a right time for anything in life. There’s always going to be something in the way, someone coming to visit, someone leaving soon, the time of the year, the weather, the money, your mother, your brother, etc. Whatever it is, there will always be something or someone whispering, “Now is not the right time.” Do it anyway. Don’t wait for the perfect time; it doesn’t exist.
- Don’t put on a mask. – You can’t let people scare you. You can’t go your whole life trying to please everyone else. You can’t go through life worried about what everyone else is going to think. Whether it’s your hair, your clothes, what you have to say, how you feel, what you believe, or what you have… You can’t let the judgment of others stop you from being YOU. Because if you do, you’re no longer YOU. You’re just someone everyone else wants you to be. (Read The Road Less Traveled.)
- Don’t hide your humanness. – Sometimes you have to deal with issues and show others your awkward, uncomfortable side. It’s perfectly okay – it’s a natural part of being human. And the good news is that these tough moments will often show you who will accept you at your worst and who won’t.
- Don’t make everything seem like a chore. – Life is a privilege; act like it. Instead of feeling like you “have to” do so much, incredible shifts in energy levels, happiness, and effectiveness can happen when we focus on the fact that we ”get to” do all of these things in our lives.
- Don’t try to conquer everything in a single leap. – Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different? Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. So just take one tiny step today. You won’t regret it.
- Don’t focus on past problems. – Never let the ghosts you knew in the past overcrowd the possibilities of the present or have you over-complicating everything in the future. In life, the test often comes first, before the lesson. Take a deep breath and think… Your past was never a mistake if you learned from it.
- Don’t think about what could have been. – Chances are if it should have been, it would have been. So say it out loud: “There was another life that I might have had, but I am having this one.”
- Don’t let stupid little things get to you. – Stop focusing on how stressed you are and remember how blessed you are. Just do your very best. Appreciate each step, and forget the rest. And remember that good things take time. Stay patient and stay positive. Everything is going to come together, maybe not immediately, but eventually.
- Don’t try to hold on to everything. – Life changes. Everything is not meant to stay. Remember, giving up and moving on are two very different things. When things aren’t adding up in your life, it’s time to start subtracting. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- Don’t neglect your present joys. – If you don’t appreciate what you have now, someday you will find yourself close to the end, and thinking, “Why didn’t I learn to treat everything like it was the last time?” In other words, your greatest regret will be how much you focused on the future, at the expense of every present moment of your life. So don’t hesitate too long. Don’t love too late. Don’t expect too much. Don’t appreciate too little.
- Don’t just take. – If you have a lot, give your wealth. If you have a little, give your heart. Just give what you can. No one has ever become poor by giving.
- Don’t wait for someone else to do something about it. – Realize that our lives begin to end the moment we silence and restrain ourselves from addressing the issues that matter. So speak up. Don’t hide your thoughts and feelings, especially when you can make a difference. Say what needs to be said. Do what needs to be done. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and twice as capable as you have ever imagined.
- Don’t always try to be right. – There are many roads to what’s right. So be selective in your battles. Oftentimes peace and compromise feels far better than being right.
- Don’t judge before you know. – We tend to judge others by their looks and behavior, and ourselves by our intentions and ideals. Do your best to judge less and love more.
- Don’t hold on to hate. – If you want to forget something or someone, never hate it, or never hate them. Everything and everyone that you hate is engraved in your heart and mind. If you want to let go of something, if you want to free yourself, you cannot hate. You must forgive.
- Don’t place irrational conditions on your love. – Unconditional acceptance is something we want, but rarely ever give out. When someone else’s happiness is your happiness, that’s true love. Period. When you do something out of true love, you don’t count the cost. (Read The Mastery of Love.)
- Don’t neglect your close friendships. – I think if I’ve learned anything about friendship, it’s to hang in, even when it’s inconvenient. Stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you. Don’t walk away, don’t be distracted, don’t be too busy or tired, don’t take them for granted. Close friends are part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Incredibly powerful stuff!
What would you add to this list? What’s one thing YOU need to put on your TO-DON’T list today? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights with us.