As most of you know, I am a list maker. I always have been. My mom will tell you that I was making lists before I had even learned to write. It's a good thing, too, because by nature I am a bit disorganized. Why do I mention this? Because my lesson today was all about the one simple thing that we can each can do every day that will help keep us aligned with our true purpose. And that means that everyday, it's an item (or two or three) to go on my to-do list!
"Irwin," Dharma started off, "the purpose of a frog's life is to contribute in some small way to make things better. The world needs the gift that each of us has to offer. It's easy to neglect that fact in this busy world we live in, but we mustn't. When you make your list every day, Tadpole, remember this; since death is certain, and the hour is uncertain, what matters is right now. What are those things that are important to you? Those are the things you need to be certain go on your list each day." I know what he's telling me is true. It's a hard fact to face, but we are all terminal, so-to-speak, and it is important to live life to the the fullest extent that we can; to make the most of every moment. But I wondered how to determine what is really important and so I asked my esteemed teacher for advice. His response was simple.
"Son, determining what is important for each of us takes time and practice, but when you master the method, you'll find that your humble to-do list will bring you greater joy than winning a lifetime supply of fresh bugs." I found that a little hard to believe, but I was open to learning more. Dharma continued, "Irwin, your little daily list is the best way to stay aligned with your true purpose in life. It's more valuable than you know and I have a 3-step plan that, if you follow it, can help you find...and live...your true purpose which, in turn, will allow you to contribute to the betterment of society.
Here are the three steps Dharma suggests you try, to help you identify what's important to you. (And they're even in list form!)
1. Identify your long-range goals. Before you even start on your your list for today, take a few minutes and look ahead to the distant future. Imagine yourself on your deathbed, having lived a long and healthy life. Look back on the life you'd like to see when that time comes, then ask yourself these two questions; "How is the world better because I have lived in it?" and "How am I better because I have lived in this world?" What legacy do you want to leave and what experiences to you want to have? Just check in and see what answers pop into your mind. They don't have have to be absolute truths. Simply sees what arises. Dharma encourages us to try this exercise often, changing our answers as we go. It's from these answers that we will learn and grow. A combination of the answers to the two questions will give you an pretty good idea of what your true purpose, or gift, is.
2. Detail your daily tasks. The next step in this process, Dharma calls the "dump truck procedure." Write down everything you need...and want...to do today. Don't just list those things that immediately come to mind; job, home, family responsibilities, etc. Those are the "needs" on your list. But don't forget your "wants," as well; learn to play the piano, take an art class, travel to Rome, go for a walk in nature. Nothing is too big, or too small. When you finish with your list it should make you feel a bit overwhelmed. Now, reread your list and check off the items that actively contribute to your life goals from the questions asked in #1. This means checking off only those things that, on your deathbed, will make you happy that you did them. Don't check off those things you're doing solely out of obligation. Some of the items on your list will clearly steer you towards your goal; some will not. Others, you may not be sure about. But always trust your gut instinct. When looking at each item, do you feel warmly towards it? Does it pull you in; are you intrigued and excited by it? Other things will repel you and turn you off, giving you a sense of dread. These are the gut instincts Dharma says we need to pay attention to. The items on your list should all give the 'warm-fuzzies."
3. Forget what you wrote. Everything that serves your vision of what you'd like your life to look like at the end, is what belongs on your "bucket list." Everything else should get dumped. Sure, there are a few things that'll need to stay on your list, things like; picking up the kids from school, and taking a shower but you will find that you're eliminating many of the mundane, bore things you do because you feel obligated to. These are the things, Dharma advised that, really, in the end won't make any difference at all if you simply don't do them. I'll bet you, that by now, your harsh inner critic is fighting you with everything it's got over your new and updated 'to-do list." If it's yakking at you no-stop, tell it politely to be quiet! And really mean it.
As Dharma finished his last cup of tea and prepared to hop off for this week, he left me with a few sage words. "Every good thing that comes into your life; your true work, your true love, and real success will no doubt come from from those things you focus on; the things that that feel true and purposeful for you." Once again, very wise words from the wisest of all frogs.
As the poet Rumi once said, "Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love."