Recently millions of American’s were dreaming. The Powerball lottery hit a record 1.5 billion dollar jackpot. Everyone who bought a ticket allowed themselves, if only for an instant, to think, ‘If I won, I would…’and they would name their “It List.” My question to you, what would you do if you could do anything?
There is a danger in not knowing what you want. Our society tells us “You can have it all!” I disagree. I’m painfully aware that most people never get it “all” because most people focus too much on “all” the world has to offer rather than on the “it” that they really want.
The trick to life is to find out what “it” is. People often misunderstand what “having it all” really means. “It” is not everything. “It” is something. “It” is specifically something to which you are committed. Moreover, once you have “It,” you have “all” you need.
Fourteen years ago, flying at 30,000 feet, on route to our honeymoon destination, my wife, Jenny and I realized we had a problem. I had created the problem myself when I handed my new bride a blank legal pad and said, “Please write yout your life’s mission statement, your 3-year, 5-year, and lifetime goals, and your definition of a successful husband. Oh, and while you’re at it, include your definition of a successful father.” I went on to explain I would also write out my own answers to these questions and then in about two hours we would compare our individual mission, goals and definitions in order to create our own as a couple.
I will never forget Jenny’s response, “You have got to be kidding!”
I discovered we had a difference in how we think about the future. I liked to plan out into the future, to dream and set goals. Jenny was more spontaneous, preferring to wake up and decide what she was going to do each day. While I thought in terms of months and years, Jenny thought about today and maybe tomorrow. Realizing I was not going to get anywhere, I changed tactics.
My new strategy was to ask her to make me an “It List.” The rules for the list were that she had to assume that anything in life is possible—there are no limitations, and she could write as many things as she wanted, but had to come up with at least ten things.
Now, here is Jenny’s version of the story: “I am trapped on an airplane, 30,000 feet in the air with no parachute, but I will agree to create this list because, just maybe, my new husband will stop bothering me.” So over the next two hours, Jenny came up with her list.
When she handed me the list, she had 12 things on it. Then I made my next request: Please highlight the items on the list to which you are committed. There is a difference between what you want and what you are committed to accomplishing.
What I found amazing was that Jenny only had about six things to which she was committed.
- Plaint the kitchen red
- Cure Cystic Fibrosis (her brother-in-law has the disease)
- Learn sign language
- Read the Bible daily and get into a Bible study
- Buy new clothes in New York
- Pay off the mortgage
I kept her list and gave her mine, and for the next 12 months we were able to encourage each other to accomplish the goals on our lists.
I learned a great deal from doing this with my wife. I remember during that summer, we had a little extra money in the bank, and I had accomplished most everything on my list. I then looked at Jenny’s list again. I noticed one highlighted item she was committed to making happen—Paint the kitchen red.
Now please understand, I could care less about the color of the walls in my kitchen. I was thinking, “Who has time to be painting kitchen walls, and furthermore, who cares?” If I had said this out loud, it would have been the biggest mistake I ever made, because my wife’s desire to paint the kitchen red (her “it”) was just as important as anything on my “It List.” I called her said, “We’ve got the money to paint the kitchen, so why don’t you go ahead and make it happen.”
I learned two important lessons. 1. Involve those you care about in identifying what you want. Share your “It List” and together help make the things on your lists happen, and 2. Don’t ever think the list is too long. Take time to make it, develop priorities based on where you feel committed. Jenny and I do this exercise each year. Each year I find my own list changes a little and so does Jenny’s. Knowing each other’s list and helping each other accomplish our “It List” has been a huge benefit to our marriage.
What’s on your “It List?”
Take ten minutes and write down what you would want if you could have it all. Remember, no restrictions—if all things were possible—what would they be?
Now mark the things on the list to which you are committed. What would you be willing to work for, sacrifice and make happen?
Most likely, you will find you are truly committed to three to five things, and you’ll realize you are currently spending a lot of time, energy and money on things to which you are not as committed. If you have a relationship with someone else, have that person create their list and share your lists together. Moreover, once you know what you’re committed to accomplishing, share the list with us so we can help you fund your “It List.”
(Originally published in the Winter 2016 inFORMational newsletter)