No One Has It Figured Out: Reinventing Your Checklist

 Written by: Jeff Craig

I remember my first year of college. It was a new and exciting time for me. It was also the first time I felt real pressure. My first year of college was filled with new experiences.  It was the first time I lived away from home, it was the first time I was legally considered an adult, and it was first time people expected me to know exactly what I wanted to do with my life.

Since childhood, many of us have been raised on a particular framework of how life is supposed to go. You start school, pick a major, graduate, get a job in a prestigious field, get married, etc., etc., etc. The expectation was to follow this framework, check items off the list, and at the end of your life, turn the ticket into the big man upstairs.

The problem is, life doesn’t always work out the way you plan. Sometimes it takes longer to check items off the list. Sometimes, certain items never get checked off.

For the longest time, I put myself under an immense amount of pressure. I felt like I was falling behind. I wasn’t working in my chosen field, I didn’t own a house, and I was single as I approached my 30’s. As I looked around, I could see all my friends marking items off their list, passing me by, as I went nowhere. I felt defeated. I felt like a failure. I felt like I would have nothing to show for my life.

Then one day everything changed. I threw out the checklist. I decided that instead of following the same path as so many others, I would make my own. It was a scary yet liberating experience at the same time.

The list wasn’t written overnight and still hasn’t been completed. It is added to and modified regularly. The only requirement I have of myself is to take ACTION on the things I have added.

Since creating the list, I have never felt more fulfilled. Not only do I feel like I am living life on my own terms, but I am forging a path that would never exist had I followed along with the original plan.

There have been several positive outcomes from creating my own list. I have met some amazing people that have inspired me and connected me to life in ways I would have never imagined. I have traveled to some beautiful places that have opened my eyes to just what a big and amazing world we live in.

I have started a business that challenges me and motivates me every day to grow, learn, and keep fighting. I have developed a new-found appreciation for my family who has helped me through my struggles when I needed them most. And I have awoken a fire inside of me that I never knew existed, allowing me to live a life driven by purpose, passion, and love.

The truth is, the original list just wasn’t for me. I have never been the person who follows the norm. Sure maybe one day some of those items will make their way on my list, but I am focused on one day at a time.

If you’re looking to start your own list, here are a few things to think about as you get started:

  1. What items on your current list are an idea conceived by someone else?
  2. If you had one year to live, what would you do?
  3. What are some of the proudest moments of your life?
  4. What are your three best skills?
  5. If money was no object, how would you spend your days?
  6. Who are your three biggest inspirations?
  7. If you could trade places with one person in your life, who would it be?

These are questions developed to help you ponder what needs to go on your list, what need to stay, and what needs to be added. They are meant to help you discover what really matters to you as you continue your journey in life. For some, it may help recognize that they are already living a life in alignment with what matters most to them. They may already have the right list. For others, it could be the harsh wake-up call that they need to change their path and begin living a life that brings meaning a purpose to them.

Life is not a puzzle to be solved. No one has it all figured out. Anyone who tells you they do is probably more lost than you are.

If there was a clear answer to how your life should be spent, life would be boring and not fulfilling. Part of the excitement in life is discovering the great mystery for ourselves. Life is a journey and it is different for each person. We are not meant to have the same list and we shouldn’t be following the same path as anyone else, ever.

That’s the point of life. There is beauty in the mystery. Seeking out what brings meaning and fulfillment into your life is half the fun. The other half is living it.

If you don’t feel like you have it all together, relax. If you’ve been following a checklist written by someone else, tear it up. It’s time to start over. It’s time to start a list that brings fulfillment, meaning, and excitement into your life.

It’s time to write one hell of a life story. Now, get to writing.

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