“Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” Steve Jobs
Many of my client’s talk about having a To Do List, for therapy, to achieve personal growth. Talking about dreams, goals, and progress is common in counseling. Adding order to the path a client wants to take makes sense because writing something down can make it feel more present and obtainable. When lists of what a client hopes to accomplish get made – there is an opposing reality that hits.
Sometimes, we don’t move towards the things want on our To Do List because one or more of them oppose things that are on an unwritten “Not Do” list. The Not Do List is short but serious, and it contains a rigid rule or a requirement of loyalty.
Your Not Do List is the one running your choices more than the To Do list can. Because every step you take towards an item on your To Do List is measured by how aligned it is with what is on your Not Do List. Any goal you hope to achieve can’t move against a family/social rule you know not to break.
If Connie has items on her To Do List such as climb a mountain, start weight lifting, and move to Nepal with her best friend; but she fails to pursue the goals, it may be because the Not Do List has an item written on it (from her mother) which sounds like this in Connie’s mind: My loyal daughter will always be here for me. Therefore, she won’t take risks.
Whatever is on your Not Do List may be a rule you have been conditioned never to break. It can be a fear based statement or one which requires loyalty to someone wanting power in your life.
One Thing To Do: Make a list of the goals you hope to achieve in the next ten years. Then ask yourself what would make pursuing those goals most difficult. Go with your first idea and jot down the reason next to the goal. Ask yourself if there is a rule underlying the reason you can’t pursue that goal.
Dawna Daigneault, Ed.S., LPC.