Gay Men and the Daily Accomplishments List: Tools for Living
With the new year, it seems everyone has new plans under way. Students go back to school. Workers go back to a new year of projects on the job. Couples make plans to vacation or socialize more. Everyone wants to implement ways to improve their quality of life.
Almost everyone starts the new year with a fresh optimism that we’re going to change the things that didn’t go well last year, and re-focus our efforts on both personal and professional endeavors that are going to make our health, relationships, home, career, and finances better, as a result of efforts and changes, big and small, that we realize (based on last year’s experiences) that we need to change.
There are many tips, guidelines, and strategies that I use with my therapy and coaching clients in private practice that tend to work, based on over 20 years of “observational data” of outcomes on what works (and what doesn’t) for large numbers of people. One of these is that in behavioral theory, for habits and routines to change, they must be supported, reinforced, and frequently re-invigorated. One of these techniques for giving yourself sustained support is what I call the “Daily Accomplishments List.” It’s kind of like a “To-Do” list (which has its place), but instead of crossing things off and putting them out of your mind, it’s a daily retrospective journal of achievements that serve as stepping-stones to new actions that lead to accomplishing long-term goals.
The way this works is, at the end of the day, you use some kind of recording device (a paper list, a document on your computer, a paper journal, a smartphone notes app) for listing the accomplishments of that day that you completed, feel good about, and support your medium- and long-term goals. It doesn’t matter if it’s only something small (“I finally put some new songs on my iPod for the gym”) or something large (“I scheduled an appointment for a surgery consultation”). The point is, in every day, there is (or should be) something that we can point to, that we can put on our list, that we accomplished in service to a goal. The idea is that big things are accomplished by doing a series of smaller things, consistently. Ever paid off a student loan or a car? Ever gotten a degree? Ever gained muscle or lost fat? Ever remodeled a home? Ever made something with your hands? Chances are, these big accomplishments came about from a series of consistent efforts over time.
While noting your Daily Accomplishments can solidify and consolidate the gains made in that day, the list can also encourage you when you go back and look at it over time. If you revisit your series of entries from weeks and weeks ago, you realize that you’re not in the same place now that you were back then. Instead, you are closer to your goal. You’re doing it. You’re making it. You’re saying what you mean, and meaning what you say. This can be a mood-booster , and stimulate, encourage, and motivate you to meet each day’s challenges. If you wanted to accomplish 5 things on your list and only got 2, well, that’s ok – focusing on the 5 got you the 2. If you hadn’t stayed consistent with yourself by using your Daily Accomplishments List, you might not have done even the 2.
This is the nature of the mind-set for working toward goals. It’s a commitment to the process of lifelong learning and growth, which I think is one of the best rules to live by, because it keeps life fresh and exciting at any age. This can help with a healthy aging process, and can increase our quality of life, because we’re living up to our full (or close-enough to it) potential, and that’s a nice thing to be able to say about ourselves. That will help avoid big regrets when we are older.
The Daily Accomplishments List is the bona-fide, written evidence that we are living our dreams, and it’s free for only a few minutes a day. Works for me.
This is only one of the tips and strategies that can be discussed in therapy or coaching sessions. If you would like individualized, professional support for resolving the challenges (or pursuing the goals) in your life, let me know and we can have an appointment in person at my office in West Hollywood, via phone or Skype. Call/text 310-339-5778, or email Ken@GayTherapyLA.com for more information.