The concept of the bucket list and the life list has grown in popularity as our sheer options for life abound. In the midst of feeling overwhelmed -- the average American receives over 100,000 words of information a day-- writing down a few simple phrases has huge power to shift our lives.
I recently began working with an executive coach and the first thing she had me do was write down my "intentions" for the next year on an index card. Write it down, and it's more likely to come true. This tradition holds true for me. When, growing up, my mother brought my sister and me to women's retreats around the summer and winter solstices, a favorite ritual was to "burn and affirm." Burn a piece of paper stating those habits we want to erase, affirm and keep those goals we so badly want to accomplish. Now, 22 years later, I'm paying an expert to do the exact same thing.
No one wants to reach the end of her life to find that so many of those dreams were abandoned in favor of the daily grind. It's so important for us to find satisfaction in personal achievement, whether it be something big like scaling Mt Kilimanjaro, or something smaller but equally significant, like running your first road race or living each day more mindfully.
And while many of us sort these dreams into lists in our heads, it can be even more helpful for us to set our intentions in writing, say them out loud, and share them with our friends. Not only will we hopefully inspire others to think concretely about what they still have to achieve, but we will increase our own motivation to start crossing things off our own lists.
Social media can help us stick to our goals. One of the best ways to achieve a goal is to publicly set your intention. Sharing your goal, especially with people who will help keep you accountable, will keep you motivated when you feel you're losing steam or thinking about giving up. Why do you think so many friends use apps that tell Facebook when they've completed running for the day? They're not showing off. They're using social media to stay accountable.
Increasing your chances of achieving your goals through setting intentions is nothing new. But I love the communities that have sprung up around this tactic. It's no secret I love online communities of women helping each other better themselves. Uber blogger Maggie Mason launched her popular project, Go Mighty, last year to encourage women to create their own life lists. The concept has been gaining steam for several years - its simplicity belies its power. What are the top five things you want to accomplish this year? At Go Mighty, users create their own life lists and use Go Mighty as a platform to connect with individuals and brands who can help them achieve the items on their lists.
In celebration of its 100th birthday, the American Cancer Society has created a Facebook app that allows users to create and share their own life lists with their Facebook friends. ACS also encourages everyone creating a life list to commit to doing their part to finishing the fight against cancer in their lifetimes. Though its unlikely any of us will personally discover the breakthrough that cures cancer, we can all contribute to the work of those who will. I believe everyone should be able to finish their life lists, and nothing -- especially not cancer -- should stop them.
What's funny is the commonality in our public life lists, and also the differences. Lots of people want to run races from a 5k to a marathon, and lots are joyful they married the love of their life, myself included. But in between are the truly personal goals, the big and the little -- like my friend Christine who wanted to perfect making sugar flowers for pastries. The beauty is in the big and the little goals, and sheer thrill of telling everyone in the world online exactly what you want to do. Now let's go do it!
Disclosure: my company, Women Online, consults for the American Cancer Society.
Follow Morra Aarons-Mele on Twitter: www.twitter.com/morraam