Move from To-Do to Ta-Da

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positive businesswoman doing paperwork in office

You’re at the end of your day and you’re feeling pretty low energy. Not necessarily exhausted, but just run down and lackluster with your performance today. Sure, you completed that tough task, finished that punishing project, or successfully navigated that complicated conversation.

But at the end of the day, all you can think about is how you blew it in that meeting with your direct report. You could have said this, or you should have said that. It’s really gnawing away at you, and you can’t seem to let it go.

Why do we torture ourselves with these infuriating and demoralizing thoughts? Why do we focus so much on what we did wrong instead of what we did well?

I have a theory about this.

When we do something well, there is nothing to solve. Everything went great. There’s nothing to improve.

And so our brain gets bored almost immediately, and seeks out a nice, juicy problem to solve. Fortunately for our brains, there are loads of things we could do better each day. Unfortunately for our mindset and well-being, those are like booze to an alcoholic. We know it is destructive behavior, and yet we can’t quite curb the urge.

While our brains are having a rousing good time running over every single scenario of how we could have done or said something differently, our mindset and well-being are slowly getting crushed with the guilt, disappointment, and regret that keep showing up in every iteration our brain presents.

It’s a cruel game our brain plays with us. So let’s make a plan to beat our brain at its own game.

What do I mean by this?

Let’s play to balance the field. Our brain is going to naturally seek out places to solve problems, so we let it do it’s thing. If it finds a situation where we could have done better, great! Let’s solve that problem together.

We’ll set a time limit for exactly how long we will spend hashing it out in our minds and when the time is up, we work on something else.

But this time, since we are seeking to balance the playing field, we set our sights on solving something from the positive side of our day. We now focus on a really great performance we had today.

And we figure out how to repeat that behavior again and again.

Just like an athlete tries to correct inconsistencies in their swing, their jump, their throw, they also practice their perfect shot, their perfect sprint, their perfect block. Athletes know that while it is important to correct improper form, it is critical to their success to be able to perform perfectly through repeated practice of those things they already do very very well.

So how do we do this in our everyday lives?

It starts with making a Ta-Da list. You’ve heard me talk about this before. It’s not a To-Do list of all the things you have to do in a day; it’s a list of all the accomplishments you made during the day. They may sound like the same list just created at different times of the day. And they may well be, but I’m pretty sure they won’t match up line for line.

You see your To-Do list is premeditated; it’s preparation for what you want to accomplish. That’s a great way to start your day. But your Ta-Da list is a compilation of all the things you did but didn’t really expect or necessarily plan for, and you are delighted with the outcomes. And that is a great way to end your day!

Some of the things on your Ta-Da list might be making the bed, making a new friend, avoiding an argument, or maybe not judging yourself harshly in a difficult moment.

These “wins” may seem small, but so are the mistakes we make.

Look, if we can beat ourselves up about those little mistakes we make during the day, we can certainly build ourselves up about the little victories we achieve along the way.

So we have our Ta-Da list and it has three or four or maybe more things we are really proud of on it. Now it’s time to problem solve just like we do with those mistakes that we make.

For each event/accomplishment on your list, ask three questions and be sure to write down your answers.

  1. Who or what caused this event/accomplishment to happen?
  2. What are you feeling now as you recount this event/accomplishment?
  3. What can you do to increase the chance of creating this opportunity again?

It may sound simple, but taking time to focus on accomplishments you are proud will help you balance the field of negative to positive interrogation. Don’t let your brain beat you at this game. You’ve done amazing things today, and so many more are yet to come.

Anticipate good things will happen. Fully engage in them when they do. And celebrate them thoughtfully and purposefully to find ways to generate repeated successful events.

Your Mindful Moment:

No one attains success by removing mistakes. They excel and achieve by repeating what they already do very well.

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