For as long as I can remember,and believe me that’s a fairly long time, I have been making lists. Checking off items on a list gives me the satisfaction of having accomplished something, even if it’s only piling up nuts and yogurt in a grocery cart.

A couple of days ago I had a few tasks to do in the garden—thin lettuce and spinach, stake red pepper plants overladen with peppers, do the same for the pole beans, re-pot an indoor aloe vera, take photos—and, just like in the grocery store, as I picked off each item I felt a feeling of satisfaction.

In these times of apparent powerlessness, what a wonderful, empowering benefit from such a simple device, a list.

I discovered goal setting a couple of decades ago. Goals are nothing more than fancified lists. As our lives unfold we might become aware that goal setting isn’t just for unimaginative drones or Philistines.

The wrong kind of list - Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The key to goal setting is to not make the goals absolute. Way too much stress. If we miss a goal, or two, or all

of them, no matter. There’s always another year or month or five-year period to either achieve the goal or reconsider it.

Goals are about directing the various aspects of life. We can choose to accept responsibility and become active participants in our own lives, or we can choose to couch-potato ourselves all the way to the end.

The thought dawned on me one day in a meditation that both lists and goal setting are ways that we program ourselves. A grocery list is one kind of program, a career goal is another.

By engaging in the practice every morning of recording a list of five things we are grateful for we set the tone for our entire day. We create a simple, helpful program. Even a simple to-do list will make our day more fulfilling than it would have been without it.

When we’re not consciously making lists we may be doing so unconsciously. With a negative attitude we might find ourselves in the mind rut of the list “Isn’t it terrible that . . .” and then go on to compile example after example of just how terrible everything is. What a disservice to ourselves and everyone around us. It is a negative, destructive program. The opposite, “Isn’t it great that . . .” is a beneficial program for ourselves and all other beings.

Every one of us is offered the opportunity to choose what kind of program we will run, every moment of every day, every day of every lifetime.

Make a list, give it a go, and I promise that at the end of the day everything in your environment will have changed for the better. Who says you don’t have any power?