New Year’s Resolutions: Trading Your To-Do List for a To-Be List

We are all familiar with “to-do” lists; they help us organize our day, our month, even our year. Not to mention, there can be something uniquely satisfying about crossing something off our to-do list. But sometimes our lists can feel burdensome — a reminder of how much we need to do before we can feel good about ourselves or feel like it is ok to take a break or rest. They can even feed into our inner critic and impact our self-worth, perpetuating the belief that our self-worth is determined by our accomplishments rather than who we are as a person. This is where the “to-be” list comes in. 


A to-be list is another way of approaching our days and goals. It activates a different sense of awareness of ourselves that isn’t based on achievement or accomplishment but rather encourages us to be present in ourselves as a person. Instead of focusing on accomplishments, we focus on the qualities we want to have, how we want to show up, and the parts of ourselves we want to bring to a situation. The intention of the to-be list is to tap into a mindful way of being that facilitates an understanding of the self as inherently worthy. 


A to-be list contains the qualities you want to embody for the day, month, year, etc. Examples of what to put on your to-be list include qualities like “to be” friendly, kind, generous, present, patient, etc. You can also include ways you would like to show up in relationships, such as being a loving spouse, supportive colleague, or caring friend. You can even create your to-be list in conjunction with your to-do list.

Under the qualities on your to-be list, you can list the actions that help you embody that quality. For example, under “brave”, you may list the things you want/need to do but that scare you, like having a hard conversation with a loved one or speaking up at work or in class. Or maybe, with your to-be list in mind, you recognize something on your to-do list isn’t as much of a priority; cleaning the bathroom might not be that important today after all, but it’s vital to make that decision you’ve been putting off or make that call you’ve been avoiding. 


Shifting the focus to who you are gets you away from automatically checking boxes and towards consciously choosing to put your actions where your heart is. It’s easy to get caught up in tasks and accomplishments, prioritizing those things over our relationships, both with ourselves and others. The “to be” list helps us to remember our values and priorities, and to focus on what really matters: who we are. 

To learn more about how you can shift from doing to being, contact me at, or call 917.476.9381. 

Chamin Ajjan Psychotherapy


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