She said, “I make lists! I NOTE WHAT IS POSITIVE IN ME AND MY LIFE.”
Why did she respond in capital letters? Because this is key to her approach to life.
She went on, “Here is what I tell my friends with MS—“
Step 1 Buy a yearly planner
Step 2. Write an accomplishment every day, even if it is just doing the
Step 3. Look at all the great things you have done
Bonus Step 2.5 add something you have done for someone else and
something you have done to make yourself a better person
To-do lists are great...
There are benefits to logging our plans and actions that the efficiency experts know: lists help us see the steps needed to get to a goal, and they keep us on track so that we actually DO things that, early in the morning, seemed like a good idea (like getting on the mat instead of forgetting our yoga workout for the day). They organize us. As a dyed in the wool list-maker, I love those things. I write lists every day so I will get the right groceries, won’t forget to change the oil while I am out, things like that.
...but there can be more
My friend creates lists of a special sort, to remind herself to focus on the amazing things in her life. She notes the things she accomplishes, small and large.
Today I want to look only at the power of positive lists, first in terms of the power of positive thinking, and second in terms of the power of repetition.
Why thinking positively?
An early researcher on positivity, Sheier, said "We know why optimists do better than pessimists. Optimists are not simply being Pollyannas; they're problem solvers who try to improve the situation" (http://www.theatlantic.com/ health/archive/2012/04/how-the-power-of-positive-thinking-won-scientific-credibility/256223/).
Psychology Today published an article on the positive effects of making lists such as the one my friend makes: they help us prioritize our lives according to our goals (hers, in this case, is to remember the ability she has to bring good things into her life and into the lives around her). They also increase our creativity, because we often allow ourselves to think outside the box when we write lists—we are free to put on paper something that we might not otherwise think or say out-loud (https://www.psychology
Keeping ourselves positive is like a taking gateway drug (only in a good way)—it leads to particular outcomes. One of those is the ability to think with agility, which is required for improving situations Negative emotions, on the other hand, “prevent your brain from seeing the other options and choices that surround you” says researcher Barbara Frederickson (http://jamesclear.com/positive-thinking).
Why Repeated Positive Lists?
What is the science behind the list-plan of my friend? Research now shows that focused, repetitive mental activity can affect changes in our brain's structure, wiring, and capabilities. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prime-your-gray-cells/201108/happy-brain-happy-life). Our capacity for thinking, for problem solving, for enjoying our life, can be learned just by repeating the action my friend does in her positivity list.
We have heard that we choose our destiny. How can that be, when we didn’t choose MS, we didn’t choose the color of our hair, or many other things? The practice of regularly creating positive lists is a simple but deceptively powerful way we influence the way our life unfolds. Why? Because this opens up capacities for enjoyment, for creative thinking, and for discovering choices in life that were there, but that we didn’t see before.