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How to List Your Way to a Dream Life


If you follow this blog and read my "Cross Talk" column in SHAPE magazine, you know that I completely transformed my life by listing. I woke up in a panic one day, realizing I was closer to 40 than 30 and hadn’t done much about fulfilling my dreams. So I wrote them down.

I made a list of things I’d always wanted to do but hadn’t and set out on a mission to check them all off before my big 4-0.

Conquering challenges such as traveling alone, taking a surfing lesson, and flying on the trapeze turned my life from average to adventurous. I had some amazing experiences and learned a lot about myself along the way—and it all started with a list.

Most people I talk with say they’d like to make a list of their own, but don’t know where to start. Here are a few brainstorming techniques I used that should you help discover your goals so that you can get busy achieving them.

1. Fill in the blank. Write, “I wish I had ___________,” and then complete that sentence until you can’t think of anything else. Then go back and cross out the “wish I had,” and write “AM GOING TO”—in ink! If you’re still thinking about something you wanted to do as a child, then you owe it to your younger self to give it a try. That’s how I ended up on a trapeze and, believe me, fulfilling that promise to little girl Susan was a full-circle moment that I’ll never forget.

2. Un-quit it. Think about whether there’s anything you ever started but quit. Ask yourself why you threw in the towel. If it was because you felt like you weren’t any good at it, then write whatever it was down on your list. I, like Zoolander, couldn’t turn to my left when I took ballet as a kid. So I jotted “Take an adult ballet class" on my list. I won’t be starring in Swan Lake anytime soon, but that’s okay because it felt great to be back at the barre.

3. Ask around. You can find out a lot about yourself by talking with the people who know you best. Ask your parents, grandparents, and old friends if they remember what you used to like to play or what you wanted to be when you grew up. A chat with my mom prompted her to mail me some of the first stories I’d written. They weren’t half bad and so, “Have an article published” earned a spot my list, and, since you’re reading this, I think you know how that turned out.


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