The List Exercise
I have included my current list as an example. This is not my first list. I have completed some things on my list and am in the process of completing others. As you go through the journey of life and encounter lessons, you will make choices. Out of those choices, you will change and grow. Your list will change and grow right along with you. As you experience life events, things that were once important to you may lose importance. Other desires that were trivial or nonexistent may come to the forefront and become important. The foremost idea behind this exercise is that you choose these desires. You practice making healthy, positive choices.
Something that may seem small and insignificant today may pull at your heartstrings years from now.
It is important to honor desire because desire is your inner self guiding you. It is in knowing the importance of the small things that we gain an appreciation for the larger things in life that come our way. This is not a trivial exercise. I consider it one of the most important exercises in this workbook. If you cannot make life-affirming choices, you are emotionally crippled. There is nothing “funny” about this exercise. Your inability to make healthy, positive, life-affirming choices landed you in prison. By your very own choices, you ended up with the boot of the law on your neck. You were so incapable of making healthy choices that you put yourself in a situation where others made your choices for you. Your family suffered with you. This list is no joke when done honestly. It is a road map created entirely by your heart and it will guide you to freedom.
If you talk more than you listen. If you “stay ready so you don’t have to get ready.” If it’s always “go time” for you. If you cannot control your impulses. If you are always right and everyone else is always wrong, your ego is in charge and you are on your way back to prison. You cannot handle freedom of choice.
This exercise is about freedom of choice, not freedom from choice. This exercise is about you controlling your brain, your body’s biological computer, and not allowing your computer to control you. Now is not the time to lie to yourself about your tactical situation. Your life and many possible choices are governed by a judge, a probation officer, and any police officer who decides to randomly speak with you. You are on a leash that is being controlled by the criminal justice system. You are not free yet; you are an inmate on probation or parole. Your life choices are critical because they will determine your future. Begin to choose wisely and make your first list. Take your first real steps toward true and lasting freedom. Real freedom. You have this present moment to make a map, so allow the whisperings of your heart to make a good one. Do not simply copy my list items unless there is something on it you like.
There is no magic way to earn self-esteem. There is only one true way to gain it. That way is by setting goals and accomplishing those goals.
“Our job is to straighten out our own lives.”
Learn to choose what you love to do, regardless of the opinions of others. Listen to the whisperings of your heart. The past is dead; you are not your past. The future has not yet happened. You have only the present moment, from moment to moment, and your choices within each moment will become your future. Seeing this process can begin growth in a new direction.
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”
Now make your own list. This will be one of the best things you can do for yourself. Making this list will help you remember things you have long forgotten about or gave up ever doing. This list can rekindle hope and act as a road map to a better life. Do you want to go back to college or trade school? Put it on the list. List your long- and short-term goals. Start making wise choices. When you are done, post your list. On your wall, on your refrigerator, wherever—place it somewhere obvious so that you see it several times a day. Make it the first thing you see upon waking up and the last thing you see before bed.
You are not your past.
You are not your anger.
Consider the positive possibilities.
The only action you can take in the present moment is to accept the past and the lessons you have learned, then learn from those lessons and move on. Any other action allows the past to rule your present moment, and all you have is your present moment. Regret is a time bandit. Don’t allow regret to rob you of your present moment in time.
Remember what you loved before you ever became a prisoner.
The past is dead; you are not your past. The future has not yet happened. You have only the present moment, from moment to moment, and your choices in each moment will become your future. If you talk more than you listen, if it’s always “go time” for you, if you cannot control your impulses, if you are always right and everyone else is always wrong, your ego is in charge and you are on your way back to prison. You cannot handle freedom of choice. All this time, you have had choices. Many more choices are in store for you. The choices will never stop. Lessons will continue until they are learned. Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. Don’t do that.
“The first question that the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But the good Samaritan […] always reverses the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”
—Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
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