One crucial part of living life on your own terms is knowning your terms. I would like to ask 100 people who say they want to, or even do, live their lives on their own terms what their terms are. I suspect I’d be lucky if three could answer. Like most of my negative, well not really negative but pessimistic, answers about people this one comes from myself. For all my railing about finding my own way it wasn’t until the past six months or so that I could have given you a list of my terms.
What changed? Well, I have been working a lot the past three years on concrete goals and similar success activities. However, one tool came along that really changed my thinking, The Dammit List. This simple, simple idea by the excellent Havi and Selma over at The Fluent Self is a lot like locomotive dynamic breaks or Kerberos authentication. Once I explain it to you the first thought will be, “duh, that’s pretty obvious.” My answer to that is why didn’t you think of it already then. Of course, that is a mark of something that is true genius.
So, how does it work? Simple, when you discover a non-negotiable of life you simply phrase it as “I can/won’t/will/ect X, damn it.” It’s easy to run rampent with this when you first discover the idea, but I recommend against it. Reserve it for things that are truly lines in the sand. You probably have more than you think but you’re not really conscious mof most of them. They’ll come to you gradually, usually when you face them or a friend does.
To give you an idea of the growth rate I started mine in September 2009. It’s on page nine (and now ten) of my personal chiltons. As I write this (February, 2010) I have just added item number twelve.
What does my list look like? Here it is in all its glory:
- I am a writer.
- I am a programmer.
- I am a genteel
- I can wear a tie without being stuffy.
- I can be a developer Joel would hire.
- I can wear purple.
- I can wear fun socks.
- I can make a living being creative.
- I can keep my identities as close or apart as I want.
- I can wish people “Merry Christmas”.
- I can decorate with Christmas lights
- Dock Martins (boots) are dress shoes.
Looking at them several are aspirations and six would probably strike other people as trivial. However, they all represent stances I consider important in living the life I want to live. I think it is especially important to have aspirations on the list. Too often we compromise our dreams as part as getting along in the world. Your aspirations should be the least negotiatable parts of life.
If you want to live life on your terms and not anyone else’s you need to define those terms. It is one of the hardest things to do on a lot of levels. That said, starting your own Dammit List (hide it somewhere if you need to…no one needs to know) is a good first step. It’s also a source of courage when you have to face the fears that will push you to compromise it.