All my life I’ve been a slave to New Year’s resolutions.
As a child, I wrote lists brimming with good intentions. As an adult, I have plenty of checklists in my mind and they all give me an interesting sense of deep frustration, torn between what I should do and what I know I’m not going to do.
This is why I decided to ditch accurate to-do lists. They don’t consider life’s irony, setbacks, disappointments, procrastination, time, effort, and energy.
Instead, here’s a to-be list.
If trying to become a better person through do’s and don’ts only increases our anxiety, setting a to-be list will trigger a different perspective. We can be anything we want or anything we’re allowed to be in that precise moment, and if we don’t feel comfortable with that, we can become something else. Something, not someone—it’s not a typo.
Whenever we feel the need to ground ourselves, all we need to look for is an object that reminds us of the temporal world—a soothing anchor.
I’ll be a keyboard. Or a piano.
“A messy perfectionist.”
This is the way my mom would describe me. Since I’ve always been a mess, I applied a sort of overcorrection to myself. I suppose it worked great, but it also built up sturdy walls along the perimeter of what I was good at. My equation was: I try this, I can do this well, I’m gonna do this forever. Or I try this, I fail, I’m never trying to do this again.
This is the way it used to be until ages ago (let’s say until 2017), but now I’m way different.
I’ve started to learn piano. After two weeks I can proudly tell you that I play with the grace of a drunken T-rex on LSD. Am I good at it? Hell, no. Am I going to quit? Hell, no. In my “Mary had a little lamb” state of mind, I just smile and feel small. I’m so small nobody’s going to blame me for my mess—and when I say nobody, I mean not even my self-judging mind.
I’ll be a map.
When I feel lost, I look for pinpoints and borders. I try to locate the emergency exits.
The idea of exploring myself more becomes frightening; I need boundaries and levees to prevent me from overflowing. Now I’ve decided to be both: a map and a mapmaker. I’ll oversee my different atlases (happiness peaks, sadness deserts, loneliness seas, mountains of obstacles, lakes of tranquil contemplation) and complete them with the geography of my own evolution.
I’ll be a puppy.
I’ll be fueled by my goofy curiosity, sniff the world with a wet nose, and train my senses to experience life in a brand new way. I’ll find my own playful language and dig around at the root of things. I know nobody is going to take me out for a walk, so I must reward myself with some self-taught discipline.
What I know (or what I think I know) won’t interfere with the things I’ll learn—it’s called shoshin, a word from Zen Buddhism that could be translated as “the beginner’s mind.” To adopt this point of view means to keep my mind and heart in a constant spring mood, when seeds of ideas start to flourish. I want to be open-minded, happily exposed, and generously, lovingly, pawing at people.
I’ll be a shelter.
I’ll spread my wings gently and cover someone who’s getting wet in the pouring rain. Why? I don’t really need a reason why.
Having no outcome is my outcome. It’s a metamorphosis where everything is included and nothing is lost. Look how becoming a shelter transforms our body, how we were meant to harbor wrecked souls. Remember not to overdo this or we risk emotional burnout, but in the meantime enjoy being a beacon light.
When trying to fix others’ problems, our senses are sharper and our view is more expansive. Moreover, becoming a shelter will help us viscerally understand what a “good shelter” is, in case we need one ourselves.
I’ll be a dictionary.
Labels give me skin rashes.
This is why I’m inviting us all not to run away from definitions, but to become all of them. Sounds ambitious, huh?
Become a whole dictionary, with our own words describing our own world in our own way. The idea of becoming a dictionary is particularly intriguing if we’re facing hard times communicating with others. It’s like offering our presence along with a kind of user manual. It’s not necessary to become an easier, reader-friendly version of ourselves, but we can try to give heroes who want to know us better, a key to open our sturdy doors.
I’ll be an optical illusion.
We tend to see what we want to see in others, while others tend to do the same.
We know what we know through contrasts and analogies, but analogies build up fast, require less energy and give us a vague sense of comfort because we see ourselves in something. Then comes confirmation bias: when we’d like something to be true, odds are we’ll embrace information confirming that view—no matter if we end up ignoring every concept that casts doubt on it.
Optical illusions are a kind of tilted reality where our data becomes irrelevant, our mind becomes a liar, and our senses keep on finding different meanings.
According to Gestalt psychology, our brain tries to conjure symmetry where there’s none, sometimes leading to overthinking and rumination. We can embrace the multitude of things we are and are not, let them live together, and simultaneously stop playing tricks on our brain.
Instead of becoming obsessed by defining my personal perimeter in order to give the world a reassuring picture of me that never changes, I’ll embrace my contrasts and my analogies—never mind if they leave the audience with a dizzy feeling from an epic yin-yang emotional booze.
I’ll be a poet.
People nowadays seem to be obsessed with the idea of being creative and showing their art everywhere. To become a poet, we don’t even have to write a single line. Instead, we can focus on building our poetry muscles. Let them naturally become stronger by looking at our daily routine from our personal inspiration cliff.
What’s an inspiration cliff? It’s our strategic observing point. High enough to give ourselves a wider perspective, close enough to earth not to lose touch with details. It can be a physical spot near home or work, or an inspiring place inside our mind.
Poetry starts spilling over, encouraged by flaws and life’s blemishes. Our toast landing buttered side down on the floor is not going to be a catastrophe anymore, but a chance to feel struck by the art of seeing. Poetry is for the seer. Literally, not metaphorically.
I’ll be a present.
One that people will welcome, unexpected. A thought dressed in a gown. Here and now. I’ll fight my instinct to live in the past or in the future, ditching the moment. I want to be a present-present, a gift that comes perfectly at the right time and enjoys being discovered.
I’ll be a temple.
I won’t treat my body like an emotional dump and we should all do the same. Our thoughts deserve respect. Welcome people who carry pure intentions, dare juggling jesters to pull off their masks, challenge our intuition without doubting ourselves.
I said temple, not religion. Because we don’t need to be adored; we don’t need followers. This is not Instagram—it’s our life. This is not Klout; no scores will determine our greatness. All we need is genuine respect.
I’ll be a soap bubble.
There are those days when everything turns grey. Concrete is everywhere around us and inside us. We’ve come to the wrong neighborhood of mind. It seems dangerous. It feels uncomfortable.
Let go and gently float away by becoming a colorful soap bubble. If we’re able to visualize ourselves like a soap bubble, we’ll be able to rise above the misery and see the little rainbow that ripples across ourselves.
I’ll be like helium.
Just laugh. We don’t even need a reason. Pitch our voice differently, even that voice in our head. If our mind gets too serious about something, force it to adopt another pitch. Our voice will become less threatening than a Care Bear meeting.
I’ll be a train.
I’ve set a pattern that moves me from A to B. I can hear some background noises, people chatting, someone’s humming to their favorite song, children are playing. Have I missed my stop? I started to think there were no more options for me, because that rail line was safe and reliable. I’ll rearrange my trip according to my needs, and I’ll pursue new routes before pursuing new destinations.
I’ll be an empty cup.
Sometimes we feel drained to the core and the bright side of anything seems impossible to reach with our fingers. Good news: it’s time to embrace the void that sometimes devours us. That monster is only trouble if we don’t pay attention to what it’s saying.
To feel and be empty are prerequisites to filling up with something better, something new, or just… something.
I’ll be an overflowing cup.
No, we aren’t lucky. We deserve this. Say it. I can’t hear you!
We feel the right person at the right time, our heart is a magnet that attracts good things, and those good things attract good people and whoa—we don’t even dare to say it aloud, but we are happy.
I’ll stop questioning the reasons, put all those “whys” in a garbage bag and take out the emotional trash.
It’s time to tell people that happiness exists indeed, but I’ll eventually do this carefully. I’ll try not to slap their faces with my tsunami of joy, or they’ll recoil. I’ll grab their hands and lead them to the virtual cinema of my story, and explain where a positive attitude made the difference.
If we’re going up, take others with us.
I’ll be a harvest.
Now you’re an abundance ambassador. Have you ever considered that the word “abundance” includes the word “dance?”
Think of each of our lives as a dance of chances. Seeds dance through the season to sprout and our daily life is crammed with those seeds which are going to be flowers. Blossom out, spread ourselves through the world.
From time to time, we should sit in a comfortable corner of our mind with a soft blanket of gratitude and enjoy the fact we’ve become a harvest. We spend so much time worrying about things that we forget to praise ourselves when we survive obstacles. This doesn’t mean become self-absorbed or egotistical, but to feel the relief of being.
So what’s the benefit of having a to-be list instead of a to-do list?
The more we do, the more our beings are squeezed. They become what we do and expose us to sadness, emptiness, and depression.
Because when our “to-be” is a label glued to our “to-do,” we cannot separate the two of them when things don’t go the way we hope. If I am what I do (and as a copywriter, I know what I’m talking about), whenever I make a mistake I do feel like I’m a mistake myself.
If we have a thick catalog of “things” we want to be, our heart heals with the magic of our imagination, like it used to do when we were a child. With a major upgrade.
Maybe we used to picture ourselves as an astronaut or a ballet dancer, but now we don’t really need to daydream about hard to achieve goals.
Say we’re in a meeting. We want our voice to be heard, but in an assertive, not overwhelming way. Here we are, a stone falling into clear water. Endless ripples of consciousness embrace the audience.
But hey! Someone is feeling sad! Let’s become a fluffy blanket. Somehow we think that we should focus on emotional shades all the time and treat things for what they are—inanimate objects.
Plot twist: we are the ones who can give things a soul, like a happy extension of what we are. And if something feels wrong, we can become something else for a while, learning a new pattern from that object or exploring a new trajectory.
Extra bonus if you sang this instead of just reading it—it means you’re ready to be a radio.
“You can be anything you want to be” ~ Freddie Mercury.
Author: Viviana Giovannini Leveghi
Image: Sticker Mule/Unsplash
Editor: Kenni Linden
Copy Editor: Travis May