Ever feel like your to-do list is trying to do you in?
Meister Eckhart, the fourteenth century philosopher, theologian and mystic believed we should put another list alongside our to-do list: a “to-be” list. He wrote:
“People should think less about what they ought to do and more about what they ought to be. If only their living were good, their work would shine forth brightly.”
I think he’s right. And Hamlet was wrong. The question is not “To be or not to be.” The question is about how to be.
What happens when we take the question, “What do I need to do today?” and combine it with the question, “What sort of me, what sort of human being do I want to be today while I’m getting things done?”
The to-do list can help structure our days. But the to-be list can help bring a deeper meaning to our days.
The to-do list can bring stress. But the to-be list helps us grow as persons through the stresses and challenges.
The to-do list is relentless. You get up the next morning and it’s still there. The to-be list is centering: it provides a place where you can relax and just be yourself.
The to-do list is oriented to the future. The to-be list puts its weight down on the present—on being present today.
The to-do list deals with who, what, where, when and how of our days. But the to-be list points to a “why” for our days. As Nietsche said:
“He who has a big enough why for his life can deal with almost any how.”