To-do or To-be

Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing. ~Abraham Lincoln.

It’s likely that every person reading this email has some kind of system for managing their “to-do” list. On my computer I can identify at least 4 pieces of software that I’ve used at one time or another to track my to-dos and help me stay focused on “doing” the right things. Currently, I’m a Todoist fan FWIW.

Yet I’ve never seen a gravestone inscribed with anyone’s checked off to-do list. Oh, I know some folks who try to turn their to-do list into some kind of badge of honor — they love to talk about how busy they are, about how many tasks they have on their list or (more rarely) how many they got checked off — but really is that what’s important?

Are your kids going to admire your to-do list? Do your friends want to hang out because of how much you’ve checked off? We “do” things so that we can be something that we aspire to, something that others will admire. Our achievements should produce a character, or a depth of being that others find interesting or attractive.

So why don’t I have a piece of software, or any system to keep me focused on what I want to “be”?

In my business I take time each year (and to a lesser extent each quarter) to create and monitor my “strategic plan” — a picture of what I want my company to become. Then I set my to-do’s in support of that plan. But I know very few people who do something similar with their life, or their character.

I have friends who know me well who I think would tell me if I’m veering off-course. My family likes to tell me when I’m working too much (“Dad, why are you so grumpy lately?”) Looking at it that way I largely depend on others to help me to steer the ship of me.

Is your to-doing helping you to be a person you like? How do you develop your character?


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