Experience. Guitar, book, writing, and wine on a wooden table.


What’s on your to-do list today?

Whenever I get too busy, I think about how my experiences shape who I am.

It is very easy for busy people to become their to-do lists or to base their identities on how they meet their responsibilities. Sometimes our experiences seem out of our control—we do what we have to. However, if our experiences define who we are, it is important for us to retain some control over those experiences.

Often our plans for any given day are made up primarily of those things we feel we have to do. Although that designation (what we have to do) is a bit of a misnomer (see “Choice“), let’s assume we all have things that need to be done given the choices we’ve made.


Now ask yourself: How much time is left, and what will you do with the rest of the day? If you’re one of those people who say, “Haaaahahaha! What rest of the day?!” go now and read “Busy.” Go ahead—we’ll wait . . .

As much as we don’t want to believe it, the choice of what we do with our time does actually belong to us. If that means our experiences all fall in the category of things we need to do given our choices—and we’re good with that—great!

However, if you’re someone who does have some discretionary time, or someone who feels you could or should have some discretionary time, then let’s get back to the question: What will you do with the rest of your day?

This question deserves some serious thought. Consider the ways we might use our time:

  • Attention to our family and our friends
  • Time that contributes—that somehow makes the world a better place
  • Time to exercise the creative part of our brain
  • Time to breathe (see “Breathe“)—Note: This is not doing nothing.
  • Time to do nothing—some time that isn’t spent in something productive, creative, or otherwise worthwhile (see “Nothing“)

We all need to spend some time that “has our fingerprints on it”—time spent doing things that inherently define who we are. These experiences may have some deeper meaning—for us or for others. If we can delve into that—figure out what that meaning is and how we can incorporate it into our lives—our experiences will be that much more fulfilling for us.

So how can we refocus our experiences and try to make them more meaningful? One way to do that is to do some soul searching about who we are. How would we describe ourselves?

If someone at a party said, “Tell me about yourself,” how would you answer? Most people would probably talk about their kids or their jobs, and that’s fine, but it’s important to complete the story (this party person didn’t know what she was in for!). We might talk about our creative pursuits, our passions, or our hobbies. We might talk about the causes we care about, our politics (careful!), or our spirituality.

My description might sound something like this: I love spending time with my family and am very involved in my son’s pursuits (mostly baseball and music). I enjoy meditating and reading about spirituality and mindfulness. I try hard to be healthy and spend a lot of time exercising and being outside. I enjoy thinking about and writing about life and happiness. I love spending time with my friends and talking and laughing. I love my job and care deeply about the work I do to protect the environment. I love exploring my creative side, including playing music, drawing, and writing poetry. I love finding adventures and seeing where they take me.

By describing ourselves in this way, we can identify our priorities in life. When we have a good handle on our priorities, we can find ways to make sure our experiences align with our priorities. Find those things we can do that coincide with those things about which we care.

Our experiences shape who we are. It’s important that all of our experiences are not left to chance and are not based only on the immediate needs of the day.

What’s on your to-do list today?

You may also like

Leave a comment