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« If you could just do one thing... | Main | Living Your Own Life »

The "What's Better?" List

Many people who have read my book How To Make Your Dreams Come True have written to say how powerful they have found the “What’s Better?” technique which is mentioned in the book.

So for those of you who haven’t read the book yet (and for those who have and would like a bit more about it), I thought I’d say a few words about the technique here.

The idea is quite simple. At the end of each day you spend a few moments sitting down and compiling a list of everything that’s been better about the day. Not, note, what’s been good about the day, but what has been better about the day.

It’s entirely up to you to decide what you mean by the word “better” — don’t get hung up on trying to find a precise definition. Anything that strikes you as better in any sense of the word can go on the list. Also don’t get hung up on the question “better than what?”. Better than anything you like is the answer. It might be better than yesterday; it might be better than ever; it might be better than the last time you tried; better than the worst you could imagine; better than the best you could imagine — whatever!

The point of the exercise is that it gets your mind off your problems and onto the growth points in your life. It’s a well-known fact that what we focus on tends to increase. So if you focus on problems, your mind will oblige by providing plenty more problems for you to deal with. What is the average to do list but a list of problems? — clear email backlog, sort out client records, fix broken lamp, trace missing payment, etc, etc. Give yourself a list of problems, and how do you feel? Depressed, that’s how!

And have you ever noticed that for every item you cross off a to do list you add another two? So you’ve not only got a depressing list of problems to deal with, it’s one that’s growing twice as fast as you are actioning it — no wonder that so often we feel that we are caught on a treadmill that’s moving faster than we can keep up.

On the other hand, if you tell your mind to look out for what’s better, it will oblige by creating more things that are better. So you have a increasing list of things that are getting better and better. And that’s not depressing — it’s exhilarating!

It’s great to finish the day in this way by writing a list of everything you can think of that’s better. But another use of the technique (which you can use at the same time) is to monitor specific projects. So say for instance that you have a project to reorganise your office. You’ve been putting it off and in the meantime the office has got more and more disorganised.

Each day you must write down at least one thing about your office that is better. You may have quite a struggle some days but there is always something that is better — even if it’s something minute like “that paperclip is now in the right place.” Ignore anything that’s got worse, just concentrate on the things that are better. What you will probably find is that your mind starts to create things that are better. And before you know it your office will be immaculately organised. Try it and see!

Reader Comments (2)

Hi, Mark

I'm so glad that you brought this back. I've been using it regularly but I don't limit it to the end of the day. On the bottom right quadrant of my closed list I write what I consider to be my Gratitudes. They might be anything from completing a challenging/onerous item from the list, pain less for 2 hours, a dear friend called...My goal is to fill in greater or equal to a baker's dozen (13). In the USA 13 is supposedly a very unlucky number but when you're at the bakery, it's a good number because you get 13 pasteries for the price of 12. I like using 13 gratitudes (both self-created and unexpected blessings)to remind me that bad luck can be turned into good luck with effort and intentional focus on the good. Focus and intention are great "pity me" busters! LOL! When I start to feel negatively about my lot, my thought stopping technique is to intentionally create a Better to add to my list. I create a new list every 4 hours along with updating my closed list to coincide with my abilities and pain level. I learned part of this in biofeedback (for living in pain) and cognitive reconstruction. Do you have a degree in psychology? It seems like several of these exercises you produce seem to support the principles of cognitive therapy and behavioral modification.

Keep them coming, Mark. These are really great....not only for productivity purposes but to direct and nourish the spirit. Again, thank you!
April 25, 2007 at 17:07 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go

I did this for a couple of months after reading your book a year ago and it was a really intersting exercise. At first it was very hard - we're not used to remembering small, good things, it takes real practice. After a week it became easier and I was finding things that are better in many diverse areas of my life. I'd look back at the previous entries and definitely feel better in myself about what was going on.

I'd recommend it to all and intend to restart. It also serves as a method of generating ideas and areas that help enhance your goals.

April 27, 2007 at 12:45 | Unregistered CommenterJonathan

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