Home Mindful Living Why I Made A To Don’t List and how it changed my life

Why I Made A To Don’t List and how it changed my life

by Vidya Sury June 1, 2012 31 comments
Why I made a to-dont list

Why did I make a to don’t list? How did it help me live more mindfully?

Thing is, I love lists. I’ve said that enough number of times for everyone to know this. Lists keep me happy. They make me feel organized and encourage me to think that nothing is impossible.  This week, I thought I’d catch up on my reading, which included my favorite blog list, newsletters I love and books I’ve been eager to  read.

This week we’re also tackling dental health at home and kicked it off with Sury’s treatment which was more urgent.  During the initial consultation, the doctor asked him if he had a stressful job. I said yes and Sury said no simultaneously.  If the doc had asked me this question, I would have said no and Sury would have replied in the affirmative.  Of course we experience stress – I with my deadlines and Sury with his multi-faceted work – he is a mathematician involved in research and teaching, besides being responsible for millions of other things in his position.

As I waited providing moral support I was making a mental to-do list and trying to allot a mnemonic so that I wouldn’t forget something. And then, it occurred to me – like the proverbial bolt from the blue – that we probably ought to make a to-don’t list. The goal? Get rid of stress.  Move towards being happier people.

So here is what my stream of consciousness came up with, that I’d like to share with you. I haven’t split the things into categories – I didn’t feel the need to.

The happiest people don’t have the best of everything; they make the best of everything

My To DON’T list

why i made a to don't list and how it changed my life

(I will not do these things, or at least try my best-est NOT to – so add a Don’t in front of each point as you read)

I will not . . .

  1. Hold a grudge
  2. Be too busy to connect with a friend
  3. Forget a good deed
  4. Hesitate to say I love you
  5. Fret over the small things
  6. Forget to enjoy the moment
  7. Forget to say thank you
  8. Fly off the handle at little things
  9. Be unkind
  10. Navel-gazing – self absorption
  11. Be judgmental
  12. Get stressed over something i cannot change
  13. Regret doing something i could easily have done
  14. Ignore a call for help
  15. Postpone an email
  16. Complicate
  17. Carry emotional baggage
  18. Force myself to do something i don’t want to do
  19. Say what I don’t mean
  20. Put off forgiveness
  21. Delay doing a good thing
  22. Refuse to see the other point of view
  23. Nag
  24. Delay going to the doctor
  25. Ignore a health risk
  26. Stagnate
  27. Mindless snacking
  28. Buy what I don’t need
  29. Hoard
  30. Miss the little moments
  31. Live in the past
  32. Think negative

I could add much more – but since i was sitting at the dentist, I thought 32 was a good number.

I plan to do the following to be happier than I am. I am a natural optimist and believe – yes, you guessed it – everything is possible.  I believe in finding happiness around me in every little thing and I am truly grateful for the wonderful people in my life. This helps me maintain a cool frame of mind and smile all the time. Most of the time 😉

Happiness is a choice

Here is my happiness checklist to complement my to don’t list

  • Simplifying life by letting go of complexities – I read somewhere  that to simplify their lives, one of the things that monks in Buddhist monasteries do is shave their heads. Since I am still trying to reach the state where I am comfortable cutting my hair short, I look for other ways to simplify and make life easy
  • Letting go of anger,  pride, ego, sadness
  • Practicing gratitude by maintaining a gratitude journal. You know, one of my favourite mood –uppers is giving myself three minutes to list ten things that make me happy. I always come up with more.
  • Pausing to recharge, especially when life is racing ahead.
  • Being compassionate and caring for others
  • Connecting with community
  • Being in touch with friends
  • Sitting down and feeling. Yes. Collecting thoughts and smiles
  • Making  a thank you list. Take a sheet of paper – set your timer for three minutes – and write down everything that makes you happy. It is easy
  • Adding to my happiness jar
  • Remembering that everything happens for a good reason. There’s probably something better waiting down the line.
  • Smile a lot

What would your To Don’t list look like?

Do you have a happiness checklist?

The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now.Robert G. Ingersoll

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Bill Dorman June 1, 2012 at 8:03 pm

Don’t quit eating and don’t quit being so cool. Ok, maybe I can come up w/ some better ones.

Maybe you get to a certain age or station in life and some of this stuff just doesn’t matter. I stress over parts of my job at times, but not a lot. Things tend to work out one way or another.

The same with everything else; it’s really hard for me to hold a grudge. It’s just not worth it and the one it usually affects is me, not the other person.

True story; we went to a Chamber retreat and the incoming president bought everyone a button that she thought best described them. Mine? Mr Happy of course; I do know how to smile…….:).

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm

I really need my ears tweaked for the late reply 😀 I called off sick!

I am with you about not holding a grudge, Bill. I find it just not worth it too – why waste a perfectly good present by letting the past take over?

I am not at all surprised about your badge. You’re a champ! Hugs!

Paige | simple mindfulness June 1, 2012 at 9:05 pm

Great lists Vidya! And wonderful reminders that it’s the little things that really count – and add to our happiness.I’m about to pause to recharge with my yoga practice as my to-do’s have been swirling around in my head.

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Hugs, Paige. My motto – “the little things” I keep wanting to go to a yoga class but haven’t found one that matched my timings. Then, as if in answer to my wish, I got a couple of dvds – and felt so happy seeing them…but haven’t gotten around to taking action. I always have a solid excuse 😀

However. I am happy. So that’s what matters at the end of the day, no? So glad you came by!

Julie | A Clear Sign June 2, 2012 at 12:28 am

Hi Vidya,What a great idea! I love how you matched the number of teeth to the list 🙂 I will have to make my list and get back to you – I think a ceremonial burning it in the sink might be in order, too.

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 3:54 pm

😀 Julie, thanks for noticing. That was a spur of the moment idea. I am laughing over your burning it in the sink! 😀 Hugs. Glad you came by!

Harleena Singh June 2, 2012 at 3:49 am

Wonderful Vidya!I think my list would resemble a lot of yours! And don’t we all wish that the lists we make are something that we could follow. I have mine made up once a year, or as they call it the “New Year’s Resolution” – and that’s the time I make mine and stick to it (try to at least!)And of course, if there’s something I remember that I don’t have to do any longer or do it, it’s just added in- after all any time is a good time to start. :)And I think when we pen things down, it makes us responsible and accountable enough to carry out and do those things too – isn’t it?Hope your dental check ups aren’t too painful and everything turns out well. Thanks for sharing and it’s sure is a reminder for all of us to keep a check on our lists too. 🙂

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 3:56 pm

🙂 How sweet, Harleena! I always imagine you as a very well-organized person. Not surprised about your New Year’s resolutions 😀 I think, whether we seriously stick to them or not,just making them is exciting and refreshing! It is a nice way to take stock!

By the way, my dental visits got postponed thanks to the viral fever. Hugs and thanks for visiting and commenting!

Fran Sorin June 2, 2012 at 4:54 am

Vidya….what a way to start my weekend! Your lists are a great reminder of what really matters in life. You have given us a loose road map for working at living a more compassionate, joyful, and abundant life. It’s a beautiful post. xxoo-Fran

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 3:58 pm

Wow, thank you, Fran. Your comment is so beautiful. Hugs! Little things go into giving great big pleasure!

Keetha Broyles June 2, 2012 at 4:29 am

Oh I LOVE this title, though it made my mind go a different direction.

I don’t enjoy a list, it makes me feel defeated before I start – – – so a DON’T list sounds right down my alley!

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 3:57 pm

😀 Thank you, Keetha! Funny how my head flows with ideas in a doctor’s waiting room. I grew up with lists. My Mom was a huge fan – she’d write every little thing down and check it off – and I am hooked too. I actually started off with a humorous list, but it looked so frivolous I switched to making this one. Glad you came by!

Dan Teck June 2, 2012 at 6:40 pm

Great lists, Vidya! I would definitely love to add some “don’t”s to mine–including: Don’t neglect my personal/creative writing, don’t stay up too late, and don’t take on more than I can comfortably handle.
I love how the “Don’t” list can also help simplify your life–by eliminating what you don’t want, thereby making room for what you DO want–or just creating more breathing space in your life!
Yes, I have a gratitude list, and I just started “A Month of Gratitude” on Soul Speak and I’m also following along with “The Magic” by Rhonda Byrne–the first assignment is to write 10 things we’re grateful for every day. A GREAT practice! I think I’ll go add to my list right now–and put you on it! 🙂

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Dan, welcome! You know, my list was a lot longer than the 32 I stopped at. 🙂 and as it grew, I too wrote “sleep early”, focus on writing, etc. As I started the list, it occurred to me, what a wonderful exercise this is.

I am committed to the Month of Gratitude over at Jodi’s blog. 🙂 And I regularly maintain a gratitude journal. In fact, it is my favorite way to get an instant mood boost. I set myself 3 minutes to quickly write whatever I am thankful for, at that moment. 🙂

I am very glad you visited, Dan.

Jack June 2, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Hi Vidya,

At the top of my list would be a reminder to enjoy the moments and to the let the past settle into the past.

Obviously there are more, but those two are pretty big for me.

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 4:00 pm

For some, that’s a pretty tall order, Jack, living in the moment and letting the past go/settle down, because it takes significant effort. But I love it – I believe in that too. Thank you so much for coming by!

personalpower4me June 2, 2012 at 10:34 pm

I prefer ‘won’t do lists’…frees up time to do all the important stuff. Thanks Vidya and
be good to yourself

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Thank you, David! Won’t do lists sound great too! So happy you stopped by!

Vishnu June 3, 2012 at 6:16 am

hi Vidya, while traveling in Costa Rica, I’ve been able to enjoy every moment and live in the present! hopefully, even when i’m not in a tropical paradise and get back to “real life” I can continue to appreciate and live in the moment.

My to don’t list would including 1) don’t swim near hungry sharks 2) don’t invite a bunch of monks to your room during the night and have them wait around your bed without a night light 3) don’t spend more than 15 minutes to milk a cow (they definitely don’t appreciate it) 4) if you ever go to south america and plan to live in a remote village, do NOT forget the mosquito cream. Somewhat more seriously – don’t be critical (or like judgmental like you point out) or act with fear.

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 4:05 pm

🙂 Living in the moment is the one thing we all need to practice, Vishnu. My original list was tuned more to laughter, but I thought this would be a nicer list to come back to. I get your point about the monks, though. And the sharks. And the cream. And I will never milk a cow for more than 15 minutes. That’s a resolution I just took!

😀 So good to have you here!

Terri Sonoda June 3, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Hi Vidya. I do not have a ‘do not’ list or a ‘happiness checklist’ but I should have one or both. Yours is a good guide for the rest of us to check ourselves. Thanks for again sharing your wisdom. I hope you’re feeling better. Will there be a “Sundays in my City” today? You know how I love those!

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 4:06 pm

🙂 Hugs, Terri. You’re such a lovely person and I am glad you’re my friend. Yes, I am feeling better – and there will be a Sunday post 😀 Love you so much!

Nikky44 June 3, 2012 at 4:29 pm

I love your list of to don’t, and I agree with all of them and would put them on my list. I can add few points like:
– neglect my health
– ignore my children
– avoid talking to family
– lose hope

Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 4:09 pm

Dear Nikky, That’s a beautiful addition! Thank you! My Mom always said that we should never go to bed mad at a family member. And we practice that diligently. I really ought to go for a full medical and not take my health for granted. Thank you so much for these valuable points. Love and hugs!

My Inner Chick June 4, 2012 at 2:57 am

Dear Zen Teacher,

You Rock The Gaga World! <3


Vidya Sury June 7, 2012 at 4:07 pm

Hugs, Kim. Love Gaga’s videos! Thanks for always taking me to Cloud 9!

Shalu Sharma June 10, 2012 at 12:37 pm

I think you have the best list ever. I will be taking some of those do “To DON’T” list for myself.

Vidya Sury June 10, 2012 at 1:58 pm

Hey Shalu! Glad you’re here. 😀 Keep me posted on how yours shapes up! Love your blog – and I am looking forward to reading – I enjoy anything written about India!

thoughtstomull.com June 12, 2012 at 9:58 pm

Great reminders on your “To Don’t” list!! I can relate to each and every one!! (Most of them, I do.) I’m just a work in progress, though, so I forgive that of myself, and mostly, of those around me!! Funny how those no-no’s seem sooo serious when considering outselves, but just gentle, little, amusing quirks when considering others. So much easier to “let be” with others; so much more difficult to “let be” with ourselves!!

Vidya Sury June 13, 2012 at 3:31 am

You are such a kindred soul, Janet. That’s just what I was thinking when I made the list. So much fun to see as a list, but harder to practice. And yes, we do tend to be too critical of our selves. 😀 Thank you for the insight. Hugs!

aarti April 26, 2018 at 12:05 pm

For me it is i always “i will/i do” [never I wont/dont].. and it works like a charm!! – in every aspect of life, be it in mundane activities, dealing with emotions or doing things!!


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