If you dream of leisurely, sun-filled afternoons for jotting your thoughts in your journal, but tend to spend more of your time racing from one activity to the next, you might try “listing yourself” instead. Just like making a grocery list or recording what you have to do today, list-making is easy.

You don’t have to pour your heart out, record your days, or pass judgment. Yet you can quickly open the doors to your soul and reveal your deepest thoughts. For starters, try writing down everything that comes to mind with some of these lists:

  • The best gifts you’ve ever been given
  • The people who have really changed your life
  • What always worries you, day in and day out
  • The qualities you truly like about yourself
  • The five things that give you goosebumps
  • All the elements of a perfect vacation

I learned about the idea from the authors of List Yourself: List making as the Way to Self-Discovery. “Listmaking gives us the tools for being seen,” they say.  “Memories deep in your consciousness will emerge to fill in the blanks.”  You can complete a task in a short period.

“When you journal, you make entry after entry,” they say. “There’s no closure in sight. List making actually has a happy ending. There are no wrong answers. And every time you finish a list, you finish a huge thought, pull up a big memory, and dive into or put to rest a major psychological story.”

The original meaning of the word “list” means “listen to.” So when we make lists like this, we are kind of eavesdropping on ourselves.

One list leads to another and before you know it, you’re on a playful, yet meaningful, excursion into your past, present, and future—to places filled with self-discovery and awareness about your experiences, memories, desires and wisdom.

Here are more to ponder:

  • The biggest turning points in your life
  • The first thoughts that run through your mind the moment you get up
  • What heals your aching soul
  • Any miracles you’ve seen happen
  • The things you used to do when you got home from school
  • The best stuff your parents taught you about living life
  • What you hear when you get very quiet
  • All the things you do to stop hiccuping…

For more to-the-point inspiration and insight, look for the 200 lists on everything from friendship to contentment, from family to virtues, in the book Lists to Live By.  It’s packed with wisdom on things like “Promises for Marriage,” “Staying Cool Under Pressure,” “Fun Dates on a Budget” and “Rating Yourself as a Friend.”

I’d love to know if you tried a list or two . . . and how you felt about it.