By Brad Beckstrom
Must. That’s a funny word, but it’s a word that came to me along with some serious thoughts. Not so much as a verb, you must do this, or you must do that, more like a noun. As in something that should not be overlooked or missed. More like, going deep on the important things is a must. Don’t overlook the musts.
About a year ago, I was pondering what old age would be like. I was struggling with what it might be, what risks or new discoveries may be in store. Would I be healthy or sick? Would I be rich or poor, and in what, friends, time, money, freedom? Outside of work, what was I doing to impact this. Did I even know what “this” was?
Instead of making another to do list or a list of goals, I decided to write down some things that I felt needed to be musts in my life moving forward. I decided that a must is something that needs to be considered before anything that’s not on the list. A must is something that will influence all decisions. The first few were pretty straightforward: family, friends, health. They are easy to write down, but when you consider the commitment to make these three words musts, that would be a pretty complete list in itself. It was too broad.
For example, when I put something like health on the list that means it’s a must, something that’s in my life every day, not just a “to do” that I may not get to. Family and friends seem pretty obvious, but how many of us let work commitments, travel or commuting get in front of these? I’ve done this in the past. After our first son was born, SuperK would turn up the volume whenever the Harry Chapin song Cat’s in the Cradle came on. A reminder that you could miss much of your child’s years at home if you blink. So if family and friends are at the top of your list of musts, understand the size of that commitment.
If your musts are too broad, big categories like family, friends and health may get replaced with other broad categories like work, sleep, decompress, and spend money. So, it’s best to break those musts down into actions that can can become good habits.
So, for example, under health my musts include:
- 8 glasses of water every day
- 20 minutes of high intensity interval training five days a week
- Walk or bike for a minimum of 45 minutes per day
- Get 7 hours of sleep
Under family I include:
- Dinner with family on week nights
- Date nite with SuperK every Saturday
- Family trips, events, adventures and overnites
- Walks with boys (for those inevitable father / son discussions)
Once I got my list down on paper, I had five categories (Family, Friends, Health, Creativity, Freedom) with three to five realistic musts under each one. So, now you may be thinking, 20+ musts? How does this guy have any time to get work done? That’s where the last two come in: creativity and freedom.
Under creativity I include:
- Write 250 words per day
- Master something, publish 2000 photographs per year
- Read 3 books a month
- Visit the library or a museum once a month
Under Freedom :
- Self Employed
- No commute
- Monthly adventure travel
- No pesky investors
- Create Every Day
After I created my musts, it became a set of core principles that precluded me from traditional employment, for example, a commute, a boss, even investors. When I look at the list I know that my path is as a creative entrepreneur. When things get difficult or I question this, I can go back to the musts and remember what’s most important.
From this list of musts, I developed a set of daily habits around family, friends, health, creativity and freedom. So something as simple as 8 glasses of water a day, or a bit trickier, like daily exercise becomes a habit, or as James Altucher calls it a “daily practice.”
In his book Choose Yourself, Altucher talks about hitting rock bottom at different times in his life and how he could always fall back on a daily practice: writing every day, exercise, relationships, faith that allowed him to start over more than once. My thinking here is that it’s important to develop these musts now so that the good habits and the daily practice will be there when you really need them.