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Elan Vitae


  • J Bristol


It’s not often that I open the solitaire app on my phone, but a long bumpy flight recently was just the impetus for me to get lost in the methodical, monotonous comfort it can provide once in awhile.Zoning out at 36,000 feet, shuffling cards from pile to pile, moving through game after game (more wins than losses - woot!) led me to a strange discovery that stuck with me for awhile. At the bottom of my screen and at the beginning of a new game appeared three little words:


Huh. New. Goals. Available. Did I have goals around a winning strategy in solitaire? Nope. Did I consider in that moment whether maybe I should? Yep. If this little phrase could prompt me to consider a bigger investment in this small little game, why in the world did my exponentially more important to-do list not have a prompt this brilliant? (It does now, by the way.)

I’ve gathered a lot of goals. Personal goals, business goals, relationship goals, creative goals, health and vitality goals. I also get a lot of satisfaction from checking things off lists, so my to-do list has grown quite long. So long, in fact, that I don’t always revisit it in its entirety. I hit the biggest topics and latest chunk (i.e. the closest visible page) and tackle some of the smaller incremental steps toward those bigger, more audacious desires, but I tend to lose sight of the larger, over-arching umbrella life goals in the process.

With plenty of time in flight for an internal review, I realized I held a lot of space for goals that were outdated. I let items on my primary list get shuffled from sublist to sublist or pile to pile like the cards in the game on the screen in front of me.

Was this the most effective way for me to be operating? Probably not.

There are many methods for tracking and achievement when it comes to goal-setting. I’ve considered or studied a number of them, but that doesn’t mean my strategy is perfect or fixed. In fact, I’m always available for new ways to improve. Not necessarily to get more done, but to do it with more ease, from a place of flow. One of my favorite go-to resources is productivity expert David Allen. If you haven’t seen is talk on the Art of Stress-free Productivity, do yourself a favor and watch it here)

One of the earliest and most impactful additions to my productivity strategy was inviting the Universe to take an active part in my plan. In fact, one side of my entire to-do list is set aside for the Universe to handle. Yep, that’s right - one column for me, another for the Universe. (Try it, I dare ya!) Anything that seems out of reach in the moment or I can’t quite wrap my head around, gets slid over to that side. I release it with the intention of those things outside of my awareness or imagination that must come together to bring the desired result are already happening and in perfect timing. Then I am always surprised and delighted when things come together on their own and I can check items off my list when they get done for me.

However, this new invitation that came across my screen when I was most relaxed and available for it left me considering what might be up for review around my approach to productivity and goals, and then became my segue into a new strategy:

Review, Revise, or Re-envision


Some items on my to-do list are related to multiple projects; others to nothing.

I decided to make a commitment to review every un-checked item on my list on a more regular basis. Every. Single. Item.

I ask myself:

What is my real intention with this goal?

Why did it make its way to my list?

Why does it continue to have a place there?

I include the Universe’s side of the list in my review as well - am I asking for assistance on outdated items?


After a few rounds of my new plan, it turns out making updates are not that difficult. The smallest effort to make timely changes yields exponentially greater and faster results. A simple rephrasing or restatement can update a goal in a way that feels fresh and energizing to me. In doing so, I recalibrate the energy of the entire project and begin to draw the resources to me and it as part of the creative process.


The word re-envision asks me to start fresh. To begin anew. To look at my bigger picture and original desire. In the review and revision steps, I think about ditching my goals, handing them over to the Universe, or chunking them down further, but rarely think about the new version that has emerged from them or that they’ve evolved into. Re-envisioning requires that extra step backward to take a wider-angle view. What is the higher form of what I’m seeking? Is there a clearer, more specific way I can state this goal that more accurately represents my true desire? Is there an even better outcome that has come into view since setting this original goal?

New goals available. This small and seemingly insignificant prompt from the least likely of places has brought a new, fun, fresh way of considering what’s on my plate. There is no longer a heavy energy around tackling my list, but an openness and excitement around what may be revealed as I review, revise, or re-envision it.

This spring, as you’re cleaning closets and planting new seeds in your garden, consider, too, a little spring cleaning on your goals and to-do list. Even goals set as recently as the new year can be outdated by the second quarter of the year. Will you continue to carry them? Can you upgrade/evolve them? Or can you release them completely and tap into a new version that reveals itself as you consider where you are right now.

Perhaps you, too, have new goals available.

Photo credit: Jack Hamilton via Unsplash


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