Check Marks vs. Soul Marks

Finding Meaning in Life's To-Do's
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Lately, life has felt cluttered with lists: to-do lists, bucket lists, client lists, goals lists, packing lists, grocery lists, shopping lists… even this “list” is an actual list. It’s never ending. Case in point – have you read our lake house criteria list? LISTS ARE EVERYWHERE. I’m starting to feel suffocated by them.

It leaves me wondering – is life built around chasing lists and especially the check marks therein? Lists are helpful, but every bullet point seems to add a layer of time and stress. Plus, my greater fear – what if I’m attributing success and happiness to how many items are crossed off my lists – big or small?

I hope that’s not the case.

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But in my heart of hearts, these past few years have felt at times like chasing check marks versus actually enjoying the ride.As a big birthday milestone looms, I want to change the pattern.

Check Marks

Now listen, lists and check marks have their place. When I was younger, I remember creating a list of the major characteristics that I wanted in a husband. Things like having a strong faith and being a man of honesty, integrity, loyalty, etc. In fact, I knew Bob was when “the one” when he not only fulfilled this list but created an entirely new one of characteristics and qualities I didn’t know I needed in the first place.

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Lists and check marks can be a beautiful thing. They’re also certainly needed! Yet, I look around, and our world is engrossed in them. Sasha Cagen, the so-called world’s leading to-do listologist, “Many people hang on to their lists for years, if not decades. A list is like a diary. It captures a moment in time.” She goes on, “The visceral pleasure of crossing things off cannot be underestimated.”

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For example, most of us have career or family-related goals lists. For a job, our check marks often include making more money, growing in the industry, seeking a promotion, etc. Even slightly smaller things like not having the Sunday scaries or simply enjoying the company culture. All of these items hold value. But are we viewing them like a check list?

Then there are those family-related check marks. “I need to call my aunt more” and “I want to spend more time with X.” Or “I really should find time to brainstorm a birthday gift for _____.”

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Beyond the big ones, there are also plenty of small checks. “Did I put the laundry in the dryer?” “Shoot, I had a Target run on my list, but the day got away from me.” Or even – “Ugh, I didn’t respond to that text from this morning.” Sound familiar?

In every instance above, the feeling is simple – “If I only do/reach/get/secure/obtain X, I’ll be X.” High school physics taught me that for every action, there’s an equal reaction… and we all want positive outcomes to our efforts.

I guess what I’m trying to explain is I feel the equation is flawed. Adding check marks to a list seems to set us up for failure in the first place. In my humble opinion, check marks are more chaotic than helpful. They don’t add happiness or create more efficiency in life. Why do I keep pursuing them?

We need to shift our mindset.

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Soul Marks

What’s a “soul mark?” Well – it’s just a phrase Bob and I came up with over dinner the other week. When I refer to a soul mark, I mean those deep, meaningful, impactful experiences, moments, items and to-do’s in our lives that leave us a better, more enlightened person.

Can check marks turn out to be soul marks? Perhaps.

But my greater assessment is that the two should be treated separately. There needs to be a mental divide them, and it’s up to us to evaluate where things should fall.

Instead of chasing check marks, I’m challenging us to prioritize soul marks. How do we do it? By finding moments that prioritize the people and experiences that lift our spirits. Things that make you walk away a better person.

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Quick example – instead of going on a trip because you feel you should, choose one that you’re authentically excited about. As an avid traveler, there’ve been many times I’ve agreed to go to a destination because the circumstances felt unavoidable or I wanted to “check it” off the bucket list. Many times I didn’t want to let someone down, yet I immediately regretted when I went. The times I’ve based a trip solely on what would make me happy? Or ones where I’ve spent time with people who make me better… I’ve LOVED it. Those memories will last a lifetime.

Check Marks vs. Soul Marks

Someone who seems to get the concept of “soul marks?” Marie Kondo. She’s established an entirely new industry based on it. If you’re unfamiliar with her, please take a moment to check out this article about her Konmari Method. At its core, her philosophy is about cleaning, organizing and decluttering your home. Sounds like a check list, right?

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Instead, she encourages us to base the process based on a word – JOY. She challenges us to focus on sparking joy – not cleaning or organizing. Do you see where I’m going?

Soul marks is a shift in our mindset and an evaluation of where things fall in our lives. Are you willing to condense your check marks to balance them out with soul marks?

Soul Marks – In Closing

As we start a New Year, it’s the perfect time to sit back and reflect on where our lives are at. Where are we heading? What have been learned?

Are you chasing check marks or soul marks?

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Skirt: Tory Burch Polka Dot Silk Taffeta Bubble Skirt {also available in black} | Top: Tory Burch Long Sleeve Jersey Top | Bag: Tory Burch Kira White Quilted Bag | Crinoline: Halogen x Atlantic-Pacific {similar option here} | Eyewear: Illesteva Boca Sunglasses | Bracelet: J. Crew Gold Cuff

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  1. A
    Andrea wrote:

    Hallo Jennifer,
    wow,ist das ein schönes Outfit.Du siehst so toll aus.Ich liebe diesen Stil sehr.Der Rock ist so schön.Auch das Oberteil find ich klasse.Besonders schön find ich,das du diesen schwarz-weiss-Effekt sogar bei deinen Schuhen beachtet hast.Einfach schön.
    Hast du es eigentlich bemerkt?Deine Strumpfhose hat leider eine Laufmasche.Sicher Ärgerlich.

    Published 2.8.22 · Leave a Reply
    • J

      Thank you so much! Yes, I noticed that later – happens to the best of us, lol!

      Published 3.20.22 · Leave a Reply
  2. V
    Valarie Sanford wrote:

    You look like a young lady but your thoughts seem from an old soul…ty for sharing!

    Published 1.27.24 · Leave a Reply


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