I love making lists. I make to-do lists, wishlists, playlists, and grocery lists. When I go on a trip, I make packing lists. I love gratitude lists. I’m a true-blooded list maker- so it makes complete sense that I have found a way to use list making in creating the life I want for myself, and problem-solving and self-coaching.
The technique I’ve been using and loving is called a List of 10 and I use it for so many things, so today I’ll teach you this technique to open your mind. I’m going to give you 10 ways and places to use a List of 10 that can help you in so many scenarios for so many purposes.
I know list-making isn’t for everyone. Some people find list making too structured, too confining, too “organized” and non-spontaneous. But here’s the reason it probably could still work for you if you are a list hater, instead of a list lover like me, or even if you’re just list-neutral and don’t really care one way or the other.
The secret is not having the completed list. Once you have the list, you don’t have to do anything with it. I frequently forget that I’ve made a list. The secret and the benefit of the List of 10 is in the process of the MAKING of it. Once you make it – you’ve already started enjoying the benefits of it and you never need to look at that list again – but you might want to!
What is a List of 10?
It’s just what it sounds like. It’s a list of 10 blanks- either on paper or digitally, and you fill in each of the blanks, in one sitting, without interrupting yourself.
But, what are the blanks you may be wondering? They’re the answers to the question that’s on your mind. They’re the solution to what’s bugging you. They’re 10 of the many, many ways you could do what you don’t know how to do yet. They’re all the possible things that could happen so you can get what you want.
I really believe the answers you seek are inside of you, but you may second guess and doubt yourself. So, a List of 10 implies that there are so many possible right answers! Making the list opens your brain and it makes you push yourself and stretch yourself and consider so many more options for yourself.
Resistance keeps Us Thinking Small
One of the ways resistance shows up for me is by telling me little lies like “I don’t know how, there’s not enough, no-one would want this… or “I’ve tried everything.”
Making a List of 10 for myself is a way I override my own resistance to open my mind up and allow so many new possibilities that my resistance wouldn’t let me think of naturally.
If I know I’m going to come up with a list of 10 answers, possibilities, or things to try, my brain – which likes to make lists, and likes to see completion, goes to work figuring out how to fill in all of the blanks.
Here’s Why it Works
Just like in brainstorming, the 10 answers don’t have to be good, and I don’t have to be sure that I’ll use them or even that I’ll try them. Just the act of creating the list is showing me that I can come up with 10 ideas, solutions or answers, and probably many more if I wanted to. This activity shifts my brain from scarcity thinking to feeling abundant possibility.
Saying “I don’t know” or “I can’t think of anything else” is just not an option when you’re making your list. Once you start it, don’t leave the list until it’s complete, until you have filled something in for each and every blank.
The first 2 or 3 items on the list will probably come very easily to you, then momentum may set in for the next 2 or 3 items, then a crazy outlier idea or 2 could pop up. You could find a way to combine ideas. You could think of the opposite of what you already listed, or something adjacent to it. And, I always allow myself my own version of a “free space” which is to write “something I can’t even imagine” as number 10 – reminding me that there are so many other possibilities and options that I’m not even considering right now that could also be an answer to this question or a solution to this problem.
List of 10 Tips and Disclaimers
Before I get into the 10 places or ways you can use these lists, I’ll share some questions, tips and disclaimers. And, then, I’ll give you the specific examples of how and where you can use Lists of 10.
Does it have to always be 10 items? I like the sound of a List of 10, but you don’t have to use that number. I like it because it’s double digits, it’s big enough that I do have to push and stretch myself, but not too big that I’m overwhelmed by coming up with that many answers.
If you have a favorite double digit number you’d rather use instead, I say go for it!
Maybe it is a little superstitious or OCD, but I never leave a list of 10 incomplete or unfinished. I’ve already decided that for myself, so I recommend you use that rule for yourself as well.
I frequently do go over the number 10, but, if I’m having a hard time coming up with answers, I’ll sit there forever until I fill in each blank space.
What do you do with this list once you’ve made it? Whatever you want! I often don’t actively do anything with the list- it’s not a to-do list or a goal list or anything, sometimes, later when I’m stuck and I’m wondering what were all those good ideas I thought of that I could do.. I’ll flip back through my journal to remind myself of what I came up with.
More often though, the only time I find the list is after I’ve forgotten I created it, usually after the problem has already been solved or the situation already resolved, and then I’ll randomly come across that list and realize, wow.. I did know the answer.. Or I did think of a way to fix it.. Or I did get exactly what I wanted!
Here are 10 ways or places to use a list of 10
- To manifest what I want – this type of list is the most frequent way I use a List of 10. If I’m thinking about something I want, or something I wish would happen. I count out 1-10 on a piece of paper (usually in my journal or sometimes in my calender) and start listing out how it might happen or how I might get what I want.
Sometimes I end up taking action on some of the items in the list, but usually, I don’t, I just “set it and forget it,” then often, if I find the list again later, I realize that I got what I wanted.. And usually, it’s one of the first 3 items I listed out. This happened once when I wondered if I could manifest $1000 – It wasn’t for any specific reason or purpose, it really was just as an experiment and for fun – with no expectation that it had to happen. I listed out 10 ways I could come by $1000 that I didn’t currently have or wasn’t currently expecting.. One of the ways I brainstormed I could get the money was that someone would give it to me. Within a week, a person in my life transferred $1000 into my bank account with the explanation that things had been adding up and it seemed like I was owed this money because of things I had handled or paid for recently. Like I said, I hadn’t been counting on it, I certainly didn’t ask for it, I didn’t think I was owed the money at all.. But I was so excited to get it (of course) and then even more excited when I was paging through my journal and found the $1000 List of 10 I had made a few days earlier and completely forgotten about.
2. To find “evidence” for something I don’t yet believe – Sometimes I make the intentional decision to start believing something that I don’t yet believe. Something that my mind tells me isn’t possible or true for me. So, I’ll make a list of 10 ways it is possible, or 10 examples of how it could be true for me.
You can do this too. Is there something you wish you could believe about yourself, that you just don’t really believe? About getting a job you want, or losing weight? Or being in a specific kind of relationship? Or having a certain kind of lifestyle? Why don’t you make a list of 10 examples of how and why you could believe it’s possible for you?
3. To come up with possible ways to do something – If I find myself thinking I don’t know how to do something, I’ll make a list of 10 ways I could do it to show myself that I probably do have a pretty good idea of how to do it or how it could get done. And that list could include really obvious things like: learn how to do it, ask someone to teach me how to do it, pay someone to do it for me. These all seem obvious, but, for me at least, when my brain is locked down deep in scarcity thinking that I can’t do something, it’s not very open to the obvious answer of “just learn how to do it, and then you’ll know how to do it!” Making the list with all the ways something could get done- either by me or someone else really pulls me out of that scarcity lockdown.
4. To imagine different thoughts to think – this one goes along with #2 when I’m trying to believe something I don’t believe. So, if I’m convinced of something, one thing I could do is think of 10 different people, who either love me, or don’t know me or dislike me, then imagine what they would think about what I’m thinking – so, what would my mom say? What would my best friends say? What would a stranger say? What would my worst enemy say? By trying on all these different personas, and asking these “characters” the same question about me, my imagination really goes to work and it’s so interesting because it’s all still coming from the same source- my own brain, even though the answers are so different.
5. As a gratitude practice – this one is probably my 2nd most frequent way to use a List of 10, and I rarely stop at 10. When I make a gratitude list, I try not to list the obvious things I’m usually grateful for. I try to think of unique, topical things that are going on specifically right now in my life. My most favorite way to do this is actually on the 30th of each month – I call it Thankful 30th, and instead of just a list of 10, I make a list of 30 things I’m grateful for right now.
6. During Journaling – the example I have for this one actually worked in reverse for me recently. I was deep into a journaling session and writing out some intentional thoughts I wanted to think about a situation I was dealing with. I started each new thought with a little star to set it apart from the others.. And after writing a few thoughts out, I noticed, it kind of looked like a list. So, I counted up how many intentional thoughts I had already listed and saw there were 6, then it was basically just BEGGING to become a List of 10, so I made 4 more stars on the next lines and doing that made me stretch myself a little more than I would have. If I hadn’t noticed the thoughts becoming list-like, it’s likely that I would have just stopped when I ran out of ideas, but because of my List of 10 habit, I actually opened my mind a little wider and came up with a few additional intentional thoughts I want to think that I may not have thought of otherwise.
7. On your phone in the middle of the day – I love using Evernote. Sometimes I type, sometimes I dictate. I love how I can use Evernote from my phone, then revisit the list on my computer. I love the formatting and the searchability of doing it digitally.
8. During Coaching – this applies to being coached with a coach and self-coaching. If you need a little accountability to make a full list of 10 and not quit when it gets hard or when you feel you’ve already come up with all the ideas you could possibly have, tell your coach not to let you stop until you have a list of 10. When you’re doing self-coaching, using a list of 10 for a Thought Download is a great way to really ask yourself, what else, what else am I thinking? What else am I believing about this situation?
9. With a friend, family member or partner- If you’re working on something together, or coming up with possible ideas. Wouldn’t it be interesting to come up with a list of 10 possible places to take a trip, or 10 possible ways to celebrate our anniversary, or 10 things we could eat tonight- just to really give yourself a nice variety, then narrow it down and decide from there. You both might surprise yourself with what you come up with together!
10. Probably a new way I can’t even imagine right now – see! I love this as a “free space” – and right now, you may be thinking of how you can implement a list of 10 into your own life that I don’t know about- please share your way with me! Maybe I’ll follow your example!
Do you have any Resistance?
And right now, I hope you’re as excited about list making as I am. And I really am curious if you have any resistance to this idea- why do you think it might not work for you? Do you have any resistance to coming up with 10 items every time you have a question or problem?
And, if I’ve converted you to the List of 10 Lifestyle, I want to know why? What is MOST attractive to you about it? Why do you think it will work for you?
Get the Companion Workbook
Want to get a checklist (or scavenger hunt) of 10 ways or places you can use a List of 10? It’s included in the companion workbook, along with many of the exercises and worksheets that go along with each of the other posts on this site – so no matter when you joined me, and no matter what you’re currently working on, if you download the companion workbook you should be able to follow along with most of the worksheets and exercises that I mention. Go get that pdf right now.