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Beyond Your To-Do List: How To Aspire To An Inspired Life

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Changing gears ever so slightly (that's code in my family for completely and utterly), let's turn our attention to something that matters a bit more than your to-do list. Of course, your to-do list might matter quite a bit in any of several different contexts.

One form of value associated with a to-do list could be as an indicator that you are still employed. In today's economy, that might mean quite a bit.

A layer up from at-least-I-have-a-job, a to-do list could mean that you are focused on activities that mean something to people who mean something to you. That could be anywhere from the proverbial honey-do list to things you want to do for your honey.

Moving up from there, you might have a series of to-do's tied to meaningful goals. A meaningful goal could range from something relevant to your job, business or career, over to something you are trying to accomplish in your family, relationships, or personal health.

And then there's the question of how much any of this matters in the first place.

So what's the first place, anyway? And who cares? And why?

The Inspiration Behind Aspiration

A personal perspective here: I have a spiritual reference point toward life - my life, your life, life in general. I won't belabor you with any particular dogma, other than to say that my way of walking through each day starts with the presumption that all things come from God (substitute any name you might prefer here), that God loves all of Its creation, and that not one soul will be lost.

Now, if you followed me around each day, and especially if you could not only hear me out loud, but also hear my inner voice, you would know that what I just said about my approach to life is a lot more about my aspiration in life than it is about my actual experience of day-to-day reality.

I do aspire to a life where I can see the good in all things, where I can approach all people and all situations with loving, caring, peace and acceptance.

And then there's that jerk who just did something that was, well, jerky. And it gets worse from there. Bernie Madoff pisses me off, but not much more than any of the other greedy leeches out there masquerading as someone trying to help me succeed.

So, you can see what I mean about the difference between aspiration and actual experience. Clearly, I have a lot to learn. (Both about whom to trust for financial advice, and how to embrace those who would do me harm.)

And yet, I have found that when I am in contact with a deeper essence of who I am, when I am both in a state of inner peace and reflecting that peace outwardly, when I am in my loving, compassion and caring, I tend to experience my life in a much more balanced, fulfilled and harmonious way.

So part of my aspiration in life is to experience and radiate those qualities that reflect loving, caring and grace.

Ultimately, I think life is about fulfilling our aspirations, guided by our inspiration. If you play around with words as I have, you will likely find that inspiration comes from the Latin and/or Old French and means to "breathe in spirit."

Aspiration reflects a longing, seeking or desire toward something of great value. Now "great value" represents a tricky notion all by itself. Some people have aspirations that are much more narrow than the notion I am moving toward here, and yet underneath most any aspiration, lies an element of inspiration.

In today's vernacular, you can be inspired by a novel, a television show, or even a decent ad campaign. Inspiration can also take shape as an innovative idea regarding your work or a thought about how to help a friend in need.

Indeed, we all have likely experienced different levels of inspiration, from the mundane to the divine. Sorting out the meaning and direction of that which inspires us is part of the game of life.

It is the notion of divine inspiration that moves me and it is toward a divinely inspired life that I aspire in my day-to-day existence.

That doesn't mean that I aspire to a life measured by rituals, holy-person garb, or by restrictive demands on righteous behavior. But it does mean that I aspire to live life in alignment with my spiritual values, in a way that is practical and fruitful.

How Do You Aspire to an Inspired Life?

I aspire to a life of substance, meaning, service, and contribution, inspired by the divine, characterized by the qualities of loving, caring, compassion, empathy, acceptance and understanding. And I also aspire to live life in ways that are practical, meaningful and successful.

The next series of posts will address these kinds of questions:
• What do you aspire toward?
• What is your source of inspiration?
• How do you combine inspiration and aspiration and wind up with something of value, meaning and substance?
• How can you live in alignment with your core personal and spiritual values and still make life work at a practical level?
• How can you achieve success in the physical world while being a conscious steward of the planet?
• How can you create an abundant life without taking advantage of others along the way?

I'd love to hear from you. Please do leave a comment here or drop me an email at Russell (at)


If you want more information on how you can apply this kind of reframing to your life and to your job, about a few simple steps that may wind up transforming your life, please download a free chapter from my book, Workarounds That Work. You'll be glad you did.

Russell Bishop is an educational psychologist, author, executive coach and management consultant based in Santa Barbara, Calif. You can learn more about my work by visiting my website at You can contact me by e-mail at Russell (at)