Podcast Episode 51 – Letting Go of the List

Jul 1, 2023 | Podcast

I’m Diana Swillinger, and this is the Renew Your Mind podcast. Episode 51 Letting Go of the List.

DIANA: Hey. Hey. Hello, everybody. What’s going on? Spring is getting closer. Are you happy about that? I’m totally happy about that. I decided I would like winter this year, so I did. But I do still like spring and summer better, so it’s coming. Yay. I hope you are doing great. I have a really good episode today. And stay tuned to the end, um, because I’m going to give you some details. I decided some people are like what you’re doing that I decided to coach five lessons from my coaching program in my Facebook community in March 2021. So if you’re listening to this and it’s still March 2021, you should totally come join me. People pay lots of money to come to my coaching program, and I’m just going to give away five lessons for free and help you and help you apply them in your life. I’m so excited to do this. I’m going to give you more details at the end, so make sure that you hang on. It’s only going to take a minute, and then, uh, I’ll tell you how to sign up. Okay? All right. Last year, not too long after I started my podcast, I did an episode called The List. I believe it was episode seven. And if you haven’t listened yet, I recommend you give it a listen. But I’m going to give you a quick recap so that this episode makes sense. 

Okay, so this is my story of The List. My husband and I were in a bad place in our marriage several years ago, and so we enlisted the help of marriage counselor Dr. Rick Marks. He’s brilliant. I’ve had him on the podcast before, and he gave us the tools to help save our marriage. Anyway, at one point when we’re sitting in the living room with him, we’re staring out at the beautiful Wisconsin countryside and trees, and he’s sitting in a nice it looks like a study chair where he’d be smoking a cigar or something, but he doesn’t smoke, and he’s so chill, and he’s talking to us. And then he said to me, Diana, I think what Dan is saying is that it seems like you have a list for him of all the things that you think he should do for your marriage to be good and that he never gets to see The List. I was like, what? No, I mean, I didn’t say that, but that’s what I was thinking. I’m like, I don’t have a list. This is just common sense stuff that a husband should do. And I resisted the idea in that moment. 

But over the next several years, I kept noticing it was so true. And I was starting to become aware of how I had this secret list of all the things I thought he should do. And then I was noticing that I was doing this with everybody else too. I might have even had a general list for how people should operate, just like basic human behavior. I had a list for that and all the different people in my life. I was starting to notice that I had at least a short list for everybody. But for sure, I had a long list of all the things my husband should do. And poor guy didn’t even really know about it. I mean, I might tell him things, or I think they’re obvious, and he should know, but husband should take out the trash. My husband should make sure the family gets to church. He should make sure the lawn gets mowed. He should notice when I’m in pain, physical and emotional. Like, of course, all of it. He should clean the gutters. He shouldn’t raise his voice. He should help with laundry. He should read my mind and know all the things I need. I had a long list. But me having this list in my head didn’t make it any more likely that my husband was going to oblige. It didn’t do anything to help me enjoy my life. In fact, it was just setting me up for negative emotions. 

My husband was never going to be a perfect follower of my list. Even if he wanted to. He could never meet all the things on the list perfectly. Also, my husband felt like this list was a moving target. For example, as soon as he was on top of the laundry, my mind would just shift to something else that he should do. Oh, and he should do the laundry more often. Or he should do the towels too. And he should fold them right. And he should fold his t shirts differently so the closet looks organized. And I would just add another thing to the list. Even when we feel like it’s something that’s completed and we’re somewhat satisfied, the brain just adds another thing. Can you see how our brains would just go on an endless search for all the things that the person could do forever if we let it? That’s what it would do. But all having a list does is set us up for feeling disappointed or annoyed or, uh, resentful. It’s really all it does. We can do another conversation about requesting things from people, and I think that that would also be valuable. We get to have preferences, and we get to request things from another person, and we get to care about other people’s requests, and they get to decide if they’re going to care about our requests or not. 

But let’s not tie our emotional well being to a list and make it expectations. Nobody wins. I have a list. I think, he isn’t doing it right. He’s not doing enough. He doesn’t care. It’s all falling on me. Maybe I married the wrong guy. This isn’t working. I’m, um, exhausted trying to do all of this. This isn’t fair. All of those thoughts spin in our head when we have a list and someone doesn’t meet it and we’re left with resentment. The list doesn’t work. Another thing to think about is whoever you have a list for, when you have a list for them and their expectations and your emotional well being is tied to it, you have put that person in charge of whether you’re going to feel resentment or you’re going to feel content. If they meet your list, you’ll let yourself feel content, and if they don’t, you have resentment or annoyance or irritation or whatever. Let’s not put the other people in charge of your emotions. Don’t forego the responsibility of being in charge of your own thoughts and emotions. We actually were talking about this, and this is why I’m doing this podcast. 

We were talking about this in the Renew Your Mind Facebook community recently, and I thought, I can’t let this go unspoken. If anyone else has been wondering what to do since my first episode on the list, this is the follow up. This is how to let go of the list. The question in the Facebook community that got me going back on this topic was, how do I let go of the list and let my husband be who he is? Any pointers? So I want to answer that today, but let me say a couple of things before we continue. My example was about my husband, because that’s how my revelation about having a list started. And the question posed here in the Facebook community is about a husband. But all of this, everything I have said so far about the list and everything I’m going to say today about having a list is for anyone, anyone in your life. I’ve had lists for a whole bunch of people here’s. People I’ve had lists for my sister, a friend, my kids, my neighbor, the store clerk, a cat. It’s true, sometimes we have list for our pets. Poor pets. They don’t know how to meet all our needs. And sometimes we get resentful. But seriously, you can apply this to any relationship. So you’re going to hear me say husband in this episode, or sometimes I might say sister, whoever. But you get to insert your person, whoever that is. This applies to all relationships, okay? So just keep that person in mind and listen in that light. So the question again from the Facebook, uh, community, somebody who was starting at the beginning of my podcast and had just listened to episode seven. She asked how do I let go of the list and let my husband be who he is? Basically, she’s asking, I want to drop the list so I can let go of resentment, but how do I do it? Well, in any mind renewal work, if there is any kind of desire to have a mind shift or to think differently about something, which is what we have to do first if we want to change how we feel, if we want to feel better about anything, it all starts with a mind shift. The first and most important step is always going to be awareness. And that can be hard sometimes because we get impatient. 

We want to drop the list, we want it to be over. We want to drop the resentment. We want to feel better now. But just like anything we want to change in our life, there’s a process. If you want better physical health, there’s a process. You want emotional health improvement, there’s a process. You want to change jobs, there’s a process. You want to move, there’s a process. There’s always things to do, and things don’t usually happen in an instant. Changing bettering our emotional health and the way we think is a process. The first part of the process of improving our emotional state is awareness and acceptance of what you become aware of. So let’s hang out there for a little bit. Let’s just chill in awareness. You might notice some things that seem a little scary, but that’s fine. They’re not really that scary. We’re just uncovering thoughts and emotions. It’s not going to hurt you. Hanging out in awareness. The first thing we need to do there’s three things, okay? First is going to be notice. Two is understand, and three is accept. So first, let’s notice the list only brings resentment or insert whatever your emotion was. Irritation, aggravation, annoyance, disappointment, anger. That’s what the list does. You have a list, they never completely meet it, and whenever they’re not meeting it, you feel resentment. I have yet to meet someone that uncovers that they have a list for someone and doesn’t also uncover that they have resentment. All I’ve seen the list do is create opportunity for resentment, fuel resentment, remind us of resentment. Let’s notice even one item on the list. You don’t have to think of the whole list when you’re wishing the person did one item on your list, and they’re not, all you’re going to have is negative emotion when they fail to do it. So that’s interesting, right? 

We just get to notice this. That realization doesn’t hurt us. It’s not bad. It’s what human people do. We’re just noticing. The second thing is to understand. Let’s understand why you have the list. Have you ever really thought about this? Why do you care so much about what the other person does? And sometimes we reel off a bunch of things like, well, my husband doesn’t help with the kids. So then it’s so hard for me. And husbands should help with the kids because that’s what the other dads are doing. And husbands should mow the lawn because sometimes, uh, wives are too busy doing this and this and this. And yard work is kind of the guy’s thing or whatever. We just make all this stuff up, and we think we understand the reason why, but the reason why is usually a little deeper than you think it is. And I would like to propose to you that the reason you have any items on a list for anybody is because you want to feel something. And m, I think it’s more productive to think about what it is you want to feel than what it is you think you don’t want to feel. People will say, I don’t want to feel stressed. I don’t want to feel annoyed. I don’t want to feel like I’m take advantage of or it’s unfair. Okay, let’s stop thinking about that for a second and let’s think about the reason why you have a list is because you want to feel something. You think if they do all the stuff, you get to feel better. Now, what is it that you want to feel? Do you know? For me, when I had a list for my husband, I almost always wanted to feel secure, like life was in order. Things are being taken care of, there aren’t any problems. Everyone’s safe, and I feel secure. 

Sometimes we want to feel valued. Like if that other person does their half of the deal and I do my half of the deal, they care about me, they’re coming to the team, they have value, I have value, or I want to feel appreciated. If they do all their stuff and they notice all the stuff I do, then I get to be valid and appreciated, and I get to feel good about myself. Maybe I want to feel capable. How about that one? If we feel like there’s too much on our plate and we’re feeling overwhelmed, then we have a list of the other person needs to do all this stuff so that I don’t have to feel overwhelmed, so I can feel capable. That’s what I actually want to feel. Figure out what it is you want to feel. Understand why you have the list. We’re all seeking to feel positive emotions, whatever it is, figure out what it is for you. The third thing we did notice that the list only brings resentment. Understand why you have the list. The third thing is just accept it. Everything you noticed and now understand about the emotions you want to feel, accept it. You don’t have to label it as a problem. You don’t have to think you’ve been doing it wrong or that you should do it better or anything. We’re just staying in awareness. Except that’s what you’ve been doing. You’ve been using the list to try to feel better. Okay, no judgment. Okay? This also lets us, if you’ve noticed in this moment, just imagining doing that for yourself, it lets us let go of judgment for the other person a little bit, because now we’re noticing what’s really going on for us and what’s going on with our thoughts and emotions and hopes and what we really want to feel. It lets us take the pressure in our brain anyway off the other person. 

We don’t have to judge them so much. That other person’s behavior is not what is going to create those emotions for you either. That’s something you need to accept. It hasn’t yet, right? You’ve had a list, and all you have is resentment. So if you want to feel valued or appreciated or capable or secure or peaceful, the list is not creating that for you. The other person’s behavior, whether they do it or not, or if they do it right, or they do it wrong, or whatever they do, or if they say something about your expectations, doesn’t matter what the other person does. That is not what’s going to create your emotions. You create your emotions. We can release them of that, except that you’re in charge of your emotions, not them. Um, some people call this emotional maturity, right? We take responsibility for what’s ours. Accept that you’re using a list to try to feel better, and that’s okay. Humans across the globe do it all the time. You’re human, and there’s no rush to get out of this place of awareness. You get to sit with it. Because, like I said, the awareness is foundational to dropping the list. You get to stay here as long as you need to, for example. You just stay there and you can think things like, I realize that the list only creates resentment. I understand. I try to use the list to feel valued, but it’s not working. I notice I still want the other person to do this stuff, and I admit it’s because I want to feel better. Whatever emotion that is for you and, uh, all that’s. Okay? You might want to just sit here and observe this for a few days or a few weeks, or a few months even. There’s no rush. Not even if you want to feel better. If you’re trying to get the relief and the results that you want, it’s okay. Let it take the time it needs to to work through this. 

The awareness is the foundation you need to let go. All right. What were those again? Notice, understand, and accept. I want to tell you, um, another little thing. I was coaching someone recently, and we were talking about the list, and she told me that she decided to drop the list for her husband. In fact, she said, it like, I decided to drop the list for my husband. And I, uh, asked her how that worked, and she said that she wanted it to be real, but she wasn’t sure that it worked. She told me she even imagined the list burning up in a fire. I said, that sounds nice, but I, uh, bet you still have the list with some things on it. Like, husband should be nice to me. Husband should keep a full time job, whatever it is. Right? We all have our things. She said yes, and she rested her head in her hand, looking defeated or embarrassed a little. I don’t know exactly what she was feeling, but that’s what it looked like. And then she also laughed, realizing that she didn’t really burn the list. I couldn’t think of an example, so I asked if she had ever seen a movie where someone puts papers or a book in a fire, and then it returns, and she’s like, yes.

That’s like jumanji. Now, I am not a Jumanji fan at all, and to this day, I still feel baffled that my mother in law showed it to my boys while babysitting them when they were under the age of ten. And I’m talking about the old one with Robin Williams. Did you know this movie is rated PG? I’m like what? I’m too scared to watch this movie. I’d rate this an R. It’s not PG. Anyway, I had no idea my mother in law owned this movie. She probably thought it was a kids movie. Cute cover, PG. She didn’t know. It’s not her fault. She put in the movie, and then she went in the kitchen, and my kids watched and had nightmares. Anyway, that’s most of what I know about Jumanji. I saw a few opening scenes, and my kids had nightmares. But from my understanding of what I know about the movie, there are players of the Jumanji game that have tried to get rid of it. They tried to bury it, they tried to burn it. They sent it floating down the river, hoping it would make its way out to sea and sink. But the game always came back. So I’m like, oh, my gosh, it’s perfect. Let’s call this the Jumanji effect. If you’re hoping you’re going to burn the entire list of expectations that you have for someone in one sitting, and then it’s over and no more resentment, it’s probably not going to happen. If you think you did it, you might experience a little bit of the Jumanji effect where that list comes back. It’s not totally destroyed. It’s like you burn it and you go to bed, and then when you wake up, you go to the kitchen, and there it is on the kitchen table. Dang it. I, uh, haven’t seen this work. I haven’t seen people be able to destroy an entire list in one sitting and then move on and not have resentment. I mean, maybe it’s happened for someone. If you have a list for the clerk at the store that you hardly ever see, or that one neighbor that lives all the way down at the end of the block, and you don’t really see that much, but this is not how it works for people close to us. But let me also say, it’s not really like jumanji and the fact that this list is not some powerful or mysterious thing. It’s just something that takes awareness and time. 

At some point after you hang out in this awareness, you might feel ready to drop something on the list. In fact, I recommend that you sit in awareness until you feel ready to drop something on the list. And I recommend you just pick one. Burning the entire list doesn’t work. We’ve got the jumanji effect. It’s going to show up on your kitchen table. And some parts of the list seem really, really important. And then we’re not ready to drop it, and we’re not ready to drop all of the items. But maybe I bet you’re willing to erase one thing. So let’s pick one thing to erase. I was going to say cross off, actually, like, let’s pick one thing to cross off the list because that’s what we usually do with lists. Not this one. Erasing, uh, is much better. Crossing it off. You still see it lingering there. Erasing it. It’s gone. So some of the things I mentioned before, like what a husband should do I just made these up. This isn’t pointing to any one husband, but husband should take out the trash. Husband should make sure the family gets to church. He should make sure the lawns mode. He should notice when I’m in pain. He should clean the gutters. He shouldn’t raise his voice. He should do laundry. He should read my mind. Okay, some of these things still feel very important, and that’s okay. Just leave it on the list. It’s because you want to feel something. I wanted to feel secure. 

You want to feel whatever it is. It still feels true that husband shouldn’t raise his voice. I want to keep that one on the list. Maybe my husband needs to not yell at me for me to feel secure, but maybe not. I’d also argue that you can feel secure whenever you want, regardless of what husband does. But we’re doing baby steps here, so if it still feels like you need him to do something so you can feel something, one thing at a time. All right? I want to keep it today. Not going to worry about erasing that one right now, but let’s find one I can erase. Husband needs to read my mind. Huh? Maybe if he actually could read my mind, he’d notice all my important thoughts and feelings that I wanted him to, and then he’d be sensitive to that. And then I could feel secure, maybe, but reading my mind is actually kind of ridiculous. That’s interesting that I had that on the list, that I thought my husband should read my mind. He’ll never be able to read my mind anyway. What if I drop that one. What if I erase him reading my mind from the list, and I no longer expect him to read my mind? I decide that’s not an expectation. And if he needs to know something or I think he needs to know something, or I want him to know something, then I’ll verbalize it, or I’ll write it down and share it with him. I can do that. And now I have erased one thing off my list. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do another one, or maybe that was a big one for me, and I just want to sit in more awareness, and I can erase another one next week or next month. No pressure, no rush. It’s all part of my journey. I’m working on reducing the list of expectations, and it will take time, and that’s fine. 

Along the way, I might still feel some resentment. That makes sense. It’s all because I have a list. That’s okay. Some days I’ll be able to erase multiple things. Some days I won’t erase any. All right. Some people might get to a place where it seems like they completely dropped the list. I’ve dropped several lists, by the way. It’s possible for my hobby, though I still have a short list. I admit it. It’s much better, though. I used to have, like, a multi volume series of books filled with lists for him. I didn’t know that till I became aware. I was like, what? There’s a long list. I’m sure I have at least a dozen things on the list still. But I also usually am pretty good at not feeling resentment for him. Hardly ever. It’s not useful. It feels icky. And all the work I did to erase item after item on the list has freed me from painful emotions and allowed me to show up with more humility, more compassion, more patience, more love. Turns out, dropping a list makes us show up more authentically to who we love to be. It’s so much easier to love unconditionally when you get rid of the list. It’s a journey, but it’s one worth taking. Be in for the journey. All right. All ah. Right. That’s next steps with the list. That’s how you get going on letting go of the list. It’s a process. Before I go, I want to tell you what’s up for March. All right, here we go. I’ve been doing free monthly webinars for a long time until February this year, and there were several reasons, but I had to let go of a couple of things on my calendar last month, and the monthly webinar didn’t happen. Some of my listeners were disappointed because they love coming to the live monthly webinars where we apply what I teach here on the podcast in a deeper way, and they get to ask questions. And I’ve even coached some people on those webinars. But since I didn’t do one in February, I don’t know if I felt like I need to make this up to you or what, but I got the bright idea that I’m going to offer even more value and help more people than ever in March. I’m like, how am I going to do that? How can I take this to the next level? How can I help people put these tools in their lives in a more meaningful way? It’s what I do in my coaching program, but not everyone wants to do that or is ready to do that right now. But what I do in the coaching program is walk my clients through a series of lessons that build on each other and put this all together in a way that usually blows their mind. And suddenly they’re making little mind shifts that make huge differences in their lives. 


When we put this work together and really start applying it, the relief we get from painful emotions is noticeable. And the creation of more positive emotions like joy and peace and contentment and hope, they all become so much more tangible and real. And that is what I want for you. But we can’t always get there listening to a podcast. I know some of us can, but the journey is a lot slower anyway, if you want more results, faster. And now this is the way. And I want to offer this all to you. So what it is, is in March, I’m going to teach five key lessons from my coaching program with a printable workbook that allows you to apply this to your life immediately. I’m calling it the renew your mind boot camp. So I’m going to do the teaching live in Facebook five days straight, and it will take place in the Renew Your Mind community on Facebook. It’ll be a live teaching, so anyone that shows up can ask me whatever question they have. And, uh, I’m going to ensure that everyone gets the answers and the help that they need. All you have to do is join the group and you’re in. Listen, here’s the deal. This is why I’m doing it, you guys. I think this is really important. I spent decades of my life trying to make my family happy, meet their needs. I tried to serve in church and meet their needs. I went to my jobs and I tried to meet all the people’s needs there. And at 08:00 p.m.. I’d sit on my couch in my living room, staring at the TV, trying to keep my eyes open long enough to finish watching Fixer, uh, upper or pole, dark or Blue Bloods or whatever show I was into, just so I could make sure I did something for me and I didn’t feel so freaking empty and miserable and defeated. But when I finally had enough of that, when I reached my wits end, I started a seven year journey to figure out what was wrong with me. That’s how it started. What’s wrong with me? Why do I never feel. 


Joy and peace and contentment and hope and all this good stuff that God promises. And I figured it out. I took all the stuff I learned. I spent years learning from psychologists and counselors and mentors, took courses, got certifications, finished my degree. I mean, you guys, I got into it. I was reading all these books that I could find on it. I was watching all the Ted Talks. I put all the best stuff together that I found that works. Like, forget the stuff that doesn’t work, but none of that’s in here. And I created a way to feel better no matter what life throws at me now. Instead of feeling empty, my life is full with contentment and joy. Instead of feeling defeated, now I have hope and I’m jazzed up and excited and always ready for the next thing in life. Doesn’t matter what life throws my way, I’m in. I’m having fun now instead of taking care of everyone else and ignoring my needs, I know how to take care of me. And when I do that, I’m so much better for everyone else. I’m more patient, I’m nicer, I’m more compassionate because I know how to take care of me. That’s what I’m offering you guys. It’s not about the coaching lessons. Those are just the tools that I teach to help you stop feeling miserable. That’s what it’s about. And start loving your life again. I want that for you. Joy, contentment, hope, loving life, all that stuff. If that sounds good to you, make sure you are in the Renew Your Mind Facebook community so you can get all the offerings of the Renew Your Mind Boot Camp. It’s going to be so good. Joining is easy, pretty much. You just need to have an account on Facebook for yourself. And then you can join the group. You can search the Renew Your Mind community on Facebook, or you can go to Rympodcast.com and I have a link on that page. It’ll take you right to the Facebook community. Just join. I’m going to have all the information in there about the details for boot camp. It’s easy peasy. If you’re like me, when I hear amazing offerings like this, I’m the kind of person that needs to just go do it right away before I forget. So if that’s you, stop what you’re doing and go join the group because you’re not going to want to miss it. I’m telling you, it’s going to be amazing. All right, y’all. Ah. That’s it for today. So I will catch you next week. Take care of you. 


As an advanced certified life coach, I help Christian women trying to live their best lives, but they still feel unsatisfied and stuck. I teach thought management skills that work so you can enjoy life again and step into who God has created you to be. Don’t forget to head on over to Rympodcast M.Com to get my free read resources or a free coaching call.

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