Now do this

johnny cash to do list

If you like plans, steps, and lists, this is for you. You’re probably saying, “finally.”

Let’s say you’ve read the last three posts. You’re doing your best to accept your family right where they are, and you accept your role to model what you want to see in your family. You see the value and power of attention and curiosity. You want to cooperate with God in what he’s up to in your family, and you’re even a bit excited to think of yourself as God’s access to your family

Now you’re ready to do something. You’re ready because there is now a much greater chance that what you’ll do is not your own idea, but God’s idea of what is good for your family.

But how do you know WHAT to do? You could just copy Johnny Cash’s to do list above. Or you can go through a little exercise that takes where we’ve been, runs it through a funnel, and spits specific actions for your family out the other end. It’s just one imperfect idea, but it’s the beginning of being purposeful.

1. Create a ‘My Family Dream List’

Your family is that combination of relatives that engage your heart and mind the most. From husband,wife, parents, kids, and siblings, to grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, and beyond. Whichever ones you have hopes and dreams for.

So dream like you’re the all-powerful master of your family universe. Get all your hopes and desires out there. Don’t yet consider any obstacles or restrictions or negative thinking or reactions of others.

What do you want to see in your family? How do you want your family to relate to each other? Include personal qualities and attitudes you think are important. Include behavior. Include ‘stop doing’ and ‘start doing.’ Include anything you want for your family.

Write everything down. It’s your dream list, so dream. No one else will see it. Leave some space around each item since you’ll write more later.

Take whatever time you need to think about it. It will be worth it. You can stop when you feel like you’ve got 90% of it down.

Now look over your list. Can you have a clear conscience that your desires for your family are also in the best interest of your family? Mark off anything that seems selfish on your part.

What you now have is your heartbeat for what you feel is best. These are your hopes and dreams for your family. Have you ever seen this all in one place before? How does it feel?

2. Now think of obstacles

The fun just ended.

For each item on your list, think of things that are preventing fulfillment. Distance. Money. Attitudes. Health. Time. Opportunity. “The past.” Think of all the reasons why that part of the dream isn’t true or can’t come true.

This is where your family dreams face reality. Even if the obstacle isn’t real and is just in someone’s head or is a misunderstanding, it counts if it interferes with the dream. Adding all this up could get depressing so play some upbeat music, snarf a favorite snack, and don’t do this part late at night.

Take your time. Don’t think of how to overcome the obstacles, just define them.

3. Go through your list and mark the items you have most influence over

Which parts of your dreams for your family can you realistically influence and how much can you influence it? This is where you balance the blunt reality of obstacles with realistic hope for overcoming those obstacles.

If your dream is for your husband to be more appreciated at work, your influence on that is probably limited. Same with your dream for your parents to stop hoarding.

But you probably can have tremendous influence if your dream is for brothers and sisters at home to get along better.

The people who influence us most are those who live their lives like the stars in heaven and the lilies in the field, perfectly simply and unaffectedly – Oswald Chambers

If your dream is for your grown kids living on the other side of the country to move to your city, your influence is probably limited.

But if your dream is for those same kids to feel love, acceptance, and more of a family connection, you can potentially contribute greatly to that.

You might give a score to your potential influence. ‘One’ or ‘two’ or ‘three’ or something for each dream item. Or stars. Mark them some way so that you can tell at a glance where you can most make a difference.

4. Now pick one goal where you can make the biggest difference right now

Look through your dream list, at the obstacles, and at the items marked where you have the most influence. Which of these would make the biggest difference in your family right now, even with just a little progress?

Pick a goal that’s easy and that has the best chance of some success. Don’t make it big and difficult – keep it simple so you can see some progress and get some momentum.

5. Get creative and think of ten little practical things to do for that goal

Call it your Itty Bitty list. No big ideas or you’ll stress over them or procrastinate or talk yourself out of it. Small. Easy. Positive. Non-attention-getting.

It could be a favor you do for someone. Or an attitude that you model.

For example, for once you don’t let a certain something bug you like it usually does. Or you don’t raise your voice. You let someone go first or have the biggest or you let them win. You don’t argue. You smile.

Maybe a ‘just thinking of you’ text or phone call with no other agenda. Or a brief encouraging word about someone’s attitude or behavior or appearance. Something meaningful enough to feel, but so small that no one really notices. You know, itty bitty.

6. Do one of those things every day for three weeks

Each day decide which thing to do from your Itty Bitty list. Of course you can do more than one thing if you want. Just keep it simple.

Try this and see what you notice after three weeks. Are you encouraged? Has anything changed, just a little? Has anyone noticed anything? Have you moved an inch closer to the goal you picked?

Once you’ve tried this for three weeks, you can go back to #4 and pick a different goal and make another Itty Bitty list of ten little practical things for that goal. Maybe you’d also try more than one goal at a time. But when you first start, keep it simple and small.

What questions, suggestions, or encouragement for others do you have?

About the Author


Gary Morland helps you feel better about your most challenging family relationships, and helps you actually improve those relationships - all by adopting simple attitudes, perspectives, expectations, and actions (the same ones that changed him and his family).


  1. m

    This is going to be good! WOW…seriously, I have been doing most of these already & re-reading a post written in the series (that I wrote in response to you), awhile back helped me realize; it’s how He made me…& I like me, finally! Glory to God & thank you so much, G…I have so enjoyed learning/growing/changing through YOUR wisdom & for that I would like to encourage you to continue, doing what you do, simply because it is so helpful/wonderful/Christ-centered…& life changing! Thank you…blessings & <3

  2. Pam Cason

    I’m going to get busy on this homework : )

    • let me know how it goes and what’s helpful and what’s not, ok?

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