What To Do and What NOT To Do

Throughout my life I have been blessed with some incredible mentors and role models. They have taught me the “what to do” things in life, and the “how to be” qualities, that if we embrace will turn us into someone others will want hope to emulate someday as well. The more in life I would observe these role models qualities and characteristics, the more I worked to become more like them because I had such respect for the people they are. They inspired me so much that I started making a list of the “what to do” things I observed in them and wrote them in a small “what to do” journal. I would write down their good qualities and awesome habits and the great leadership characteristics they displayed. Then I would go back and review this journal on a regular basis to remind myself of how I wanted to be living my life.

And then there are the other people we come in contact in life who, rather than being good examples, serve as horrible warnings. They are those who exemplify the “what NOT to do” in life. And so as I  encounter these types of I take note of all of their characteristic s and behaviors that  I don’t want to have or do in my life. I keep this list of “what not to do” in its own little journal that I can read through regularly to remind yourself of all the things I saw in these people that I don’t ever want to reproduce in your own life. I don’t think its helpful to list people’s names in the journal because that only causes us ot hang on to negativity toward specific people and that ends up hurting us far more than it will ever hurt them. But I do list their specific character traits that caused me to lose respect for them and I write down the actions they did that went against the values I believe matter. Then I review that list often to remind myself to never become a person who does the things in this “what NOT to do” journal.

I took the things in my two journals and created a personal scorecard for my life. The first page has a bullet point list of the characteristics I am trying to live by, and the second page has a bullet point list of the characteristics I am trying to stand against. And several times a year I take out these two pages and I go through and grade myself on each bullet point marking a box that says Excel or the box that says Needs Improvement. The reason I only grade on those two options is that if I am not exceling then I need improvement, because there is no allowing myself to be content with mediocrity. Excel or keep trying!

Learn from the positive and negative things you see in others. Both can teach you valuable lessons. But once you identify those who are the “what NOT to do” examples, discontinue association with them. And when circumstances are such that you can’t help but interact with them, simply be as polite as possible but do everything you can to keep as much distance from them as possible. Remember that when you lie down with dogs you will get fleas, and you do not want fleas!

And when you find those amazing people who exemplify the “what to do” if life, know that the best way to become amazing like they are, is to surround yourself with as many of them as possible. Because they teach us, they inspire us, and they help us become the very best people we can be.

Consider starting your own “what to do” and “what not to do” journals. Then use them to create your own scorecard for your life and give yourself monthly or quarterly reviews. Heck do them daily if needed! It’s a great way to keep yourself on the right track and its also a fantastic way to stop yourself from going off track when someone else’s bad behavior might tempt you to do so. Be that person you want to be and don’t let anyone else get in the way of that.

Have an amazing day everyone!

~Amy Rees Anderson


  • Jane says:

    This is a great idea. I would never have thought of starting a journal like this. I’ve never really had a mentor but there are people I don’t really know who I admire – at least admire what I see from their public life. I think mostly of what I want people to say about me when I’m gone. This gives me an idea. I should actually write them down.

  • Heather Vogeley says:

    I have needed some advice for well over a year now, but I don’t know who to turn to. It occurred to me that you might be able to help, after reading this blog post.

    My workplace is hostile. It goes in cycles, but there is always a hostile undercurrent. I have only been with them for 1.5 years, I like my projects, but the people are too much, owners included. I would love to look for a new job. My dilemma is this: what do I say in an interview about my current position, about my reason for looking for a new job? You can’t say anything negative. I have googled this, but can’t seem to find anything that feels “right.” I would love to hear what you think.

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