Ordinary Checklist vs. Extraordinary Wishlist

Making out a wishlist vs. carrying out a checklist — year after year

4 min readFeb 28, 2021


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How have your New Year resolutions worked out so far? Tired of disappointment, again?

How about making a checklist of “do-ables” that are sure to get done year after year? Using ordinary means, you can achieve extraordinary results and leave no room for excuse or failure.

Few people have exceptional gifts and resources. In this pandemic, and with the other troubles all around this year, we have even less to work with and much more to do.

All of us have ordinary, handy means we can count on. It only takes a small mindset reset to live extraordinarily every moment of every day.

I developed the following checklist of 7 life strategies with the patients and coworkers in a clinic lifestyle coaching program I ran for 25 years. I hope you find it as useful as the 2,000 program graduates did.


Health is not the absence of illness and imperfection, but a state of wellness and wholeness where you embrace and optimize all that you are with what you have.


  • Overweight and can’t stay on any diet? Eat what you’ve always liked but only ¾ of it. Squelch any hunger by snacking on tasty, healthy choices from the Mediterranean menu, free online. Over time, switch in your favorites from these new choices to replace your less healthy old selections.
  • Water down your sugary drinks, even those artificially sweetened.
    Sparkling water is champagne for the champ without the pain.


Fit well into life by being aware, adaptable, and innovative, with whatever is at hand, until life fits you well. Your habits will become your destiny.


  • Can’t get yourself to work out regularly? Morph most of the recommended 10,000 steps/day into your daily non-exercise, pleasurable, no-brainer routines, like commuting, decompressing, and screen-time.
  • Let Neuroscience do the work in molding your new habits to crowd out the old ones that aren’t helping you.


  • Unpleasant and harmful stress is generated by your internal negative reactions to unavoidable external stressful events. Mindfully reset your mind, so you don’t just knee-jerk mindlessly.
  • You can meet all real-life requirements; you can miss all delusional demands.
  • You have more control than you may think, and less control than you may want.
  • Begin with good intentions, and do your best throughout the process; accept the reality that the end result is far less controllable, but could be way better than you intended.
  • Impermanence is a blessing, not a curse. Besides, reality offers no other option. “This, too, shall pass…” should be a motivation and not remorse.


Quiet breathing with no thought involved (meditation, if you will) is highly effective for building stress resilience if practiced regularly. Remember, it’s the slow out-breath that relaxes you more.


In any situation, asking “What’s in it for me?” restricts you and may jeopardize the bigger picture. Asking “How can I best serve here — with myself included?” opens up better possibilities for all, especially in tough situations. Surprisingly, service to others often turns out to be the best way to serve yourself.


Don’t worry you might shortchange yourself by providing service to others. Self-preservation and self-interest are well-baked into our decision-making. Narrowly focused on that, though, you will severely limit your options.


  • Failure is not falling down; failure is not getting up. Swallow the sour lessons of failure before you can savor the sweet rewards of success.
  • Forgiveness frees the only hostage — you. It heals you without depending on the person(s) you’re forgiving; even better if that person is yourself.
    For-giving is not For-getting.
    Par-doning is not Con-doning.
    Ad-mitting it’s done and over is not Per-mitting it to be done over again.
  • Gratitude gives life to all good feelings.


Even our DNA is not fixed. Make a choice — Volunteer to be the Victim or Vouch to be the Victor.


Wisdom and wonders of the universe are universally accessible to all. The miracle of your own body is a great spokesperson for that. Limitless other resources are just as eager to speak to you. All you have to do is quiet down and listen up.


Keep your mind curious, your heart open, your eyes clear, and yourself still to endlessly receive all kinds of automatic downloads.

7. ONE

Life in today’s world is such that we are all linked together as one. That’s just the way it is. “We’re all in this together.” “All-for-one and one-for-all.” These are not just “yeah-yeah-yeah” clichés. They are existential necessities for the survival we need and the wellness we want.


Take the good with the bad, and do what you can to tip the balance. It is rarely all-or-nothing. You cannot save everyone, and no one can save you, but together everyone can save one another.

All of these are mere signposts. You must make the journey to arrive at your own destiny. It all starts with your first step, now.

Knowing it but not doing it,
you are still ignorant of it.


This checklist is also available in an audio format.


Tak C. Poon, MD, PharmD, ABHIM, FACC, Preventive Cardiologist, now developer of a non-profit wellness blog and a lifestyle habit-forming app at www.metacardio.org, and confessor of hard lessons learned in life.




TAK POON, MD, PharmD, ABIHM, FACC, U.S. Preventive Cardiologist, now developer of a nonprofit wellness blog and a lifestyle habit-forming app at metacardio.org