How to Make a Holiday “To Feel” List

The holidays are a time for family, food, and fun…and it’s the perfect time to make lists. I love making lists, and not only regular lists, but lists with little boxes next to each item, just waiting to be checked off.


Photo: Courtesy of Taryn Collins,

Think of all the possible lists people can make during the holidays:  who to buy presents for, what food to buy for family gatherings, and what to pack when traveling. However, these lists are all about the “doing” of the holidays — what we need to buy, cook, pack, and do. Clearly, they’re important. (Because we know that, otherwise, we might forget to pack our bathing suit, or we might forget to buy a holiday exchange gift for work). Believe it or not, though, there is a type of list that is just as important as a “to do” list. It’s called a holiday “to feel” list.

A “to feel” list starts with this question: How do you want to feel this holiday season?

When I ask my clients this question, their immediate answer is usually something like, “I want to feel happy and calm.” Of course we do! No one wants to feel overwhelmed and completely stressed out. It just happens.

But here’s where I suggest you take a few moments to really ponder this question: how do you want to feel this holiday season? Think of all the emotions you might want to experience beyond calm and happy. You might want to feel grateful or joyful. You might want to feel energized or at ease. You might want to feel deeply connected to nature or to friends and family. Who knew there were so many ways people can feel?

Here’s where a holiday “to feel” list comes in. I first read about these lists in Danielle LaPorte’s The Fire Starter Sessions: A Soulful + Practical Guide to Creating Success on Your Own Terms. In it, she asks, “What if…we got clear on how we actually wanted to feel within ourselves, and then designed our lists of what we wanted to do?” To start with how we wanted to feel, rather than what we wanted to accomplish? Sounds radical, right?

I think it’s critical to pay attention to how we want to feel, and to not only set the intention, but also create easy action steps to help us feel that way. If we don’t pay attention to how we feel, we are prone to reacting to the situations, people, and experiences around us. Instead, we can be proactive and start creating our internal experience with our “to feel” list.

Here’s how to create one in three easy steps:

  1. Think about the next few weeks, what you’ll be doing, and who you’ll be seeing. Brainstorm different emotions you might experience during the upcoming weeks. Write down three to five ways you want to feel, at some point during this time.
  2. For each way you want to feel, brainstorm do-able things you can do to feel that way. These might be things you’ve tried and know work for you, or they might be new ideas you’ve been wanting to try.
  3. Put these action items on your calendar and enjoy!

Need an example? Here’s one of mine:

This December, I want to feel a bit of exhilaration. When I think about what makes me feel exhilarated, I know that going ice skating, gliding across the ice with my arms outstretched and the wind in my face, makes my body feel strong and powerful. I texted my skating buddy, and we have a skating date on the calendar.

Box checked. Your turn. Create your holiday “to feel” list, and put it next to your “to do” list. Take turns giving attention to each of them, and see how different you feel this holiday season.

Deb Elbaum, MD, CPCC, ACC, is a career and life coach, author, and speaker who helps professionals balance the ‘doing’ with the ‘being’ in their lives. She is known for helping people get clear, get confident, and get a plan during times of personal and professional transition. To read about Deb, her work, and her upcoming events, visit

Need some tips for keeping your living space cozy and warm this holiday season? Hop on over to our tips on decorating for colder weather.

The beautiful table featured above is our Cayu Side Table.