For the longest time I had an “and then what” problem. I did things because they were expected of me, because someone would be disappointed if I didn’t, because someone might be unhappy with me if…
And then my husband started asking me (especially about the things I would do because of someone else’s (unrealistic & at times irrational) expectations), “once you do this for them, then what?” The answer was easy: Then they weren’t upset with me. Then they still liked me. Then they’d still spend time with me. But is that really a good reason to be doing things? Is that really a good reason to be so busy & stressed out that I was miserable all the time? Should I really have felt bad if someone was upset with me when just the idea of spending time with them made me feel anxious & worried (granted I didn’t recognize it as this back then)? ?
That definition of Intentional above really hones in on the idea that you’ve thought about (in advance) the things you’re doing, and way you choose to spend your time. The concept of “intentional” has been a very slow growing one in my life. But one that is just so important & integral to how our life works today. Back when we were dating & even when we were first married, there were a lot of things that happened out of obligation that neither of us really wanted to do. We just constantly felt pulled from one obligation we hated to the next. And we were exhausted & unhappy most of the time. Now, our life (from the outside) is boring. And it’s pretty amazing. I sincerely hope it stays boring forever. There’s a reason why wishing someone “may you live in interesting times” is widely considered to be a curse. It’s not healthy for us to constantly be living in a state of alert full of stressed adrenaline.
Just think of that one person in your life who always has “drama” going on. They’re exhausting to be around. They’re exhausting to talk to. They’ re draining. You walk away from interactions with them feeling worse instead of better. At the heart of it, much of their “drama” is likely because of lack of intention & future thinking.
Now, I’m not saying that you take this so far as to have to have an existential heart-to-heart before you nab that one french fry off your spouse’s plate. But, do you really understand how the rest of your life affects very simple things like what you eat. For instance: You ate a big messy, delicious hamburger for dinner. When you ate it, did you make an intentional choice there? Are you sure? How does the answer to these questions affect your decision on whether or not to eat the burger?
- Do you know how many calories you’ve eaten today & how many calories are in the burger? – If you’ve been logging your calories, you would know that.
- Will the burger get you closer to your goals? – Maybe it will / maybe it won’t. Maybe your goal is weight loss & you’ve already eaten 90% of your calories for the day and that burger is going to put you over your goal. Maybe one of your goals is to not constantly feel like food is the enemy & to have balance. If that’s your goal, maybe it does get you closer to that goal.
- How are the people around you influencing (either directly or indirectly) your choice? – If everyone else is having a burger too, does that make it harder to turn it down? Do the people you spend time with have a habit of verbally supporting or undermining your choices?
- How is your internal dialogue influencing your decision? – It’s the difference between your internal dialog being “I’m going without that delicious hamburger while everyone else has some” vs. “I’m making choices to feel strong, confident, and in control (and I’ll feel bloated & out of control if I eat that).”
As I recently learned in a culture shaping workshop at work: Thinking drives behavior which drives results. Intention starts with thought. The first step is awareness: awareness of what you’re doing & why and then the second step is decision.
Here’s how my life looks when I’m successfully living intentionally: I’m aware of my influencers, both internal & external. I’m making fully informed decisions about how to act, what my goals are, and how I invest my time whether it be the people I keep around or the things I seek to accomplish.
Wishing you an All+SUM LIFE,
– SUM Sarah