“I love the way that every time you call me, you do so with such intentionality!“ This is what a younger brother said to honor his older brother as best man at his older brothers rehearsal dinner. Just 24 hours later, in giving a toast to the bride and groom, the same brother said, “We loved it when you picked up up at the airport when we came to visit you, and immediately we could see the intentionality you had put into the plan to connect with us at a deep level!“
At the same wedding, the father of the bride conducted the service. One of the things that he challenged the bride and groom to do was to, “Be intentional about loving each other. Every day. Whether you feel like it or not! Decide to intentionally love one another daily … No matter what!”
I was amazed at how many times the word intentionality was used surrounding the entire wedding process.
I admired how the bride’s entire family unit was so very intentional with one another! In the way they spoke to one another, in clear communication, even in their disagreements.
Intentionality. It has been called the foundation of a fulfilled life by many psychologists. I would certainly agree.
Research from Harvard University indicates that the majority of people spend about 47% of every day with their minds wandering to things that are not before them, or unimportant things. Of the other 53% of their day, The majority are intentional less than 10% of the time.
When I read this article when it was first released, I thought, “no wonder we have lost our way… As individuals, as families, as a country.”
I was not surprised at all when other research revealed that one of the common denominators in success, leadership, and fulfillment is practicing intentionality often, and consistently.
What is intentionality?
Here are some of the definitions:
- Doing what one does purposefully.
- A sustained focus on a goal that brings good.
- The ability to think, feel and act in a deliberate way towards a purpose.
My definition is:
Disciplining one’s heart and mind to know what is important and good for oneself, one’s relationships, and one’s values. Always keeping in mind one’s legacy. Then making strategic plans to achieve what’s important, practicing them daily, nurturing them until the desired outcome is achieved. And repeating that process throughout one’s life.
That is what leaders do. That is what successful people do. That is certainly what World Changers do, and I know it’s what you desire to do!
In a world jammed with distractions, ADD, ADHD, multitasking, and a plethora of challenges… It’s not as easy as it may sound. But it is absolutely possible.
I would like to spend a little bit of time with you, getting you launched on a life of intentionality. And if you are already on the path, ignite your movement forward!
In order to do that, I would first like to speak to you about some habits and patterns that you will need to leave behind.
Let me assure you that I am not doing it from a “one up“ position, thinking poorly of anyone who may have embraced these habits, thoughts, or tendencies. It would be pretty hypocritical to do so, because these are the things that I found I had to leave behind personally in order to get on a path of intentionality.
So get ready, let’s pack these things up, and ship them off to China or somewhere else far away!
1. You must give up “que sera sera”. I was the kind of person that thought if things were meant to be, it would all just work out. And if it wasn’t meant to be … Oh well! That old song, “Que sera sera, whatever will be will be. The future’s not ours to see, Que sera sera.” has some truth to it.
However, there are many situations, many relationships, many business ventures that will require some nurturing and intentionality to flourish. Otherwise they will fade away!
Just doing what we feel like doing and not much else does not set up a gold standard for a bright future. I am not suggesting you take your entire future into your own hands and force it all on your own. But I am saying, leave lack of diligence behind and practice intentionality.
2. You must abandon flying by the seat of your pants without a plan day to day.
Don’t misunderstand; it’s not that you can’t be spontaneous. But most relationships will not go to their greatest and riches depth, most business will not rise to their highest height, and most great contributions will not reach the thousands of people who need it … flying by the seat of your pants without a daily plan.
Intentionality is about making a plan and making time to execute the plan for those things that are truly important to you deep down in your gut.
3. Poor lifestyle habits and intentionality cannot survive in the same space.
When I began my path to intentionality, I was a full-blown sugar addict; I was always running behind and late; I was addicted to television; and I was pretty lazy. I am sure if social media had been popular, I would’ve been addicted to it, as well as watching the news and other debate programs that steal intentionality.
I was not taking care of my health, and my energy levels were poor at best.
Drinking, drugs, poor self-care, addictions of any sort, selfishness, self-centeredness, and any poor lifestyle habits block the ability to develop intentionality in your life.
I want to assure you that living a life of intentionality is worth leaving all of these poor lifestyle habits behind.
I personally wanted so badly to live Intentionally. I think it became evident to me what my challenges were when I was listening to a cassette tape by Tony Robbins talking about stepping up to a better lifestyle so that greatness could flow through you.
But I had to keep stopping the tape because I was making chocolate chip cookies. I would stop it and go get the outer ones that were done and then listen to a few more minutes and then go get a couple of others.
But returning to the cassette, I couldn’t find my place on the again. I was so frustrated! I had to laugh at myself. He was challenging me to step up, and I was frustrated about not being able to find my place because my need for chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven was overriding his encouragement! It actually spoke loudly to me and I got a good laugh at myself. Not long after that, I kicked the sugar habit and have been sugar free about 30 years.
You can do this. You can begin making lifestyle changes that make you available to live a life of intentionality.
Here were the things that I did that helped me tremendously as I started on my journey to living powerfully with intentionality:
- Be present. Separate out your planning and strategy time, and the rest of the time BE PRESENT.
What does that mean? Discipline your mind and heart (see points 3 and 4 below) to concentrate on the moment. The sounds, the smells, the feelings, the words being spoken, the words left unspoken. Facial expressions, body language, hand movements. Breathe in the moment! Realize that you will never be able to recapture that moment in time.
2. Get your big rocks in the jar first. I’m sure you have heard the old story about if you put all the little rocks (the unimportant things in the jar first, there won’t be room for the big rocks).
Take some time to consider what is really important in your life. In my office, I often have people write the three most important things in their life. Often, the first response is: “I don’t know.” And my response is, “And there is the problem.” When we don’t know what we value most, it’s almost impossible to make time for it and to be intentional with it.
I would like to encourage you to press pause right now and consider the five most important things in your life. These give you the outline for intentionality.
I was doing this exercise recently with a man who came in reporting burnout, depression, anxiety and loneliness. We worked on his “big rock” list. He named his job, his financial condition, his family, God and golfing.
I asked how he practiced intentionality with his job. He talked for 10 minutes nonstop about his team, his goals, his quotas, and on and on. Then I asked about how he practiced intentionality with his financial condition, and he reported how he managed his stocks, how he managed his 401k, and on and on. I asked how he practiced intentionality with his family, and he smile as he said, “Well, if you wonder if I’m out drinking in the bars … NO! … I go home every night.” I asked the question again, and clearly, there was no intentionality there. The same with God. He responded, “I show up at church most Sunday’s.” But there was plenty of intentionality around golf.
I asked what difference it would make if he practiced the same intentionality around family and God as he did around work. He was taken aback at first, but then said, “Well, I probably wouldn’t be so depressed and lonely!” Right answer! We made the adjustments, and it worked better than Prozac! (I’m not speaking negatively of antidepressants, I just like for my clients to do what they can do prior to turning to antidepressants).
What about you? What are your top 5 “big rocks”? And what are you doing to practice intentionality around them?
3. Discipline your mind. Our brains are magnificent computers. But if you do not manage it, it will take on a life of its own. You do not have to let it ping pong all over the place. But that will likely be the case if you do not take some time to discipline it.
I know this is easier said than done. Particularly if you are under stress or have ADD/ADHD. And there are plenty of distractions 24/7. Here are a few things you can do to discipline your mind:
- Turn your phone ringer and vibration off. Keep it in your purse/pocket, out of reach.
- Manage as many distractions as possible. Unless the goal is to enjoy a television show together, turn off the television, or other media.
- If you are in a restaurant with televisions everywhere, sit with your back to them if necessary.
- Take in a deep breath. Feel the air filling your lungs. Hold it for 10 seconds. Let is out very slowly. Do this two to three times in a row, and you will feel yourself being present.
- Tell you brain what the desired outcome of this time period is: “This hour is all about being present with my son. I do not need to be disturbed with my phone, television, or the stress of tomorrow’s meeting. Other than a 9-1-1 emergency, nothing is more important than this outcome, it will actually help you stay focused.
4. Discipline your heart. Feelings are just feelings. They are not right, they are not wrong. They are just feelings. However, feelings are one of the ways we connect. As long as they are not frozen or gushing like Niagara Falls.
Be aware of your feelings.
If your feelings are the “frozen chosen” … thaw them out. If you are void of feelings, there is nothing to connect to. Pause and ask yourself what you are feeling at the moment.
Do that right now. Ask yourself what you are feeling. For example, you might be tempted to say, “I don’t feel anything, I’m just reading this blog.” However, if you are interested in what you are reading, you might be feeling amused. If you are not interested in what you are reading, you might be feeling bored. If you are thinking it’s contrary to what you think, you might be feeling skeptical. Every minute of every day, we are feeling. If you are aware of your feelings, you have a hundred more times connectivity.
If you tend to emote profusely, be aware of your feelings, but then determine whether or not you will reach your desired outcome by sharing them. You can feel and keep it to yourself. Or if it helps to reach your desired outcome, you may share them. Example: “My tears are happy tears. I am feeling so proud of you, and it seems it is leaking out!”
5. Know and live your purpose. Much has been written, and there are many workshops to assist you in finding your purpose. I have a workshop called “Power of Purpose” that will assist you in discovering and refining your purpose. (Message me for more information).
If you don’t know your purpose, it is difficult to live with intentionality. I know for me, before I knew my purpose, I often felt like I was “spinning my wheels.” But now, it has everything to do with living in intentionality.
My purpose drives how I spend my time, it defines my top five “big rocks” and it clears the deck for me to be present.
6. Listen with excellence. To be intentional, sporadic attention or inattention must go.
To be honest, not listening or paying attention is just plain rude. But hearing words is not enough. To be an excellent listener, you must be able to master these things:
- Master eye contact
- Place your own narrative on hold
- Turn your responses on neutral
- Hear what is being said
- Notice pauses that indicate something is not being said
- Note the emotions (in the tone, in facial expressions, in body language)
- Read body language
- Learn to reflect
- Practice validation
- Walk a mile in their shoes
These are the listening habits of someone living in intentionality.
7. Engage in weekly strategic planning on how to live with intentionality. Intentionality doesn’t just happen. If you think of it, it’s a wish, if you add some details, it might be a plan, but it’s not intentional living until you schedule it!
If the person, situation or venture is truly important to you, ask yourself what action steps are needed to nurture it this week. Then schedule it!
I have this strategic meeting with myself weekly on Sunday evenings. I ask myself how I did in the are of my top five “big rocks” in the previous week. Then I ask myself what each of them need this week. But that’s not enough, I immediately schedule it.
For example, I am currently planning a large meeting. I do not want to be stressed at the last minute. It is important to me, because it relates to one of my “big rocks.” So last night I planned and scheduled a meeting for this week to work through some of the details in advance so I can be PRESENT at the meeting when it occurs!
That is living in intentionality.
8. Be grateful. It is interesting that no matter what you read about intentionality, gratitude is always a major component! It is in the state of gratitude that our brains and our hearts are in perfect rhythm. There is no better physical combination than that harmony for us to be PRESENT!
One final word about intentionality. As the father was completing the wedding ceremony, he said something so profound to his daughter, the stunningly beautiful bride. He said to her, “You love this dress, don’t you?” She nodded in a way that assured you that she loved the dress. He said to her, “If this dress had a little tear in it, would you take it to be repaired? Or would you throw it away?” She emphatically responded that she would get it repaired.
He concluded with this thought: “Be just as intentional with your relationship as you would be with your dress! There will be little tears and challenges. But it is worth it to give it your intentional attention to repair it. Be intentional everyday with your relationship.”
Sad to say, most of us are not intentional with our relationships. We wake up each day, maybe even excited, to see what’s going to happen. I can assure you that 100% of the time, your relationship with settle down to neutral, and then further down to ok, then further down to not ok … and on to destruction IF YOU FAIL TO BE INTENTIONAL EVERY SINGLE DAY!
What will you do intentionally today to make your relationship better than it was yesterday? Be intentional!
It’s the hallmark of those who are successful, of great leaders, of World Changers and of the fulfilled! Be intentional! You were meant to be a leader, to be successful and to be fulfilled as a World Changer!