Wednesday, May 31, 2017

5 Things You Can Do to Start Living Intentionally Today

You need two things in order to change anything in your life and reach a new place.  1) You need to know where you want to go.  What is your end game?  What will success look like for you? And, 2) You need to know where you are now.  Think about it like reaching any physical destination.  If you want to take a trip or move somewhere, the first thing you do is decide where it is that you want to go, maybe the beach, Disney World, the mountains.  

Ok, you have your destination.  You map out the route.  On the way you get lost.  You pull out your map to look to see how to get back on track.  What is the one thing you need to know?  Where are you now?  

How do you find where you are now?  You pick your head up and you look around.  Are there exit signs? Are there other distinctive markers?  Once you know where you are, and find where you want to go on the map, then you can correct your course and carry on.  No matter how off course you may get either by accident or because you wanted to take a side trip on the way, if you know where you are, and where you want to go, you stand a much higher chance of success in reaching your destination.  

Life is no different than that, except that most of the time we don’t establish where we want to go, and we don’t pay attention to where we are until something happens, and then we say, “Oh shit, how did I end up here?”  

Sometimes in life, events happen that are outside of our control.  They blow us off course, and it takes you a while to get your bearings and realize where you are.  Sometimes events happen that make you question your destination as well.  Sometimes it isn’t an event outside of us, but a shift inside of us. Maybe a realization that your life is half over, and you just don’t want to take the time to deal with stuff that you put up with in the past.  This is the famous “Mid-Life Crisis”.  

The term “mid-life crisis" (MLC) gets a bad rap, I think.  Sure, if you run out and get a corvette you can’t afford, have an affair with the pool boy, pick up and move to Costa Rica to "find yourself” while leaving your family behind, then yeah, that’s the bad sort of MLC.  What I am suggesting is a much gentler version, but nonetheless quite freeing.  I’m suggesting Living Intentionally.

Living Intentionally means living with purpose.  I don’t necessarily mean that throw your whole waking life into changing the world Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr style, although if that is where your passion and purpose lie, go for it because we are in desperate need for that kid of passion and purpose right now, but I digress...

Sometimes purpose is smaller, and that’s okay.  Sometimes purpose is raising kind, empathetic independent children who will put good out in the world (I mean, after all, MLK and Gandhi did have parents, right?).  Sometimes Purpose is finding a way to reach out and connect with others.  

There is a little book that you can read on purpose and finding meaning in life and that is “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankl.  Frankl (a neurologist and Psychiatrist) was a inmate in Auschwitz Concentration Camp, and this book speaks of his experience, and what he found separated those inmates who survived and those that did not.  Guess what?  It wasn’t physical strength.  It was those who maintained their belief in their freedom to choose, and those who found a meaning life (a purpose).  If you haven’t read the book I would highly recommend it.  It is short, but powerful, maybe even life changing. 

According to Frankl, meaning can be found through:

- Experiencing reality by interacting authentically with the environment and with others,
- Giving something back to the world through creativity and self-expression, and
- Changing our attitude when faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.

In other words, living intentionally means You choose something.  Anything.  Just stop handing that power over to someone else or circumstance.  Pick up your head, look around, get your bearings, then make some decisions.  Choose to do something.  Choose to do nothing, but choose.

With the believe in the freedom to choose comes personal power.  You are no longer a victim.  This is scary, because that means you are now responsible for you.  Circumstance and other people can no longer be blamed.  If you are not happy, then you figure it out. Your husband, your kids, your friends, your sad childhood, where you live, none of that is responsible for your happiness or your life.  You are.

Maybe you don’t know where you want to go yet.  That’s okay.  Sometimes it takes a while for us to figure out what will bring more joy and contentment into our lives. Here is a hint, in bullet point two: "Giving something back to the world." Giving and sharing through creativity (what do you do that is uniquely you?) brings us joy.  Selfishness doesn't.  Not expressing yourself, but repressing yourself doesn't.  Living Intentionally takes some serious balls (or ovaries), and it takes time to build that muscle up, so start small and work your way up.

In the meantime, take time to clean your house so to speak.  Take stock of how many things you do automatically, without thought, and/or just to make someone else happy.  Why?  Two reasons: 1). You need to get rid of the bad in order to make room for the good, and... 2) You probably need to figure out what you want/need/brings you joy.  Where to start?

In your everyday life, start paying attention.  Here are some things that I took a closer look at in my life:

1. Close friends: Are you hanging around people that uplift you? That you can be yourself with without fear? In other words can you be vulnerable with your “friends”.  If not, then I would challenge you to find new friends, and move those people to the acquaintance side of things.  You can still hang around them on occasion, but don’t you find it exhausting to try to pretend everything is perfect in your life and in their life?  Doesn’t the shallow conversation ever get old? The older I get, the more I find that I just don’t have time for that sort of pettiness in my close circle of friends.  Also, I found it is also important that they are kind people.  Not perfect, but generally speaking kind to others and inclusive, not exclusive. I am just way too old to re-live high school and the cliques that formed there.

2. Activities, Obligations:  Are you doing what brings you joy?  There are going to be things that I will agree to do not because it brings me joy, but because it brings joy to a loved one.  For instance, chaperoning a field trip for my second grader.  I don’t like it.  It's sort of torturous for me, but it makes her so happy, and it is one day.  I balance it out by not doing other things that I don’t like.  So, I have become OK with saying no to volunteer opportunities that I don’t enjoy (field day for instance).  Guess what?  They still had field day without me.  Imagine that.  By stopping the things that I don't enjoy so much, I made room for things that do bring me joy. Like writing this blog. Which brings me to point three….

3. Notice how many times you say “Yes” because you are trying to please someone else in some way at the expense of yourself.   Or, do you say yes in order to earn a "gold star". Give yourself the gold star.  You shouldn't have to work that hard to make people like you. Practice saying “No”, maybe an “I’m sorry, no” if just “no” seems too harsh.  And while you are at it, you don’t need to explain yourself unless you choose to.  Most people don’t care anyway.

4. Doing things for loved ones because it’s “easier to just do it myself”. Stop it.  You aren’t helping you, and you aren’t helping them.  Make your kids clean up after themselves.  You will make them better spouses/human beings in the end, and, guess what? Your husband can help you clean the kitchen after you cook.  It’s good for him.  Don’t sigh loudly, and hope he sees you cleaning by yourself.  He won’t.  You really do have to tell him.  You know what my husband said when I finally asked him to unload the dishwasher?  “All you had to do was ask.” Really?  You couldn’t see that it needed to be done???  No, they really can’t.  Accept husbands are sort of blind, and tell him what you would like from him.  If you don’t ask for help, don’t get mad when you don’t get it.  No one likes a martyr. In fact, martyrs often times are resented because you took someone else’s choice away to help or not to help.  Plus the whole “Poor me” thing gets really annoying. There is a reason airlines tell you to put your own oxygen mask on first.

5. Notice how many times you apologize or take the blame for something that really isn’t your fault.  Start being your own best friend.  While you are at it, notice how many times you say something negative.  Why?  Why do we do that?
Finally, understand that you will need to repeat this process many times in your life.  You will grow and change, so where you want to go will change as well.  Be flexible.
So how are you going to start living intentionally this week?

PS:  I get that you just can't tell people to go to hell whenever you feel like it, because you have to deal with them in the future.  There is a way to set boundaries for yourself without a knock-down drag out, bridge-burning "conversation".  I'll tell you about it in the next few weeks.....  

PPS: I struggle with doing all of this too.  That's partially why I write about it.  As a kick in my own ass to remind myself that I can make my own choices.  Listen to my own voice.    

No comments:

Post a Comment