Intentional Living Series

Oct
16

Intentional Living Week Thirty-Seven: Has It Really Been A Year?

by Christine

"The little dissatisfaction which every artist feels at the completion of a work forms the germ of a new work." ~Berthold Auerbach

In Week 36 I looked at how we go about allowing others to benefit from the teachable moments in his or her life. This week I am discussing next steps of the how-tos in living an intentional life. 

A year ago we started this journey together; an exploration of how to live life intentionally. Many of you shared with me how the process helped you sit quietly as you clarified and solidified your values and then moved on to crafting a Life List that exemplified those values. In an age where finding a moment of quiet time becomes increasingly difficult, you made the Morning 30 part of your life and worked to draft and find tune your Lifetime Priorities. You have worked the process.

If you had taken an intentional living class in school, right about now you'd be thinking about final exams and earning a certificate of completion. But this is life. There are no final exams even though sometimes it feels like we are continually preparing for a pop quiz. In life the only voice of authority that can validate our journey is our own. Yes, there are key people in our world who love and encourage us on our journey but ultimately the only person that can attest to the authenticity of your journey is you. 

So what are the next steps? Now is the time for you to own this process and continue to craft a life that allows you to thrive. While my Wednesday post will now include other topics besides the how-to of intentional living, I am sure that every once in a while I will have something to new add. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter to receive updates. I hope you share your insights on your intentional living journey here and with others. This is your life, your journey...be sure it reflects who you are. 

 

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Sep
25

Intentional Living Week Thirty-Six: Whose Journey Is It?

by Christine

"If there is not struggle, there is not progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle." ~Frederick Douglas

Week 35 was all about how a period of creativity can follow a crisis. This week I am looking at how teachable moments craft the journey of others. 

I have been caring for my grandchildren this past week. Organizing, feeding and listening to four children, ages 5 through 11 is rewarding and exhausting. I love sitting around the kitchen table after school helping them with their homework and listening to the stories of their day. ("Mayor, did you know there is a planet named Uranus...get it Ur-anus?" From generation-to-generation that joke never gets old.) And cooking family style meals once again is just plain fun. Boy, do kids tell it like it is! My grandsons praise my "killer mac & cheese" while eating mounds of the hot, cheesy pasta.  My granddaughter on the other hand said it tasted like dirt and had peanut butter toast for dinner instead. The boys were horrified but I was amused. I did make a mental note: work on Charlotte's verbal filter.

This is just a two-week gig but I take it as seriously as I did when I was raising their father and aunt. Life at home and at school is about teachable moments. I prepare balanced meals, make sure they clean up after themselves, treat others respectfully and get them to bed on time to make sure they are rested the next day. I do all this because I love them and want them to be healthy and happy. I am intentional about how I care for my grandchildren.

Yesterday, #2 grand boy was on his Gameboy before breakfast. I called everyone for breakfast and GB2 insisted that he "HAD TO FINISH THE GAME". I said, "Nope, it is breakfast time and put the game away". I will the save you the drama that ensued but once at the table he refused to eat. GB2 is the best eater in the family and I knew he was going to be sorry that he didn't eat breakfast. After offering him breakfast three times, I decided not to force the issue. This was his choice; this was his statement; this was his journey.

So many times we want to save people from themselves particularly our children and grandchildren. We steal the teachable moments in life from them. We don't allow them to see the cause and effect of their actions. I am not talking about allowing an inebriated friend to get behind the wheel of a car but we shouldn't cover for him or her the next day at work.  Neither am I suggesting you allow a child to come to physical harm because her or she needs to learn a lesson; that's just wrong. As you live your life intentionally, the struggle is how-to allow others to craft their own journey, mistakes and all. Yes, you may see the train wreck ahead, metaphorically speaking but maybe there is nothing you can or should do.

When my grandson returned from school, he sheepishly said, "I ate half of my lunch for morning snack". I knew I had packed enough in his lunch for him to get though the day and it all turned out well in the end. But this was his journey and he needed to walk it. At times it may be difficult but as you ask others to respect the journey you are on, remember to do the same for them. 

Week 36 Assignment: Who are the people in your life that you want to "save"? How can you support them in their effort to craft their own journey?

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Sep
04

Intentional Living Series Week Thirty-Five: Creativity After A Crisis

by Christine


{Sunflowers in the Hamptons}

"You never let a serious crisis go to waste. And what I mean by that it's an opportunity to do things you think you could not do before".                     ~Rahm Emanuel

In Week 34 I looked at the impact of bad news on living an intentional life and how to get back on course. This week I discuss how crisis can be a prelude to creativity. 

Have you ever noticed how after a war or military conflict a whole new crop of books are published by writers from those countries? The flash point of war compels them to tell the story of their people and homeland but they also have a need to "create" after so much destruction. Human beings are happiest when they are creating and building. Crisis is all about destruction and the elimination of the "old way" but it can also be a prelude to a period of creativity and rebuilding.

The turning point can be a crisis of faith, conscience, commitment or even a physical event such as a disease or death. Sometimes it doesn't even have to be happening to you. I have joked on numerous occasion that when my ex-husband had a mid-life crisis MY whole life changed. Think about your own life. Have you experienced a crisis? What did you do after the dust cleared? Did your life revert back to what it was before the crisis or did you embark upon a different, even more creative journey?

I am not advocating that we create a crisis to generate creativity and action. I am suggesting that you view the aftermath of a crisis as an opportunity. An opportunity to embrace the creativity that comes with change. Instead of continually lamenting what was lost, take the time to analyze what you learned from the crisis and put those lessons into action. As an example, 2008 started a financial decline that caught most people by surprise. But as the economy and personal income has improved many people are not just reverting back to the same patterns as before the Great Recession but actively creating a different, more value based life. Whatever turning point comes your way, focus on it as an opportunity to be more creative and build something spectacular. 

Week 35 Assignment: Write down three time of intense difficulty that have occurred in your life and describe how your life changed because of those turning points. How did you apply the lessons learned from those events to your life. 

 

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Aug
28

Intentional Living Series Week Thirty-Four: Bad News

by Christine

"What is to give light must endure burning." ~Viktor E. Frankl

Last week I discussed how follow-through is the key to success. This week I look at how to stay the course when the news is bad. 

After months, maybe even years of working to clarify your Lifetime Priorities, you hit your grove. You are doing a great job at work or relationships within your family are hitting a new high. You are making headway on your health through diet and exercise. And then it happens. Your job is cut. Your spouse announces he wants out. The biopsy comes back positive. Whatever it is, the news is big and earth shattering. Your head is spinning and getting up each morning takes all your energy. You can't believe that this is happening and just want to go back to bed and pull the covers over your head. 

Living an intentional life doesn't mean you can craft a life without strife and challenges. It doesn't mean you won't run aground at some point along your journey. What it does mean is that when the hard times come and they will, that you won't be rudderless. Your life will have support like a "boat skeleton" to keep you afloat while you get back on course. And you will get back on course. 

So what do you do when the news is bad? First, you grieve. Give yourself permission to be sad. I start by asking the people closest to me to give me a little time to process what has just happened and I do. Next, write this down, put it up on your refrigerator, computer, bathroom mirror and anywhere else you will see it. The good times don't last and neither do the bad times. Life ebbs and flows like the tide. You will come through this challenge so the objective, intention or purpose is to come though it with your values in tact. It is not about if life will "right" itself but when. And finally, look upon your hardship with gratitude. Gratitude in the good times is easy. I regularly lift up a prayer of thanks when life is going well but it is only as I have aged that I say a prayer of thanks when it gets hard. I will not wax poetic about the benefits of "the struggle" but I will say that I would not be who I am today if I hadn't had the experiences I have had in my life. I am grateful for my blessing in this life even when I have had to struggle.

You are not striving for perfection. Live your values in a way that brings you and those around you joy...even in the hard times. 

 

 

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Aug
21

Intentional Living Series Week Thirty-Three: Follow Through

by Christine

 


{Glacier National Park}
 

"You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through." ~ Rosalynn Carter

In Week 32 I wrote about the dangers of living your life on autopilot; this week I am writing about the importance of follow-through on achieving your goals and how to use a schedule to live your priorities.

Last Friday I returned from 10 wonderful days in Whitefish, Montana. I spent 5 days at Writer's Retreat reaffirming my desire to write and the remaining 5 days photographing the majestic landscape of Glacier National Park and the surrounding area. It was a period of learning and exploring; I was energized upon returning to New York. I declared now is the time to follow-through on my commitment to finish the book I started a couple of years ago. I was stoked and ready to make it happen and then...I had to do laundry, fill an empty refrigerator by grocery shopping, sort and answer mail, respond to business requests, pay bills, start physical therapy for my foot. As you can see, daily tasks started to erode my time; these necessary maintenance tasks were getting in the way. 

After three days of doing anything but writing, I said, "Enough, stop". And I did. I left the house, drove to our local public library and sat down in front of my computer and wrote. It was just like starting a new workout program. At first it felt awkward; I had left the characters in my book hanging for over 2 years and we had to get reacquainted. Next, I started to remember the vision but knew I would need to write daily to get back to the level of energy I had when I stopped writing. Finally, as I left the library, I felt good about the work and myself. Following through on my commitment to write left me smiling all day.

To wish, to dream, and to declare are all good and noble aspirations but the follow-through is the necessary ingredient to accomplishing your life priorities. When possible order your day so that your life priorities have the benefit of your energy and brainpower. I am committed to writing first thing in the morning so that the day doesn't get away from me. Getting the book written is my number one personal goal so I now schedule time to write before I do anything else. If you are finding that your life is becoming a series of maintenance tasks that zap your time and energy, look at creating a daily schedule. Schedule time to do that which, is important to you; a schedule will help you follow-through with your stated goals. Now that you have declared your goals, achieve them by taking the time to follow-through

 

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Aug
14

Intentional Living Series Week Thirty-Two: Are You On Autopilot?

by Christine


{Whitefish, Montana: The Beginning Of A Quilt}

"We must learn to reawaken and keep ourselves awake, not by mechanical aid but by an infinite expectation of the dawn." ~Henry David Thoreau

In week 31 I shared with you the difference between living in the moment and living in the future and how decisions made in the moment frame the future. This week I will discuss how to identify when you are living on autopilot.

As Marty and I were driving into the City this past week, when about mid-point through our drive, he looked around and said, "Where are we, have I missed the exit?". I chuckled as I assured him that we had not missed our exit and were headed in the right direction. Marty had been on autopilot and was trying to rejoin the here and now. 

Autopilot is when your mind is somewhere else and your body is going through the motions without conscious thought. A runner can flip the autopilot switch into the on position as she heads out for her daily run. Her conscious mind thinks through and organized various thoughts and ideas while her subconscious mind and body takes the 10-mile run. (Think about your computer and how you can be working on one program while another one is running in the background. It slows down the whole system but can be done.) The opposite of being on autopilot is being in "The Zone"; that is when the conscious mind, subconscious mind and the body are solely focused on the task or challenge of the moment. 

Autopilot is normally reserved for boring, uninspired tasks such as driving on long stretches of uninspired highway. Marty had driven that stretch of road hundreds of times so his conscious mind engaged with a work problem that had been vexing him. The danger of the autopilot mode is that you can miss out on the here and now. If you find you are spending your day asking everyone around you to repeat what he or she just said while your minds is engaged else where, you are living your life on autopilot.

How often you move into the autopilot mode may be an indication of how engaged you are with the life you have created. If you want to be any place but in the here and now, it is time to think about how to change your situation. As a cautionary note to those who run across someone moving through life on autopilot, be gentle. Sometimes he or she is dealing with a life challenge, a serious illness or the death of a loved one. For those folks, just putting one foot in front of another maybe all they can do and the autopilot mode is a safety value.

How often do you hit the autopilot button? Do you spend the day asking your family and friends to repeat what they are saying? Are you engaged in the here and now?

Week 32 Assignment: This week keep a record of how many times you ask someone to repeat what he or she said. If you find it is more than once or twice, explore if you are spending too much time in autopilot.

 

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Aug
07

Intentional Living Series Week Thirty-One: Do You Live In The Moment Or In The Future?

by Christine


{A Dragon Fly Exemplifies The Virtue Of Living In The Moment}

"Learn from the past, set vivid, detailed goals for the future, and live in the only moment of time over which you have any control: now.                 ~Denis Waitley

In Week 31 I looked at how you create the rhythm of your life through the choices you make. Today we are going to explore what it means to live in the moment vs living for the future. 

What comes to mind when someone says they "live in the moment"? This has been a discussion point in our home because Marty and I come from different vantage points. I am a person who lives for the future and Marty is a person who lives for the present. I will give you an example. When Marty makes a sandwich, after laying all the ingredients on the counter, he assembles a tasty sandwich and then with sandwich in hand heads into the other room to enjoy it. He leaves all the ingredients on the counter. When I make a sandwich, I follow the same steps he does except I put everything away before enjoying my sandwich. So is Marty a slob or am I just into delayed gratification? No, Marty is hungry and is engaged in the moment and is not thinking about the future and clean-up. I, on the other hand, while I may be hungry envision a future where I have to come back and clean up the kitchen and I don't want that hanging over my head.

What this light hearted example points out is that our ability to imagine our future frames our actions. Teenagers regularly take risks in the moment that could have lifetime consequences. But due to their age and inexperience don't take the time to or can't imagine a future where they have to suffer the consequence of their risky behavior. If as a young person you could really imagine living to the age of 65 and retiring, then you may very well aggressively fund your 401K. The ability to see yourselves in the future allows you to decide on what you are willing to trade today for the imagined future. Of course if you become obsessed with how you are going to live once you reach the age of 65, you will miss out on life now. 

Martin Luther, the 16th century theology professor, wrote, "Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree". To live a life intentionally and with purpose, you must embrace today with the understanding that the choices you make today frame the future. Today is lived through the actions you take and the dreams you inspire in yourself and others. But remember the apple tree you plant today will supply the apples of the future. You may choose to live in the moment but don't do so at the cost of tomorrow. 

Week 31 Assignment: During your Morning 30 examine whether you "live in the moment" or "live for the future". Do you have a balanced approach in the choices you make for living today and planning for tomorrow?

 

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Jul
31

Intentional Living Series Week Thirty: What Is The Rhythm Of Your Life?

by Christine


{The View From My Front Porch}

" A scene has to have a rhythm of its own, a structure of its own". ~Michelangelo Antonioni

In the post for Week 29 I wrote about how to say no and the impulses that drive us to say yes even when we don't want to do so. This week I am going to discuss taking action to craft the rhythm of your life. 

Each day as I walk out my front door, I experience the conflicting emotions of joy and discontentment. My heart soars when I see the beauty of my lavender hostas, orange lilies and purple and white flocks in bloom. It is a glorious sight.  I am also reminded that the space has been neglected just a little too long and I really should spend some time pruning and weeding. A garden like ones life requires attention. Yet the question I wrestle with is how much structure do I want to impose upon my unruly garden?  If I do nothing, the weeds and the maple tree saplings will choke out all the flowers. I do see the beauty in the freewheeling garden but will the beauty of the garden be enhanced if I put apply some structure to the space? 

Taking action to live an intentional life holds the same emotional conflict between joy and discontentment. How much structure and discipline does it take to live the way I want? How do I create the perfect rhythm for my life without feeling stifled or over managed?  What is the balance between freewheeling and structured? As you think about the cadence of your life, how would you define it, calm, fast paced, out of control or something else? Are you choosing to be footloose or is that a default position because you don't know what else to do? Have you taken all the joy out of your life because you have scheduled every minute of your day and can't take a moment to enjoy the beauty around you? 

Intentional living means understanding that in life we have a choice on how we will structure our lives and to think through our choices before embarking on a path. Failing to take the time to think through how you want to live your life can result in discontentment. Life is like a garden...it requires your attention. 

Week 30 Assignment: Take time this week during your Morning 30 to define the rhythm of your life and answer the question, do you like the rhythm of your life. 

 

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Jul
17

Intentional Living Series Week Twenty-Nine: How To Say No

by Christine

"Learn to say 'no' to the good so you can say 'yes' to the best." ~John C. Maxwell

Week 28 looked at 3 ways to get back on track when life starts to feel overwhelming. This week I am going to explore how to say no even when it is a good cause.

What does it take to say no? I believe it takes a clear vision of what you want your life to be and to be clear on your Lifetime Priorities. If you don't know what you want to do in your career, why not take on every project at work whether it furthers your career or skill set? If you don't know what you want your personal life to look like, why not spend every dime of your paycheck and more on furniture, clothes and cars? If you don't know what kind of relationship you want from your friends, why not just go along with the status quo and show up when and where they tell you? Being the go-to person at work is a good thing, right? It is also good to dress nicely and have nice things to furnish your home. What's wrong with that?

Nothing except it is a non-decision. Yes is the default mode without really understanding the question. I will give you an example. Let's say you have penciled in Saturday to organize that out of control family room, garage or home office that has become the bane of your existence. Daily you waste time looking for items that should be easily accessible and the disorganization makes your home and life feel out of control. The phone rings and a friend invites you to spend the Friday night before out. It sounds like a nice time even though it is going to be late night. The next morning you are tired and you roll over for another couple of hours of sleep mutterings "maybe next Saturday". If it was a LP for you to have an organized and calm home then you may have said no, I appreciate your invitation but I can't this Friday. No, is not so difficult when the vision is clear. 

The default to yes is driven by many impulses...the impulse to help, wanting to be agreeable, avoid conflict and as in the above example the fear of a lost opportunity. But as the vision for your life becomes clearer, the default to say yes lessens. You begin to understand that every yes has a consequent...whether it is eating a second piece of cake, taking a job in another city or agreeing to babysit your grandkids while their parents work. Is your default answer yes? 

Week 29 Assignment: This week, each time you want to say yes to a request, silently count to 10 before answering. 

 

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Jul
10

Intentional Living Series Week Twenty-Eight: Getting Back On Track

by Christine

"Don't look where you fall but where you slipped". ~African Proverb

In Week 27 I discussed how to become more energized by changing your scenery. I suggested you stay local but explore a new route to work or try a new restaurant instead of going to your favorite hangout. It is about taking the time to move out of your routine and see where it takes you. This week I am going to discuss what happens when we misjudge our ability to get it all done and how to get back on track. 

What is your biggest challenge when it comes to living your Lifetime Priorities? Is it being overly optimistic about your capacity to take on everything that interests you? Or do you misjudge the amount of time it takes to complete a commitment. Whatever it is, you aren't alone. We all find ourselves over-booked and out of time on occasion. But there are three steps you can follow to get back on track when you are feeling over-whelmed. 

First, prioritized your commitments. Decide what commitments are most important to you and put them in priority order. Be honest in your assessment. Is it really important to you or do you feel it is something you should do?  Do you have any flexibility when it comes to when it must be accomplished? Did you set an arbitrary deadline or is there an external reason the deadline must be met. Do your commitments track with your LPs?

Second, ask for help. Reach out to your spouse, family or friends to get help if you are in a crunch. If you don't abuse their good nature by asking them to rescue you to often, they will more than likely be willing to help you. But remember these are your LPs, not theirs. They are helping you accomplish your priority, not taking them on as their own. 

Third, work one commitment at a time until complete. Worrying or complaining about how busy you are won't get it done. Getting up off the sofa and going to work will. Yes, there will be a time to ask "How did I get myself into such a bind?" but that comes after the work is done. 

Finally, don't beat yourself up. You would forgive a friend for taking on a little too much on occasion, why not yourself?

Week 28 Assignment: Are you over extended? If you are, develop a plan to lighten the load. 

 

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