Intentional Living Series

Jun
12

Intentional Living Series Week Twenty-Seven: A Change Of Scenery

by Christine


{Marty & Christine On The Circle Line}

"When you're on a merry-go-round, you miss a lot of the scenery". ~ Neil Diamond

In Weeks 24 and 25 we discussed how boredom and exhaustion could zap your energy and cause you to lose focus on the important priorities in your life. This week I am going to write about how to change your scenery and increase your energy. 

I was driving to a meeting last week when I made the decision to try a new route. I had driven a couple of times to the site but I kept thinking there must be an easier and quicker way than I had been traveling. The new route had been suggested by my GPS and I figured why not...same distance, same time. The route seemed simple enough but as I traveled along, it became clear I had no idea where I was, nothing looked familiar. Instead of my normal panic about being lost and the possibility of being late...I view being lost and being late as personal weaknesses...I embraced the journey. The scenery was lovely as I traveled this new route. I arrived at my destination a few minutes behind my colleague and we went right to work on the new project. But I felt a difference...I was energized in a new way. Traveling the new route had shown me a change of scenery that resulted in a burst of energy. 

I like many people, work to create a routine in life. Having a routine is kind of like using short hand to take notes. It is quicker and doesn't require quite so much of your attention when going through a process. Think about getting up each morning. What if you had to consciously think about each step of your morning routine? Do you really want to say, "Now I brush my teeth"? No you just do it. But a routine over an extended period of time can lead to boredom or even exhaustion. A routine life just dampens your energy. One of the reasons companies insist that their employees take vacations is they know taking a break from the routine of work is beneficial to both the employee and the company. Companies have found that most of the time the employee comes back to work with their "batteries recharged". Kathy Gottberg at smart365.com writes passionately about The Joy And Benefits of Travel. Once you read her blog post, you will immediately begin planning your next trip. 

But I am not just talking about vacations. I am suggesting that a change of scenery in your own community will help you rejuvenate your attitude. Whether taking a new route to work, trying a new restaurant or exploring a new part of town, just getting out of your routine will have a positive effect. A couple of years ago Marty and I made a pact...every New Year's Day we were going to do one new "tourist thing" in the City. Candidly, we immediately had to make an adjustment to that pack. New York City maybe the city that never sleeps but a whole lot of businesses are closed on New Year's Day. So during New Year's week we have taken the Circle Line around Manhattan as well as visited the Empire State Building to have our picture taken on a green screen girder. Even though it is as cold as all get out, we have a fabulous time. We laugh, we freeze, we spend time together and then head back to work ready to take on the world.

Life is a balance between the ease of the routine and the joy and challenge of exploration.  It is not necessary to pack a bag and leave home to change the scenery in your life. As you reflect on your life this week, are you in balance? Do you need less routine and more exploration? Is it time for a change of scenery in your life?

Week 27 Assignment: This week explore a place you have never been to in your community.

 

 

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Jun
05

Intentional Living Series Week Twenty-Six: Exhaustion

by Christine


{Violets in my garden}

"I've got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom." ~Thomas Carlyle

Boredom took center stage in Week 25 as I wrote about the effects of boredom on life. This week I will discuss having too many ideas and the resulting exhaustion. 

I developed a pattern during high school and college that took me many years to overcome. At the beginning of each new school year, in my excitement, I would sign up for more than recommended number of classes and volunteer for every group and club that interested me. By Christmas break I was dragging and more than once I spent my holiday in bed recuperating from an energy sapping cold. It took me years to learn to focus on one thing at a time so that my world would not come to a halt because of exhaustion. 

Ours is a society that is made up of people who take pride in being wired 24/7 and multitasking regularly. We are continually on a mission to do it bigger, better and faster...no matter what "it" is. As a result we are exhausted. Our children are exhausted. The dog is exhausted. And the worst part is that we don't enjoy any of what we are trying to accomplish...we are just trying to get it done. 

Exhaustion like boredom diverts us from our Lifetime Priority Plan. Overextending zaps your energy so that you don't have the desire to nurture relationships or implement those ideas most important to you. We are fortunate to have so many choices in our country but it is impossible to do everything at the same time. To live a fuller more balanced life, it is necessary to avoid physical and mental exhaustion by focusing on your top priorities. Failing to manage physical and mental exhaustion may result in less joy and happiness...or worse.

Week 26 Assignment: Last week you spent time looking at your relationships through the lens of boredom. This week take some time to see if your relationships are suffering because you are exhausted. 

 

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May
29

Intentional Living Series Week Twenty-Five: Boredom

by Christine

"You will find boredom where there is an absence of good ideas." ~Earl Nightingale 

Week 24 was all about crafting a life story that you would be proud to share; this week I will write about the double-edged sword of boredom. 

Growing up my brother and I had imaginations that were fueled by the B-movies that were shown at our local movie theater and TV shows like the Twilight Zone. We did not question the premise that fiddler crabs would grow to the size of a Volkswagen Beetle after a nuclear conflict as presented by Attack of the Crab Monsters. We just preceded to pull out Mom's card table and blankets to build our fort...the place we would fight off these apparitions of nature. 

Usually the lead up to these Sci-Fi let's pretend morality plays was a comment from our mother to the effect, "find something-to-do or I will find something for you to do". Mom's something-to-do always seemed to include Comet, a sponge and the bathtub. Apparently Mom's cure for boredom was cleaning. But she had a point. Most of the time it was boredom that fueled the arguing and bickering that proceeded her admonition. Mom's "encouragement" was the catalyst that got us to move beyond our current state of boredom to a really fun afternoon of saving the world from crab monsters. 

I have observed that boredom can plague adults just as it does kid. The fact is boredom is a symptom of a problem, not the problem. The problem is failing to engage in life in a meaningful way. Couples, friends and co-workers start to bicker, argue and find fault with one another when they are bored with life. When you are happy and embracing a fulfilling life, does it really matter whether your co-worker spends to much time on the phone or whether your husband gets home 15 minutes late from work?

Boredom is a signal that it is time to take stock of your life. Boredom can divert you from your Lifetime Priority Plan; when bored you find yourself arguing with those closest to you. You don't nurture your relationships, your home or your dreams. If you are bickering with those you care about take time to figure out what is behind your actions. And if necessary, break out the Comit and sponge and clean the bathroom tub until you can think of something else to do.

Week 24 Assignment: Take time this week to analyze your closest relationships. Do you find you are bickering or that you argue more than you would like? Could it be boredom driving the conflict? 

 

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May
23

Intentional Living Series Week Twenty-Four: What Is Your Story?

by Christine


{What is her story?}

"If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop the story”. ~ Orson Welles

Week 23 I looked at cause and effect...how past actions resulted in the life we live today. In week 24, I am examining the life story that we are building through our internal narrative. 

Whenever I visit my grandchildren I find that I end up telling them fantastical stories featuring them as the hero or heroine. My granddaughter Lucy listens intently as I tell the overflowing bathtub story again, and again and again. I don’t think her father is in love with this story because it involves the flooding of the first and second floor of their home and the arrival of the fire department.  My son-in-law, Brien instinctively knows that the narrative that others craft about our life can inform our life. And he doesn't want Lucy to plug up the bathroom tub in an attempt to surf a giant wave down the stairs.

I believe life is a story. And our life story is only limited by our imagination. Think about it, you are the main character in your story. What kind of qualities do you exhibit? Are you kind, menacing, articulate, dull witted, happy or sad? Remember you control this character so she or he can be or do anything you like. Does your character embrace his or her dreams or she live only by a promise of “someday”? All you need to do is be clear about the story you want to tell and live it.

Everyday we lives our story through our words and deeds. We hear a constant narrative about our personal story through others but mainly we listen to an inner dialogue that is with us from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. What story are you creating? If you were asked to tell the story of your life, what would you say? Are you proud of the story you have created?  As we work to live intentionally and to actually think about what we are doing with our life, it is important to remember that you are the authors of your internal voice. You are the writer, director and lead actor in your life. Do you like the story you are creating?

Week 24 Assignment: Take time this week to write down your story.  Remember, it is your story so write what you think is important. It can be a complete narrative or an episode that is important to you. 

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May
15

Intentional Living Series Week Twenty-Three: Cause and Effect

by Christine

"If you want to understand the causes that existed in the past, look at the results as they are manifested in the present. And if you want to understand what results will be manifested in the future, look at the causes that exist in the present." ~Buddhist sutra

Week 22 was about the benefit of doing one thing at a time; in Week 23 I will explore cause and effect and how it relates to living an intentional life. 

After his 6th divorce, Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers Band wryly said, "I am beginning to think it may be me".  At some point in life, the wise person begins to see that where they are today may have been caused by actions they took in the past. The Law of Cause and Effect simply stated: do a bonehead thing today and it will ruin tomorrow. A more positive interpretation is do good work today and you will reap the rewards tomorrow. In either case, taking action (cause) always nets results (effect). 

Whether we are looking at changing our life or just tweaking it a little, we need to acknowledge that where we are today, was caused by actions we took in the past. If one of your Lifetime Priorities was to be a better friend, it is important to keep in mind how you got to where you are in your friendships today. If you have not been a good friend to others, remember that just because you decided to cleanup your act and treat others with kindness and respect, doesn't mean that others will see the new you immediately. It may take time for your actions to influence the response of others to your new behavior. 

It will take time for your friends to see the changes in you, so that doesn't mean you throw-up your hands and declare I quit. If you priority is weight loss from eating properly, a healthier body from exercising or acknowledgement from you boss that your newfound determination at work is appreciated, time and perseverance are key to success. While you may want to ignore past causes that effect your today, it is important to remember you are where you are in your life because of your past actions. As you move forward, hold fast to the knowledge that you are creating a happier, healthier and more successful tomorrow through you actions today. 

Week 22 Assignment: This week make two lists. The first is of actions you took in the past that brought you to a positive place today. The second list is of past actions that lead you to a negative place.

 

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Apr
24

Intentional Living Series Week Twenty Two: One Thing At A Time

by Christine

"Often he who does too much does too little." ~Italian Proverb

In week 21 I wrote about how to energize your decision making process through physical activity when overcoming Cognitive Gridlock. In week 21, I will discuss the benefit of "doing one thing at a time". 

What does it mean to do one thing at a time?  We witnessed the concept in action last week in Boston. After the Monday afternoon bombings at the Boston Marathon, the entire City moved in unison to accomplish a single priority; apprehend the person or persons that bombed the race. On Friday, when law enforcement asked the citizens of Boston to stay away from the Boston Metro area of Watertown because authorities believed the killer was in hiding there, they did so. When the residents of Watertown were voluntarily asked to stay indoors to help facilitate the search, they did so. When Law enforcement from multiple agencies at the Federal, State and Local level needed to search the entire community on foot using costly high-tech resources to search out the killer, they did so. No one mentioned money, time, manpower or the will to accomplish the goal. Apprehending the bomber was the priority and everything else in Boston could wait until he was in custody. Talk about one thing at a time!  Boston was on a mission and there was no obstacle they couldn't overcome to catch this guy. 

I know what happened in Boston is an extreme example but how many of your life priorities are watered down because you don't focus on one activity at a time? Do you hide behind the false concept of multitasking? The process by which, you take double the time to complete multiple tasks in a mediocre fashion. To accomplish important work and isn't your life important, takes focusing on one thing at a time. Achievement, happiness or distinction don't come to those who work at life half-heartedly, it comes to those that embrace their life, their priorities. Today is the day to commit to doing one thing at a time so that you can do it well. 

Week 22 Assignment: This week practice doing one thing at a time. Consciously take the time to accomplish a task without interruption. 

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Apr
10

Intentional Living Series Week Twenty One: Cognitive Gridlock

by Christine


{Painting the Get-Away Room}

"All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking." ~Friedrich Nietzsche

The post from Week 20 was about having enough energy so that you can lovingly care for those you love. Today's post addresses how to jumpstart cognitive gridlock. 

Robert Frost described the fork in the road as  "two roads diverged in a yellow wood". His is an elegant and romantic description of what can be a torturous passage from indecision to decision. Only in retrospect do life choices become clear and the awareness that the road less traveled was not always a choice but was thrust upon us by chance. In this series, I encourage the activity of sitting quietly as a means to clear your thoughts and make meaningful and intentional decisions about your life choices. But what happens when your thinking becomes grid locked and there are not just two roads but also multiple roads that present themselves.

Yes, sitting quietly is the first step in the decision making process but if you find that a path still eludes you, the next step is to get moving. Nietzsche suggests walking, Howard Roark returned to the quarry and I picked up a paint brush. When cognitive gridlock takes hold, physical motion can help clear the mental congestion that arises from the impasse of too many choices. Recently, I was confronted with choice over load and decided to get moving by painting the Get-Away Room. Yes, we name our rooms. The Get-Away Room got its name because at one point it was the only room in the house with air-conditioning. At night when the summer heat was too much, we would get away by sleeping in that room. The very act of painting this room has helped to clarify my choices and helped me move closer to a decision. 

Do you have a plan for clearing out the cognitive gridlock that can bring life to a standstill?  I suggest that your decision making can be energized by moving, by engaging in activities unrelated to your decision. Remember: Life is motion. 

Week 21 Assignment: Choose an activity that puts you in motion. 

Hugs,
C

 

 

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Apr
03

Intentional Living Series Week Twenty: Relationships

by Christine


{New York City Subway Mosaic}

"Treasure your relationships, not your possessions". ~Anthony J. D'Angelo

Week 19 was about the importance of limiting meaningless distractions so that you can remain focused on your priorities. Week 20 is about caring for your relationships. 

Stress is a reality in life. As you drive the kids to school, another driver cuts you off while he is talking on the phone. At work, you are tasked to lead a team of 5 people to complete a high profile project, a project that is behind schedule. At lunch the wait server gets your order wrong. On the way home you stop at the dry cleaners to pick up your best black pants only to learn that they are not ready as promised. In each scenario you chose the path of understanding and patience by using your strongest interpersonal skills to negotiate the situation. But that evening, when you get home, you find that you are not in the house two minutes before you are in conflict with your spouse and children.

Maybe you are at a different point in your life and you spend your day caring for an elderly parent who is not willing or can't afford to move into a group situation. Or you are absent from home for long stretches of time because you travel for work. When you finally get home, all you want to do is decompress and spend some time alone. But your spouse or children demand (and it feels like a demand) your attention right now. You find that your patience is gone and you have nothing to give them.

The danger of an over-scheduled, pressure filled life is that by the time you get home, you have nothing left for your family; you are running on fumes. How many of your apologizes for your behavior at home, starts with, "I am sorry. I had a really bad day today" and how often do you find yourself saying that? Do you really believe that excuses bad behavior when interacting with your family? Aren't they the ones you hold most dear? Once during a stent in a hospital waiting room, I read a hand written poster that stated it succinctly, Be Kind, For Everyone You Meet Is Fighting A Hard Battle. Remember this includes your family too. 

As you work to live an intentional life, take the time to examine how you are interacting with those closest to you. Is your home a place of peace and refuge or a battleground where you come home to blow off steam? 

Week 20 Assignment: Keep a log this week of how many times you are in conflict with your family. Note when this happens and why. 

Hugs,
C

 

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Mar
27

Intentional Living Series Week Nineteen: Stay Focused!

by Christine


{The Hat Factory-My Office}

"Life is too full of distractions nowadays. When I was a kid we had a little Emerson radio and that was it. We were more dedicated. We didn't have a choice. ~Stan Getz

Last week I wrote about how the Crazymakers in your life can throw you off course and keep you from living your priorities. In week 19, we are going to talk about staying focused.

Multiple times I have written or said how fortunate I am to be alive during this time.  A big reason for this feeling is that I have access to all kinds of technology that enhances and improves my life. I could list hundreds, maybe thousands of tools from the Internet to the iPad that exist now that did not exist when I was growing up. Like two sides of a single coin, I believe this technology can be a positive or a negative. The Internet has allowed me to reconnect with high school friends though Facebook and I love it. But recently, I see more and more people taking a breather from Facebook. I suspect this self-imposed break came about because Facebook became a large distraction for them, a time waster.

Facebook is not the only potential distractions. TV, celebrity magazines, (Can anyone explain to me what the Kardashian's claim to fame is?), email, junk mail, the phone and many other diversions can all fall in the category of distraction when we allow them to rule our life. It has become important to limit and control the number of distractions in our life. 

Distractions break your focus and keep you from living the life you want. The birthday cards that need to be addressed are ignored while you sit in front of the computer and read email. TV keeps you lounging on the sofa instead of heading out to gym. There are 50 other things you want to do to support your lifetime priorities that get high jacked by  meaningless distractions. The key to a successful Lifetime Plan is to minimize the distractions in your life and stay focused! 

Hugs,
C

Week 19 Assignment: This week list the number of distractions in your life and decide how many you need to remove or limit.

 

 

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Mar
20

Intentional Living Series Week Eighteen:The Crazymaker In Your Life

by Christine


{Abandoned building on Miami Beach, Florida}

"If you respect your own no, other will, too."

In week 17, I discussed how we use fear to keep us from living our priorities. This week I will look at how others can keeps us from following our LLP. 

Years ago I started dating a guy who came into my life like an all consuming natural disaster. He was fun, high energy, completely self-absorbed and potentially destructive. For a time it was exhilarating. He traveled a great deal for his job and started calling me at the end of his day because he had to hear my voice before turning in for the evening.  The first time he called at midnight and woke me from a sound sleep declaring that talking to me was the highlight of his day, I was flatter even though I knew it would take me hours to get back to sleep and that the next day I would be dragging. I thought this was a one-off event so was genuinely surprised to get another late night call a couple of days later. Gently, I explained that I was one of those people that needed her sleep and that to do the job I loved I needed uninterrupted sleep. I asked that he not call again after 10:00 PM on a work night. The THIRD time he called, I realized he was a Crazymaker and we weren't going to have much of a future. Our relationship ended shortly thereafter. 

Crazymaker is a term coined by the author Julia Cameron in her book The Artist's Way. Crazymakers, in a nutshell, are those individuals who wreck havoc on the lives of others by making everything about them. You know that friend or family member, the one who wants you to watch her kids because you are the only one in the whole world she trusts even though you told her two days earlier that today was the day you needed to bake and decorate 50 cupcakes for you kids school and take your aging mother to the doctors. Or maybe your Crazymaker calls at 11:30 in the evening to discuss the on going saga of her philandering spouse/boyfriend even though you told her earlier in the day that you have a big presentation at work the next day that could lead to a promotion. Crazymakers can and will disrupt the lives of others if allowed. 

I have personally observed that the more committed an individual becomes to living an intentional life, the stronger the boundaries need to be with a Crazymaker. Sometime you may even need to evict them from your life.  As you have worked to follow your Lifetime Priority Plan, is there someone in your life who refuses to respect your boundaries? Is there a Crazymaker who even after repeated requests to honor you priorities and time continues to zap your energy, disrupt your plans and minimize your goals? To accomplish your priorities, you will need to learn how to live with or without the Crazymakers in your life.

Week 18 Assignment: During your Morning 30, take some time to think about the people in your life. Do you live with a Crazymaker? If so, how do you handle them? What will it take from you and them to set appropriate boundaries? 

 

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