Intentional Living Series

Dec
07

Intentional Living Week Seven: Decision Time

by Christine


{Exploring Cape Horn on the Continent of Africa}

"Every choice you make has an end result". Zig Ziglar

Last week your focus was on compiling the list of Lifetime Priorities. These are goals that last for the duration of your life and shape the overarching framework of your world. As you compiled your list, what did you learn? Were there any surprises? This week is decision week; you will identify your top 4 Lifetime Priorities. 

When I originally created my list of LPs, I learned something about myself that surprised me. I was not putting energy into any priority that I stated was important to me. How could that be? Did I really believe what I wrote down or was I just parroting the "shoulds" of others? As I questioned why there was such a great chasm between what I said I valued and where I was spending my time, I made an illuminating discovery. After my husband walked out on our marriage, I automatically moved into a reactionary mode. My time was spent responding to the struggles of my new situation. I was responding to the demands my job and others made on my life; I wanted more. I decided to focus on my top 4 LPs and refocus my energy on what mattered to me. 

Week 7 Assignment: List your top 4 Lifetime Priorities.

This week you are going to list your Lifetime Priorities in order of importance. You may find that some feel equal in weight but you must assign each LP a number. Two of my LPs, employment that is personally challenging and rewarding and financial independence, may feel interwoven but they are not the same thing. Ultimately I assigned them to the number 3 and 4 slot respectively. You may have more than 4 LP's but for our next phase, you will focus on the top 4. If you don't have or have not currently identified 4, weight the ones you do in order of importance. You may uncover other LP as you start to work on the ones you have already identified. 

One cautionary note, LPs may shift in importance during different seasons of your life. You are weighting these priorities based on where you are in your life today. I started my own business in 2005 and was charging ahead on what was my #1 LP at the time, employment that is personally challenging and rewarding. I was growing my company; it was an exciting time. But in 2007, I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. While my work continued to be one of my top 4 LPs, out of necessity another moved to the #1 slot. Maintain good health became my #1 LP and remains so today. Shift focus if you need to, just make sure it is your decision to do so. 

Get caught up on the entire Intentional Living series:

 

 

Nov
30

Intentional Living Week Six: Setting Lifetime Priorities

by Christine

"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible".      Tony Robbins

For the last 5 weeks you have been laying the ground work to define and set priorities. Setting your priorities is not the end of the process; but it is the singular key to living an intentional life. If you aren't clear on what you want from life, how can you get it?

Stephen Covey in his hugely successful book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People used a word picture that has stayed with me since reading the book in 1989. He said, imagine that a mysterious limo driver dropped you off in the center of a city that you did not know and handed you a paper map with the instructions to find your way to the airport. (Keep in mind this was before the days of personal computing devices and GPS systems.)  And then imagine that no matter how hard you tired you could not find the airport.  Can you picture how frustrated you would be? Than visualize how you would feel when you learned that you were in the city of Detroit and that the map was of Chicago.  Whoa. No matter how organized, responsible or smartly you approached the task of getting to the airport, that map was never going to help you do it.

Setting priorities is like creating a map that will help you navigate your life and your world. Clearly stating what you want to achieve will make it easier to obtain and will make you happier in the process. Also, if and when you get side tracked, you will know it and get back on plan. 

There are multiple ways to categorize your goals including basing them on Maslow's hierarchy of needs. But experience has taught me that we need to start with Lifetime Priorities. What is a Lifetime Priority? They are goals that last for the duration of your life. A Lifetime Priority for me is to have a close and loving relationship with my family. Under that global goal is daily, quarterly and even yearly goals but the overarching priority remains constant. 

Week 6 Assignment: List your Lifetime Priorities.

This week list your Lifetime Priorities. You aren't necessarily looking to limit the number of priorities but these are goals that you will come back to year-after-year as you craft your life. We will drill down to a subset of goals that support these priorities but for now, compile your list of Lifetime Priorities.

Hugs,

 

 

Nov
23

Intentional Living Week Five: Are You Moving Forward?

by Christine

{Hot Air Ballooning in Wyoming}

Four weeks ago, you committed to living a more intentional life. Are you moving forward? This week I am going to recap the process, reviewing the objective of each week. Take a moment to appraise your progress and your successes. 

In week one, you learned about the Morning 30.  The Morning 30 is your personal commitment to take 30 minutes a day, not necessarily in the morning, to sit quietly and think. It is a time to quiet your mind and reflect upon the life you are living. You also made the commitment to create a comfortable place in your home to spend your Morning 30. 

In week two, you started to ask the right questions about your life. Do you feel you are in control and/or gladdened by the way you are living? Are you content and/or heartened by the way you treat other people including your significant other, children and other family members?  Do you sense that change is coming your way? These open-ended questions functioned as a tool to help you personalize your journey as you created your own list of key questions about your life. 

In week three, you took your Morning 30 to evaluate and document what is working in your life and what isn't. Building upon your answers to the questions in week two, you complied a written list of observations about your life. You were honest with your assessment about what was working and what wasn't when creating your Life Lists

In week four, you began to list your personal priorities. You started by reviewing your Life Lists and identifying priorities from the 'what was working' and 'what is not'. The purpose here is NOT to limit priorities at this time, so add additional ambitions that you believe will lead to enhancing your life. 

Week 5 Assignment: Review

Take this week to review each item. Do you feel you are on target? Do you find that spending 30 minutes a day in quiet time is making a difference in your life? Are you beginning to articulate your vision for you life throught the Life Lists? This week is a time for quiet review. In week five, I will discuss how to begin to cull and clarify your priorities. 

Hugs,
C

Nov
16

Intentional Living Week Four: Do You Have Your Priorities Straight?

by Christine

“Good things happen when you get your priorities straight”.  Scott Caan

This past week you have been compiling your list of what you like about your life and what you don’t like about your life. Were you surprised at what you wrote down? This week we will start the process of setting priorities that will help you achieve your goal of living an intentional life.

Several weeks ago my sister said to me that her number one priority in life was to get all the clean clothes in her house folded and put away. We laughed and hung up the phone. Some days are like that; a major success is just getting the laundry folded. However Julia’s overarching priority is to create an organized and comfortable home for her family and herself. Folding the laundry is one step to achieving that priority.  

Identifying and stating your priorities proclaims that you recognize you have finite time and resources and that it is necessary to direct your energy and attention to one objective before addressing a competing alternative. This is important because if you don’t verbalize and set your priorities opportunities will be missed. Or worse yet, someone else will set priorities for you.

To consciously implement your life’s vision, you must first be clear on what your priorities are and how you are spending your time. I would venture to say that those areas where you life is working, you are consciously spending more of your time. Understandably, not so much on the other side.  I regularly test what I am doing at the moment against my stated priorities. If I find I am involved in too much busy work or spreading myself too thin, I pull back and refocus on my stated priorities. To do that I first had to be clear on my priorities.

Week 4 Assignment: List your priorities.

As a starting point, take out the Life Lists you compiled last week. Based on those observations, what are your priorities? If you said, “I exercise regularly”, would you include that as a priority?  Additionally, if you want to include something from your 'what is not working' list, do so. As an example, you stated that your finances were a mess and you want to make changing that a priority, include that as a priority. 

Once you complete your review of the Life Lists, identify any other aspirations that you would like to add to your priority list. Again, this is not the time to limit priorities; you will do that down the road. Right now you want to capture those ambitions that you believe will lead to enhancing your happiness. Next you will start to cull and clarify your priorities.

Nov
09

Intentional Living Week Three: What is Working in Your Life?

by Christine

 

"Accuracy of observation is the equivalent of accuracy of thinking."    Wallace Stevens

Last week's assignment was to use your Think Time to explore three key questions. These questions were designed to help you examine multiple areas of your life. What did you discover? In week three you will use the answers you compiled last week to create a list of what you like about your life and what you don’t.  

In week 1, I shared with you a snapshot of my life when I started an organized process to living intentionally. I was pretty harried and taking the time to think about my life was the first step in reducing stress and creating the life I desired. What I learned from exploring the questions I shared with you gave me the foundation to change those elements that weren't working for me but it also helped me to identify and hold on to the really good parts of my life.

I wrote down my observations but clarified my feelings by asking why I felt or thought a certain way. One of my first observations was that I no longer liked my job. When I asked why, I saw that many aspects of my work were fulfilling and rewarding but my company micro managed the sales team and was not a creative environment. After further reflection I came to see that it was not just my company that lacked these elements but the entire industry. I was able to acknowledge I needed to change my career field.   But it all started with identifying what was working for me and what wasn't. I wrote everything down because I was working to capture the tangible and intangible observations and feelings I had about my life.

Not every observation I wrote down was as life altering or as important as the one I have shared with you. Nor in the beginning could I always succinctly answer why. But in asking why I was eventually able to find the kernel of my happiness or discontent and start the process of change.

Week 3 Assignment: List what is working in your life and what is not.

Drawing upon your answers from last week's questions write down your observations. It is important to actually write them down and not just list them in your head.

The first list includes those areas you believe are working. I am happy in my marriage, I exercise regularly, I am good at my job are just three examples. The second list are those areas that aren't workings so well. My 13-year-old daughter and I are always arguing, my financial budget is a mess and I want to lose 10 pounds all qualify for the things that aren't working so well list.

Don't force an arbitrary number of items on either list. Just write until you run out of things to write down.  Don't try to balance the numbers observations on each list. Maybe more is working for you than not. Maybe only little things in your life are annoying but the big issues are working for you. Just don’t force it; write freely and honestly.

This week compile your lists and in week 4 you will begin to set your priorities. 

Nov
02

Intentional Living Week Two: Asking the Right Questions

by Christine

"Sometimes questions are more important than answers." - Nancy Willard  

Or Sometimes you can't see the forest for the trees.

Last Friday was the start of your commitment to intentional living. The first step, my dear friend, was to dedicate some time to being alone with your thoughts in a comfortable place. You also needed a tool to capture your thoughts whether through words or images. Were you able to make time? Did you find it comforting to spend time alone in thought or did it make you antsy? I am glad you are back for a second week because this week we will explore how to make the most of your "Think Time".

I was working hard to make the right decision but felt I did not have enough information. So I decided to go to the source. My ex-husband gave me permission to talk directly to his doctor and I immediately requested a meeting. My ex-husband's father, Hank, asked to join me. Larry (my ex-husband) was dying. His father wanted to hear that his son was not going to die and I wanted an exact date and time of his passing. The doctor was in a no win situation. Hank's questions were asked to illicit a positive response and mine were just the opposite. The doctor told Hank that medicine could not predict the end but when he looked at me, he said directly, "hospice has been called in." He answered us both truthfully but I did not understand the "code". 

I was gathering information so I could answer my daughter's one heartfelt question. "Will daddy be at my high school graduation in June?' On that grey November afternoon when I asked the doctor that question he replied, "hospice has been called in", I did not understand that mine was the wrong question. Too much emotion, too many personal and professional obligations and no time to sit with my thoughts and the information I was being given. Larry died less than two weeks later.

What was the question I should have been asking? Should I allow my son and daughter to spend the next couple of weeks with their father? I believe if I had asked that question, the doctor would have given me a simple yes but I could not see the forest for the trees. There was a little voice in the back of my mind that was trying to get my attention but I was bogged down in the details and could not see the bigger picture. While most life decisions aren't life and death questions they are important to our happiness and well-being. Unfortunately, many of us are making key decision on the fly without dedicating focused time on an issue. 

Think time is the commitment to taking the opportunity to ask the right questions. That is not always easy but it is possible if you want to improve the quality of your life and the life of those you love. So what are the right questions? Only you know your values and dreams but I will help you get started by setting up a few key questions that you can explore next week. 

Week 2 Assignment: Make a list of key life questions

There are three basic questions that you can build upon as you start this process:

1. Do you feel you are in control and/or gladdened by the way you are living?
2. Are you content and/or heartened by the way you treat other people including your significant other, children and other family members?
3. Do you sense that change is coming your way? 

These are open-ended questions for a reason. This is your opportunity to personalize your journey. If you feel in control in one area, explore why. If not in control in another area, do the same. The assignment is to help you examine what is important to you. The objective is to live an intentional life through conscious thought and action. Be as specific as you are able when answering these questions.  If you are not content with how you treat people, specify who and if so why. Now is the time to sit quietly and answer the above questions. 

As you examine these questions, be sure to capture your responses so that you can refer back to them as you progress. We will move forward next week with framing the answers. 

Hugs,
C

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Oct
26

Intentional Living Week One: The Importance of Taking Time To Think

by Christine

"Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it." Henry Ford

Last week I began a series about the art of an Intentional Life. Over the next year, my objective is to share with you the ups and downs of my journey as I developed the skills necessary to think about, design and live an intentional life.  Furthermore I will reveal techniques and practices that will guide you as you act to become more intentional in your life. While the path was not always clear or easy, it has been rewarding. But I didn't know that in the beginning.  

I was working a full time sales position, I was a single parent to a high school senior, I was volunteering as youth leader at my church, I lived 500 miles away from my family and my ex-husband was dying of a terminal disease. On 6 hours sleep a night I was racing from thing-to-thing all the while wondering why I was on the verge of tears when I wasn't in front of a client.  My life was a blur. I just kept saying, I don't know what is wrong with me. Today I look back on that earnest and hardworking woman with a great deal of sympathy and just a little humor. That was when I started to live an intentional life because that is when I said, stop!

I didn't just slow down or cut back, I literally stopped. I needed to take the time to think about my life and why it felt so burdensome. My silent promise declared that every day I would sit quietly for 30 minutes and think. For someone who was already sleep deprived, that was quite a commitment. Each morning, I woke to a silent house, made myself a cup of tea and curled up on the sofa to think. In the beginning it was a bit of a struggle. The Type A personality in me wanted to make a list of the things I needed to do that day or play the what if game. You know the what if game. What if my sales drop? What if Kathryn doesn't get into her college of choice? What if Larry dies before Kathryn graduates from high school? But after a few weeks, the questions I really needed to ask, came to the surface. How did I get here? I don't mean the cosmic, larger than life question but how did I end up on the sofa this morning question. What did I want my life to look like and what was I willing to do to realize my vision? I had always been goal oriented but I started asking whose goals were they? Mine or someone else's goals.

As I learned over time, the cornerstone of living an intentional life is to find the time to think. This is key. The kind of thinking I am describing does not occur when driving a carload of kids to school, when the TV or radio is blaring in the background or when trying to answer a ringing phone every 5 minutes. It is about being still and clearing out the clutter so you can hear your own thoughts. The time is reminiscent of when we were kids and our mom had had enough and would send us to our rooms to "think about what we had done". (This was in the days before kids had a TV and computer in their room.) We would always emerge calmer and more pleasant towards each other. Taking 30 minutes at the beginning of the day was the best solution for me. But it could be any time of the day as long as it is 30 uninterrupted minutes of quiet and solitude. 

Today my Morning 30 has become my most guarded time of the day. After Marty and I started living together, he wanted to get up in the morning to see what I was doing and be with me. Sitting silently was not a goal of his and his routine of answering emails, turning on the TV and grinding coffee contradicted my need for solitude and contemplation. Finally I explained to Marty my goals and asked that he respect my Morning 30. I was pleasantly surprised that he felt I had given him permission to stay in bed another 30 minutes. Confrontation avoided!  As you start down the path of international living, hold fast to the thought, it's about time! Honor it.

Week 1 Assignment: Spend 30 minutes a day in quiet thought.

To get started commit to a time of day that works best for you to spend time in quiet thought. You may find that the ideal time is after everyone has headed off to school or work for the day or maybe the end of day is best after everyone has settled in for the evening. I personally found that the early morning was the optimum time for me because I am a morning person but that may not work for you. This is your time and it must fit within the rhythm of your life. 

Next find a comfortable place in your home; a place you would enjoy spending 30 minutes of uninterrupted time. It could be the family room, the guest bedroom or your kitchen table. You don't want a space that beckons to be cleaned, rearranged or allows for napping. I found that I needed to be able to sit up straight and have the lights on or I might find myself dozing. 

Be prepared to capture some of your thoughts on paper. Again, I am not talking about creating a to-do list. It is about sorting through all the clutter that swirls around in your mind so that you can clarify what is important to you. When I started this process, I wrote in journal but today I use a computer. Sometimes I have a conversation with another person, compose a letter addressed to a real or imaginary person or just write down random thoughts. I put a process in place that helped me organize my thoughts in a way that allows me to take action. Writing is an effective tool but I have a friend who draws. When she is trying to quiet her mind she sits quietly and draws. Find what works for you. I will share more over the next couple of weeks about how to effectively use this time but for this week, commit to a time, find your space and start the process.

Two additional notes. If 30 minutes seems a like daunting commitment to you, start out with 15 minutes. We live in a time when constant motion and stimuli is the order of the day so that sitting quietly for 30 minutes may seem like an eternity. Nowadays I enjoy sitting quietly in my home for 30 or more uninterrupted minutes but I do remember how antsy I felt when I started this process. Start out slow and build up your time if needed.  

As for other family members or friends. This process is a solitary journey and others may be curious as to what you are doing. Just the action of you sitting quietly may unnerve those close to you. You may find a little explanation is needed to reassure key people in your life that you aren't plotting the takeover of the free world and get the support you need to work your process. I would encourage you to resist the urge to over explain. With young children I would say something like, "Mommy just needs a little quiet time." while with older kids and significant others it could be more along the lines, "I feel calmer and more in control if I spend a few minutes each day in quiet thought." I smile at this statement because Marty says it makes him nervous when I am "thinking" because he doesn't know what is going on in my mind. He has learned over time that my Morning 30 is not a time for thinking up things for him to do. 

Finally, enjoy this journey of exploration. You are giving yourself permission to take the time to learn what is important to you at this stage of life. Once you clarify your vision; it becomes easier to achieve.

Hugs,
C

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Oct
19

Living an Intentional Life Together

by Christine

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony
-Mahatma Gandhi

For the last few weeks I have been writing about my family, friends and bits and pieces of my life through the lens of intentional living but I've realized something is missing.  I was discussing my blog with my sister and that I was writing about living an intentional life. Julia asked some really good questions, starting with, "What does intentional living mean?" Then she wanted examples and how-tos. As I was sharing with her the meaning of an intentional life and some examples, I realized that I wanted to walk-the-walk as well as talk-the-talk. I have spent the last 15 years working to craft a life that brings joy to me and to those I love. I will not say that I have always been successful but I have more happy days than not and am blessed with loving family relationships and good friends. I want to teach you how to create and live that life, too.

For the next 52 weeks, I am going to write about my journey living an intentional life. Each Friday, I will write about a specific area of living intentionally, and then outline the steps you can take to infuse intention into that area of your life. We'll cover friendships, relationships, eating, exercising, taking time for oneself, happiness and everything in between.  But more importantly you will be developing skills that will help you define and reach your personal aspirations. I am here to share both my successes and failures. I would love for you to join me on this journey so we can do it together. It is always more fun to share an experience with a friend.

And better yet, be sure to subscribe to the Footsteps' newsletter so you can receive automatic and daily resources on how you can live a life filled with intention. It all begins here next Friday!

Hugs, 
C

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