An Exercise in Intention
It sounds great to say, “I’m going to live more intentionally,” it speaks of purpose, direction, and clarity. But we cannot live intentionally, unless we plan intentionally.
Last weekend my husband and I set aside a day to refocus. We gave ourselves the room mentally and emotionally to focus on getting on the same page and looking forward together. We started by individually answering two questions:
What energizes you? What drains you?
Not every aspect of our lives went into one of these two lists. For example, we both work five days a week at jobs we like, but that did not go into either list. This was about identifying the things that have a larger impact. The things that we look forward to; or dread. The things that increase our energy; or wear us out. For example, playing volleyball energizes me. I look forward to it, I enjoy it, and I have so much extra mental and emotional energy afterwards that carries over into the next thing I do, despite how physically tired I may be.
On the other side, my commute drains me. I often leave work in a good mood and arrive home in a bad mood. I am often tense and angry while driving and it can take me a while to build myself back up mentally and emotionally afterwards.
After we had both independently worked through these questions, we came together and added another part to each one.
What excites you?
How can we do more of this?
What drains you?
How can we do less of this?
This is where the hard work began. I wish it were as simple as simply cutting out everything on the “drains you” list, but for many things on the list, that’s not a reality. Instead, we tried to determine what it was about each thing that drains us, how can we mitigate that? Sticking with the example of my commute,
Is it the length of time that drains me, or is it the feeling of “fighting traffic”?
If I feel like it is a waste of my time, how could we minimize that, can I listen to a podcast or audio-book?
Should I get a driver instead of driving myself?
Should we consider moving?
The reality is that there are no right or wrong answers here. It was about deciding what best aligns with my own values and priorities. Even if I choose to change nothing regarding my commute, I have still gained more control because I have now intentionally made a choice, this is my decision, I have weighed the options (because there are always other options) and chosen what is best for me. There may be no ideal options, but by choosing the best one I am no longer a victim to my own life.
How can we realistically optimize the things that excite us? As I mentioned, playing volleyball energizes me, but I play recreationally, I am not good enough to quit my job and pursue a career, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to at this point in my life. Not everything that energizes us is a calling, sometimes its purpose is to simply energize us for the other things. These things create balance in our lives.
After we had wrestled through each of the things on our lists, had come up with some solutions, some dreams, and some resolutions to stick to, we asked ourselves one final question:
What does an ideal week look like in the following categories?
social – health – family – hobbies – productivity
These are the main areas of our life where we felt like we should and could make changes to be more intentional. I have to say, I am pretty happy with my life so doing this exercise didn’t radically shift everything about our day-to-day lives. It has been more of a refocus. It’s about noticing where we have become apathetic and allowed external circumstances to dictate our actions rather than being intentional to direct our lives in the direction we want to go. We noticed a lot of time being wasted in some areas while we felt we didn’t have enough time for other things. We realized there were things we were spending a lot of emotional capital on that were really not adding value to our life.
At the end of the day, this exercise alone will not change your day-to-day life, but it will open your eyes to where you are investing yourself and force you to make a decision, because once you see it, doing nothing is still a choice.
Set aside an hour, answer these questions. You may be surprised at what you discover.